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a debate on the future of the freestyle

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  • a debate on the future of the freestyle

    I've been musing over my thoughts over the weekend about this & I'd love to hear what everyone else's thoughts are on the topic.

    Cees Slings, top freestyle composer has hinted over the last 12 months about a system he has been working on to evaluate how well a kur synchronises with the horse - "Eqsync" - using music data analysis software. Cees has written an article about the system here http://www.horsehero.com/editorial & Astrid at eurodressage has mentioned this in her site editorial here http://www.eurodressage.com/editor/e..._20090814.html

    Whilst I agree that venues should have top-notch sound systems for the freestyle & I can see the merits of the Eqsync system, are we in danger of widening the gap even more in dressage, especially at a national level, between those of us on limited budgets with DIY freestyle routines & those who can afford to commission top musicians like Cees to produce totally custom routines.

    Thoughts please

  • #2
    I'm guessing that te debate is moot, and that lower level riders in smaller shows will continue to 'do it themselves' for a very long time, and the riders at the top levels of the sport, such as Olympics and World Championships, will continue to pay composers to make new music or pay producers to put together existing music with expert, seamless editing.

    But the fact is, the fanciness of the music itself isn't what wins. A freestyle is scored on specific things, and how much someone paid for it isn't one of them. A professional with experience will often pick better fitting music and create better choreography and the expense of the music itself is not so much why the person wins, and people outside of the elite level can win with 'home made' freestyles. I've seen some pretty embarrasing things when watching lower level freestyles - basic technical errors in which the rider is struggling to meet the requirements, missed requirements, music that doesn't fit the rhythm or suit the animal. I've also seen amateurs with no help put together wonderful freestyles - fitting music, great use of the ring - just not usually their first one....but expensive music is hardly a requirement for putting together a freestyle one enjoys - it isn't even a requirement for winning a less than elite class. One of the best freestyles I ever saw was done by an amateur who had her friend play the piano to a video of her doing the test moves, and they worked out what she would play, and finally recorded it. It was beautiful, frankly, and I think she won a 4th level freestyle with it.

    I think one of Anky's winningest freestyles with PB was done to existing classical music - not a custom composition at all.

    Theo told me he does freestyles for 700 bucks. That's about the cost of one show. So technically speaking most people could have a freestyle done without spending a lot...and they don't even need to if they don't want to.
    Last edited by slc2; Aug. 16, 2009, 03:55 PM.


    • Original Poster

      Originally posted by slc2 View Post
      But the fact is, the fanciness of the music itself isn't what wins. A freestyle is scored on specific things, and how much someone paid for it isn't one of them. A professional with experience will often pick better fitting music and create better choreography and the expense of the music itself is not so much why the person wins.
      I agree with your post SLC but surely if this technology is introduced to score by computer how closely the music matches the horse, it is playing into the hands of those who have a freestyle totally custom made for their horse, which does come down to a battle of dollars.

      Also, as someone who really enjoys watching freestyles but admits she knows nothing much about music, some of my favorite routines are those that move me emotionally even if they aren't technically the best fit to the horse, so under this proposed system wouldn't score as highly.

      I loved the Ulla S & Rusty Carminina Burana for the drama & emotion of the music, Anky's current piano routine might be a perfect fit for Salinero but it's background music IMO


      • #4
        Cees Sling's invention was, I thought, a very tongue in cheek, a very dry joke, and a sly stab at those who think all there is to a freestyle is tempo. He stated he was going to do this some time ago. I thought it was his idea of a joke.

        The biggest problem with some software that measures 'how well the horse matches the music' is that other than the tempo, how well the music goes with the horse is subjective. Software isn't subjective. Software is stupid. Very stupid. Even if software could be created that measured tempo and matched it to the music - would that actually be good for freestyles, or even relevant?

        Judges, on the other hand (ALL judges) make a decision based on specific guidelines. The degree to which they are 'great judges' is the degree to which they follow the guidelines. It is NOT what the guidelines are. It is how they follow them. And a 'great judge' does more. He allows for innovation and progress and change and he STILL follows the guidelines, but also the spirit and intent of the guidelines (laws, for example, change constantly, a 'judgement' that was good 20 years ago, is very often not 'the right judgement' today, because .... because what people want changes, basically). At the same time, he contributes to IMPROVEMENTS in the law, or standards (for dressage).

        Tempo, has very, very little to do with how well the 'music matches the horse'. We went all through that phase already, with endless march music, and horses goose stepping in perfect tempo to the music. Very early on Klimke said he didn't at all care for modifying the horse's rhythm to that degree - there is a natural constant change to the horse's tempo within a beat or two or three, and riding to march music requires the rider to forcibly fix the horse's tempo and put a certain level of artificiality to the ride.

        It is no more 'good' for the horse than fixing the hand is and forcing the horse into an unnaturally restricted head carriage.

        What's happening now, especially with say Totilas' freestyle, is that the horse's tempo matches the rhythm through a PART of the freestyle, but even when it does, the rhythm is very soft and the MOOD or expression of the music, is paramount. Totilas' freestyle becomes more like a mood piece, and shows a new level of artistry. Salzgeber's freestyle to Carmina Burana was just like that. I'm not sure who did it first, but I think she really led the way.

