ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Tue Apr 15, 2014 7:19 pm

Cody wrote:
vinteuil wrote:Also, it just occurred to me that this process doesn't include actually listening to the piece (not implying that you didn't). There's no reason that a clue has to be "written about" to be recognizable—more people listen to music than read listener's guides. An evocative description that you came up with of a memorable moment is probably better than trying to rely on someone else's description of two themes as "Beauty" and "the Beast" or whatever.
This is the nuttiest post so far in this thread wrt music, which has been full of nutty stuff. Are you so ensconced in the music mafia that you can't see how absurd this is?
Agreed--this way lies absolute madness. I promise you, Jacob, that you will not enjoy the results of the average writer trying to come up with an "evocative description" of a musical piece entirely by listening to it.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by at your pleasure » Tue Apr 15, 2014 7:25 pm

vinteuil wrote:
vinteuil wrote: I also am not a fan of "quotes/reactions by composers," but I'm sure people disagree about that.
Also, it just occurred to me that this process doesn't include actually listening to the piece (not implying that you didn't). There's no reason that a clue has to be "written about" to be recognizable—more people listen to music than read listener's guides. An evocative description that you came up with of a memorable moment is probably better than trying to rely on someone else's description of two themes as "Beauty" and "the Beast" or whatever.
Yea, this is a terrible idea unless you consider "doo dahh dooh daaah daah DAAAAAAAAAAAAH" an acceptable clue.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Unicolored Jay » Tue Apr 15, 2014 7:27 pm

I highly enjoyed this tournament, and of the last four ACF Nationals I liked this year's set the most. In particular, I liked the bio/chem a lot more than last year's, and the middle clues in the chem bonuses like "regioselectivity" and "one pot" were good ways of testing knowledge.

I suppose I can add to the music discussion - my stance probably most resembles Aaron's, and while I didn't find the music perfect (I have problems parsing theory/score clues on the fly, as Auroni might have noticed when I negged the Sibelius Symphony No. 2 tossup because I misheard something). The tossups that had a large number of such clues made me hesitant to buzz on them because I wasn't sure if I could pinpoint them correctly to the right piece they were describing. Oddly, the one exception to this was the Mahler Symphony No. 5 tossup, which I buzzed in on quite early, but I think that's because I listen to it a lot (and I've played the Adagietto before). (Of course, this doesn't mean that my experience as a listener/player shows I am a reputable source as to what a notable moment from the symphony is.) As with everyone else, I liked the answer selection a lot and I'm glad to see pieces like Bach's Concerto for Two Violins get asked about in quizbowl. Lastly, as far as the music distribution goes, I didn't really mind it at all here; I'm wondering what the people complaining about it would have liked to see as far as an ideal distribution would look like.

I'd definitely like feedback on the science I wrote for our packet, by the way - except for the p-adic numbers tossup and the quantum computing bonus, I wrote all of it.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Rufous-capped Thornbill » Tue Apr 15, 2014 7:45 pm

I'll repeat what most are saying: this is probably the best question set I've ever played. It's kind of the Jerry tournament we've all (at least since I entered college) been waiting for. Everything Jerry's written that I've either played or read has been some of the most interesting question material I've ever seen, but it's extremely difficulty. What this tournament managed to do was what so many ACF Nationals has shot for and missed, sometimes by a hair and sometimes by great bounds: it combined fresh, interesting and important topics with accessibility. Jerry, Ted, Ryan and Auroni (as well as everyone else who contributed) need to be commended as much as possible for their efforts.

In topics I'm qualified to talk about, I found the history at this tournament to be almost uniformly excellent, with only three tossups having what I thought were mis-placed clues (Golden Spurs, Siege of Vienna, Matyas Rakosi ["salami tactics" is a clue I learned in high school for him so I could just be misplacing its easiness]), and only a few hard parts that seemed to be chosen randomly from Wikipedia blue links. The literature was also on fairly interesting and for the most part very sane topics, and I appreciated and liked the number of questions on things like narrator and the role of the reader. The Other Arts was maybe the best part of the tournament, for me. Good questions on interesting and essential artists abounded in that topic. The tossup on "The Rules of the Game" is maybe my favorite from the entire set.

Good job on a great set, everyone, and congratulations to UVA and Yale.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Tue Apr 15, 2014 8:31 pm

So I have a lot less to add than I thought; most of it has already been said. I thought this year's ACF Nationals was a very solid set, and certainly more polished than last year's [the snazzy typesetting doesn't hurt this assessment]. (Speaking only for myself, I think that of the Natses I've played, 2012 > 2014 > 2013 > 2011, but that's neither here nor there.) I wanted to highlight some aspects of the tournament that really worked well and some that I didn't like as much, trying to be as constructive as possible with things that spur further discussion.

