Subjectivity of Competitions?
How subjective are judges in violin competitions? Of course typical things like intonation, tone, precision of rhythm count but what about individual interpretations?
In my opinion, intonation, tone and precision are fatal factors which should be agreed by judges, candidates who cannot satisfy will be ruled out soon if competition competitive enough, but the genre or style vary with judges, that’s a problem, for example, some judges like presto-like tempo while some not, in terms of an identical work how can they agree with each other?
Young career Violinists seems to have a much lower rate of obesity than that generally observed in the population. Could be my imagination, or sample bias. If it is true however, beside lifestyle, perhaps one has to wonder if appearance, consciously or not, also influences judges and others of influence in one’s career development. It seems that it does in orchestral competitions since some go through the effort of conducting blind auditions. Many of the current world best soloists, one must admit, look pretty darn good too (regardless of gender)! I am not saying that talent and overall performance is overlooked, it is obviously a given pre-requisite, but does appearance give violinists an exta edge, which may contribute to their success over others?
Interpretation in competitions is likely to be along the lines of the "typically acceptable", i.e., respects the intent of the composer, as well as the contemporary conventions for the work, plus maintains rhythmic integrity / pulse, and has a sense of line.
Judges do not need to agree. They just assign points that get averaged by the organiser. More reputable competitions have quite a sophisticated forumlas, how to disregard extreme ratings and average the rest.
Figure skating, notorious for corrupt judging, has improved on their scoring system:
The question is not "how subjective are judges" but rather "how objective?"
Pretty much everything about music is subjective. Sure, you can clearly see when someone's not in tune, bad sense of rhythm, etc... but we are talking about violin competitions, all these "basic" skills are already mastered by the competitors. I've never been in a competition, and I don't know how the scoring works, but what I know is that the "first" prize could be, according to my musical taste and understanding of music, way behind, say, the tenth competitor.
Does your question also pertain to orchestral auditions Miles?
Criticism of art is subjective to an extent, and playing violin is an art. What is more, a violin performance is theatrical, which requires visual factors, besides just technical fluency or sound-wise maturity.
Screened auditions are different; there's obviously no visual factor involved there. (But be aware that screened
Lydia, I was gonna say the same thing. As Tim said, in competitions, the blind recording was there to ensure all good technique and intonation etc. is satisfied.
I feel like every single element is subjective. There are some that are a little less so, but even things like intonation and rhythm have it to a small extent. I think that competitions could do a lot more to promote creativity. Other genres seem to be far ahead in the versatility that one can reasonably expect from its average star. Not a single major international competition, as far as I am aware, combines playing with original composition. You could also have a competition in which violinists demonstrate familiarity with electronic components, such as amplification, effects pedals, and MIDI controllers. I have heard of one that requires original cadenzas, but that seems to be as far as it goes. They also have such a narrow list of repertoire, and the judges seem to want to just regurgitate the arbitrary rules of interpretation their teacher taught them.
I think most
Orchestral auditions are somewhat less subjective, but it depends on the level. Rushing, dragging, poor intonation, poor spicatto, poor choice of tempo--these will get you eliminated early. At higher levels where everyone is well-trained and well-prepared, then it will get subjective.
That’s a great point Lydia. Other things being equal, I think the judges would prefer to have more to less information. A video submission allows for blind assessment as well if they want.
Sorry for not replying .Stomach flu with my boys.
Unlike some sorts of competitions, where a judge only needs to see or time who gets to the finish line first, "art form" competitions will inevitably involve subjectivity.
I don't have a problem with auditory subjectivity.My beef lies in throwing in the visual component which has very little to do with how well one plays or not.We had a certain conductor here a few years ago who sits in for the final round of an audition and upon seeing one of the candidates lets out a soft whistle and whispers"wow she's gorgeous".It wasn't just his ears he was using for evaluating candidates.This wouldn't have been a problem IF the screen stayed up.
Did she get the job? :-)
Actually she did but didn't receive her tenure.Rather messy situation.
For the sake of knowing the other side of the argument,can anybody state a good reason why the screen comes down in the finals of some professional auditions?
I tend to think of auditions and competitions more like job or college interviews. All the applicants reflect a level of excellence, otherwise they would have been screened out for me earlier. At this point, I'm looking for a little sparkle that sets one individual apart and above the rest. (Frankly, "perfection" is boring.) Something has to tell me that I want to hear this person for the next thousand nights ~ and that I will continue to be interested and intrigued in that this violinist has to say.
Music is an art, not a sport. One cannot measure art objectivly. It is always subjective. That is the problem I have with competitions.
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