        And....anyone has access to Carmina Burana. I can go into the store and buy the same music for a few bucks, but I seriously doubt anyone other than Salzgeber's producer and Salzgeber, could have put it together quite so beautifully. That's more experience than just plain old money.


        • #5
          no joke:


          and as i understand, it measures how well the horse and music are synchronized. and it comes up with a score the judge would then incorporate into the wider score for the ride.

          pretty interesting actually. not sure whether i think it is a good thing for dressage.

          i am very sure it is a good thing for mr. slings as he stands to gain a great deal from it


          • #6
            There are plenty of customized freestyles that are "yawners". For examples, just watch World Cup videos.
            "No matter how well you perform there's always somebody of intelligent opinion who thinks it's lousy." - Laurence Olivier


            • #7
              I don't find them to be that bad, Mike.

              And....I'm really not sure how freestyles can 'evolve' into something 'really exciting', 'thrilling', 'theatrical' and still be about dressage. There is a limit to how far these things can go. Getting all freaky about the music and the choreography and the 'thrill' of it can only get so far away from the technical issues.


              • #8
                I don't find them to be that bad, Mike.
                Now what does that say about the top freestyles in the world when a person can say "I don't find them to be that bad"? These are supposedly the BEST freestyles on the planet! Technically - perhaps. Artistically - in many of the World Cup rides seen it just wasn't there.
                "No matter how well you perform there's always somebody of intelligent opinion who thinks it's lousy." - Laurence Olivier


                • #9
                  I do believe you are twisting my words to mean what you want, and not what I said, and not remotely what I meant. That's so naughty.

                  You said the freestyles were boring 'yawners'.

                  I don't mean they are 'not that bad' in the sense of, 'they could be a lot better, but they aren't.' I mean it in the sense that I don't EXPECT them to be the same kind of 'entertainment' many people are looking for. Some people want to be 'wowed', 'thrilled', get a kind of a 'Top-Gun-Dirty-Dancing-Armageddon-Rocky-Terminator(TWO)-Independence-Day-Godzilla-Pearl-Harbor' type extravaganza. I have sat next to people while watching freestyles when they've sniffed and turned up their little noses and said, 'That just didn't wow me', or 'I'm not impressed' or 'That was boring' and I'm like, 'did you even WATCH it? The pirouettes were excellent, the rhythm and tempo and use of the ring etc were great', and they sniff and say, 'Well it just didn't WOW me'.

                  Jeeeeez oh man.


                  • #10
                    Cees Sling's invention was, I thought, a very tongue in cheek, a very dry joke, and a sly stab at those who think all there is to a freestyle is tempo. He stated he was going to do this some time ago. I thought it was his idea of a joke.
                    I'm with SLC on this one. This must be a joke

                    I can remember the ride of Edward Gal and Lingh at Vegas and the reaction of the crowd. Can you imagine what would have happened when the EQMusync computer would have scored that ride down

                    Every word or time spend on this gadget is a waste of time.


                    • Original Poster

                      Originally posted by torontodressage View Post
                      I'm with SLC on this one. This must be a joke
                      It's not a joke, see this article by Cees about the system http://www.horsehero.com/editorial


                      • #12
                        Interesting Application!

                        The EuroDressage editorial piece mentions the system as a tool to help the judges put a more objective element in into the scoring of the freestyle.

                        The ultimate example was given at the 2008 CDI-W Mechelen were Anky van Grunsven accidentally brought the wrong CD and rode her test to the wrong music. She still scored an amazing 83% for artisticity. Or what about Gal and Totilas at Hickstead?? We're not questioning the horse's mega-potential and athleticism, but their music. The horse performed a freestyle with pure background music; the tunes hardly ever marked a transition or supported the horse's footfall But let's just throw some irrational points at it! Isobel Wessels scored it 96%. We're flabbergasted. It doesn't matter if you have good music or bad, because some judges don't even recognize it. As long as the horse is good, the music is good too. Errrr!

                        Maybe the judges need a tool that helps them
                        ? We acknowledge that it is a difficult job to judge the execution of a movement and look for synchronicity at the same time. It's too much for the human brain to handle and we can't give judges two pairs of eyes. One option could be to appoint a few judges which scrutinize the artistic level of the test and a few that only look for the technical aspect.

                        Another option could be looking into this new program that's on the market called EQ-Musync. This revolutionary new program has been provisionally tested in Spain and could be fully up and running by the 2010 World Equestrian Games. EQ-Musync is an idea of Cees Slings and created by a team of computer and music experts. This computer program is connected to two man-handled small video cameras taping each ride and a separate computer with technician which handles the music. Motion and music are brought together on this pc which carries the EQM program that measures the synchronicity between the horse's locomotion and the music. Each judge would get a small screen in their judges' box on which a score flashes that represents the level of synchronicity right after each test. For instance, "26%" of the test was actually performed synchronous to the music. The judge can then use this relative score and include it in his final artistic assessment.


                        • #13
                          "This is impossible"

                          I don't think it's impossible. It's never been impossible before.

                          Freestyle designers can't win for losin'. When they had a steady beat in music, they were accused of freestyles being 'monotonous' and 'boring'. When the beat varies, it's 'background music'.

                          And Cee's ....invention.... would be used to augment, not replace, the judge's scoring.

                          Yes, I guess it is a 'real thing', and not a joke in poor taste. Will wonders never cease.