Good stuff:

- I felt once again like this year's ACF Nationals exemplifies the the potential for a quizbowl tournament to be a genuine "intellectual experience", a phrase which I also used last year. When 1600 dynamic answer lines fly by you in 18 hours at a well-composed tournament such as this one, and the hard clues show you all kinds of fun new interests which you could develop, you can't help but feel edified; I'm inspired to learn more, share interesting information with a community of friends by contributing more packets to future events, and delve deeper interests in new areas of study by events like this one. I'm not exactly sure how other editors ought to begin fostering this feeling, or whether I'm just a sentimental fuzzy at this point, but I suppose that crisply-written clues, fresh answer lines, and a willingness to go back to the sources and figure out what buffs appreciate, all helped.

- Well, I have one idea, I guess. Even when very hard answer lines were being asked about, this tournament did an excellent job of explaining in pretty succinct terms why a very difficult answer line might be intrinsically interesting or important without wasting too many words. Not only does this keep your tournament from feeling like a death march or a mere procession of titles, it helps inspire people to get out there and learn stuff if done well. (I literally knew nothing about Anselm Kiefer, for example, but hearing at the giveaway that he dealt with the historical memory of Nazi Germany at least made me aware that there's a real, compelling reason why some people engage with his abstract bullshit.) Sometimes this felt a little forced ("This story is one of the most anthologized of the past thirty years"), but on the whole I appreciated the care which this tournament's editors took to make descriptions pop and provide, when possible, some reasons to non-specialists why their reaction ought to be "huh, that sounds pretty cool and relevant to a lot of people" rather than merely "shrug" or "THE FUCK WAS THAT BALLS HARD THING".

- The philosophy at this tournament, both "conceptual" and otherwise, was very good, and even the very hard answer lines (I frankly doubt how many people know more than a bonus part's worth of info about "ressentiment," speaking as someone who's read Genealogy for three distinct classes) were all on theories of pretty central importance to important philosophical debates. Jerry Vinokurov sure knows how to make a philosophy question sing, and the balance of times, eras, interests, people, and concepts in this part of the distribution was more or less perfect. A+, will emulate in future writing.

-I also want to draw attention to the "your choice" at this tournament; almost all of the "your choice" was on intellectually interesting topics that earnestly deserved to be asked about, even if they didn't fit well into other categories, and served as a model for other tournaments to emulate. In particular, I liked the attempts at "public intellectualism" questions (e.g. Lippmann, Mother Jones/McSweeney's/n+1) and "cultural critic" stuff (e.g. the excellent "flaneurs" tossup). Can I see a full list of the questions which were characterizes as Your Choice for this event? It'd be cool to see that list isolated and divvied up by subtype, so as to help spur future editors' ideas in this field.

-Relatedly: this set seemed to have almost no Geography or Current Events (excepting the very well-done tourism-centric Phuket tossup, the classics-geo Ebro tossup, the islands bonus in the Yale packet, and the Fort Lee closings CE bonus), but you know what? I found that I didn't really miss them, and earnestly looked forward to hearing the fresh Your Choice ideas in each new packet. This is the second time in a pretty short succession that I've played a well-written hard tournament which eschews Geo and NAQT-style CE almost entirely (the first being Cane Ridge Revival), and I think I prefer hard quizbowl without them. I am not saying that Geo or CE are illegitimate (though "Modern World" is the way of the future), but I guess I'm willing to officially declare that both categories are functionally optional, and future editors should feel free to eschew either if they feel like it'll make their tournament better / more interesting. Also, when geography was there, it seemed to pick places of genuine human interest or tourist/foot activity.

-The contemporary visual art at this tournament skewed VERY hard. Despite that: I liked the focus on actual "art history" clues in questions such as The Dance and O'Keeffe's cow skulls, which lets writers toss up important works of art which don't have a lot of salient details within the frame itself. Now, I found that a lot of these clues were very hard, but I also happen to know almost nothing about art history per se which I can't glean by looking directly at paintings (or high-res images of paintings, much to Plato's chagrin), so I think it's kind of cool that quizbowl is opening up this new sphere of clues for future use, and encouraging feebs like me to hit the books again to keep our edge.

-I also liked the religion and myth; Auroni pointed out already in his post that these categories can get kind of fraught at high difficulties as clues on Fall- or Regionals-level answers grow thin, and his and Ryan's work on those questions showed a good way forward for those categories at future events.

-I hate architecture questions, and I think I didn't get a single one at this event, but I liked that this tournament tried to do for architecture what the Tommy revolution did for film: get off the rails and focus on buildings of public importance such as the Trinity Church and the Boston Public Library, which many people have seen or interacted with.

Stuff without value judgment:

-Others have already noted that this tournament was liberally sprinkled with "2011-style" or "CO-type" tossup answers, on the order of 3 or 4 per packet. I was going to post about how I didn't really like this decision, and if I were editing a future ACF Nats (not next year *puts finger to nose*), I probably wouldn't have chosen to go the same route. But upon reflection, there are 25+ packets to write and a really short time to edit them. And the presence of 3-4 much harder tossup answer lines was so consistent across packets that it came across as a legitimate editorial decision, which served to keep teams honest, prevent them from doing as much guessing, and give teams a chance to really demonstrate the outer edges of their knowledge base in the event that they were a dead heat on the 16-17 "canonical" questions each game. I think it's worth having a productive discussion about when wild, gunslingin' outliers are welcome, because it seems to have tangible benefits as well as drawbacks. As goofy as it is to have standalone tossups on "The Steeple-Jack", Diebenkorn, Jordanes, etc. every packet -- which can, frankly, feel like 10 line bonus parts if executed poorly, since you either know that those things exist or you don't -- there are justifications one could give for structuring a tournament this way, ranging from "we only had so much time and energy to put into replacements" to "y'know, teams these days are so good that a curveball every once in a while serves to distinguish the true champion-caliber team better". (I think that a constructive version of Sinan's comment would run something like: About 3 or 4 tossups each packet were on difficult topics which it was unlikely that many teams would know more than the basic definition of, making 'buzzer races' or perceived 'buzzer races' on those questions highly possible in games not featuring the top 6 teams or so.) This approach also allowed editors to stop being as coy with language and subject area drops as they usually are, letting Italian names come pretty early in the Clean Hands tossup and clues about mythography come early in the Vladimir Propp tossup, for example; it then became incumbent on players not to just guess Years of Lead or Joseph Campbell from context, but to actually know stuff. And I think that's dandy.

-People seemed to like the science. As an ostensible non-science layperson who still gets a science question here or there, it certainly seemed like the questions appropriately locked fakers like me out while providing interesting middle and late clues of actual importance. And yeah, it was cool to hear the biology questions on public health-y diseases such as lactose intolerance.

-I am curious which questions Yaphe and Seth wrote, in part because of the difference in style between this tournament and ICT.

Not-so-good things:

-I thought that ACF had a standing rule banning "meta" jokes in its tournaments, so it was jarring to hear references to Andy Watkins, Cody Voight, and Mike Cheyne within bonuses. Even if those name drops don't affect teams' ability to answer the bonus, it makes ACF look less professional to have them there, and makes the questions more confusing for future practices or people who aren't as in the loop. No more of this, please. (Also, it kind of scooped our packet's clue on the literary Matt Jackson, which was totally one hundred percent real and not meta!)

-Looking through the answer lines, it seems like there were some ungenerous prompts. What would be done if someone gave the answer "the enactment of slave morality" for the ressentiment tossup, or "Justified true belief cases" for Gettier problems, for example? At a hard tournament like this, where moderators can't be expected to have firsthand knowledge of all the clues, generous prompt lines are key. [Note: Either of my specific examples may result from the rather free-association-heavy thought process which I use while playing tossups, and may be stupid.]

Specific nitpicks:

-That tossup on "laughing" which described chimpanzees making a "relaxed face" in the leadin and just went on describing a kind of behavior which releases tension over and over again was pretty silly. Not a big deal -- sometimes, in a tournament with over 500 tossups, one of them is a bit of a dud, but worth griping about momentarily before moving on with my life.
-The Cathars WERE declared to be the Albigensian heresy; they didn't "merge with it". This description confused us into giving a wrong answer and nearly derailed a game which we only won by 5.
-Yeah, that Mary Tyrone hand shaking clue was real early. That wasn't ideal.
-That tossup on "sidhe" could have used a "description acceptable" or just accepted "fairies" throughout -- as far as I know from an actual class which discussed the sidhe, they just are what we call "fairies," and while I know that Things Have Names Yada Yada Yada, nothing about my actual study of Irish myth leads me to believe my teammate's neg of "Irish fairies" didn't demonstrate specific enough knowledge of the answer.
-At the risk of stealing Will Alston's hobbyhorse: The Brigid tossup used a clue of the form "Caesar conflated this Celtic god with ___" which was actively useless and confusing, since Caesar's descriptions of barbarian gods only use the Roman names without specifying the god to whom they're compared, and we have to basically speculate on who he was referring to That said, I'm glad to be out-classicsed on this one if I'm mistaken and there's a source other than Gallic Wars 6.17 that expressly makes the connection. [EDIT: removed Wotan clue complaint since that said Tacitus, though I'm pretty sure Tacitus didn't expressly identify Germanic gods by their Proto-Germanic names either.]

EDIT: Hmm, I thought I had a lot less to add than I did. Oh well.
Last edited by Adventure Temple Trail on Tue Apr 15, 2014 9:11 pm, edited 8 times in total.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Cheynem » Tue Apr 15, 2014 8:40 pm

RyuAqua wrote: I thought that ACF had a standing rule banning "meta" jokes in its tournaments, so it was jarring to hear references to Andy Watkins, Cody Voight, and Mike Cheyne within bonuses..
You'll be hearing from my lawyers, Jerry!
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Tue Apr 15, 2014 8:44 pm

It was perhaps unwise of me to make my post tonight, just before my busiest school workload of the week. I'll briefly respond to the replies that my original post has elicited. Then, I'll return to this thread (or the split-off version, if that happens) on Thursday evening or Friday to discuss the music question-writing problem, and to re-address any further replies that have come up. (Presumably, Ted will have something to say in response.)

For now, though:
grapesmoker wrote:I don't believe either of these strategies are really as clear cut or as feasible as you might think. Option (a) was, in some ways, the option I chose for Nationals 2011, and it produced a death march of a tournament. Moreover, allowing submissions to drive what your set will look like is often a very bad idea because the spread in submission quality is likely to be so great that you'll never extract a coherent anything out of them. You might think that leaves option (b) but that's not a great solution either. Taking option (b) means that you're rewriting submissions even more heavily than you're doing already, and if you compare the originals with what the final product looked like, you'll see that we rewrote many, if not most of the submissions. In some cases, that was inevitable; there was all sorts of stuff submitted in science that I wasn't going to let through, so most of the physics/other science had to be rewritten. But even so, I made the maximum effort to write keep the answer lines of the submissions as long as they were reasonable, because otherwise, what's the point? If we were going to do that, why not just write the whole thing ourselves?

Philosophical cohesion is a very hard thing to maintain across a tournament of 25 packets, and using it as a filter for rejecting otherwise good questions is a bad editing strategy unless you've got way more time to spend on editing than I do. In fact, the announcement to this tournament explicitly requested "don't write crazy shit" and guess what? We still got a lot of crazy shit. I don't know how much more we can do as editors to keep people from sending us questions we don't want or can't use. Realistically speaking, there just isn't going to be the time to spend on enforcing philosophical consistency across the whole set, and I'm fine with that. If the questions are good, the questions are good, and if they're not, they're not, but I don't think complaining about "the submitted rounds do tossups like this but the editor rounds do tossups like this" is going to produce any useful guidelines for people on how to write or edit questions.
I agree that Option (a) is untenable in most situations, and is probably responsible for 2011 Nats. I've done Option (b) multiple times, and I'm well aware of how much work that becomes. For me, though, where exercising Option (b) becomes necessary is when you are exercising a question-writing philosophy that is very different than that of the submissions you are getting. (So, as a counterexample, I didn't notice any cohesion problem this year with your Philosophy question between Editors' and submitted packets, because it seems to me that there was a great deal of diversity in both.) But you seem to be saying that cohesiveness is not merely a difficult thing to attain, but also an unimportant one, and this surprises me. We would surely agree that if I picked a well-edited ACF Regionals and ACF Nationals from previous years, and ran a tournament alternating between packets from the two, it would be sub-optimal at determining a champion in a coherent way, because it would be luck of the draw whether you happened to play an opponent at the difficulty you happen to be better at. Likewise, I contend that playing Editors' packets that feel different than submitted packets has a similar effect: the three prelims matches that carry over feel like they were decided via different criteria than were the later ones in the playoffs.

We may not agree that this is a real issue. Hopefully, it is an issue that starts to resolve itself with time anyway: that is, given how happy people seem to be with how this tournament turned out, they will hopefully submit questions that look more like this, and the philosophy of the submitters and editors will merge.
Cody wrote:For obvious reasons (cf. VCU Open 2013), I want to post about how bad and stupid this argument is—unless the editor is doing something really dumb like making half the music 20th c. and beyond, there is a pretty wide range of acceptable subdistributions for classical music (just like every other category!). This tournament focused heavily on 18th and 19th c., which is totally fine as it contains the bulk of what people care about – and it executed the answerlines well (I obviously cannot speak to the clues and will not attempt to). Just because the subdistribution doesn't fit your seemingly extremely narrow standards doesn't mean there is anything wrong with it, and it's a flat out stupid thing to complain about in this case.
Yes, Cody your reasons are indeed obvious, and seemingly rather petty, if this is about you still being pissed about that thread. (I can pluck out subdistributional complaints from nearly any discussion thread this year.) Contrary to you, I do not think that subdistributional gripes are automatically illegitimate. I care about listening to people's concerns about little things that affect the quality of their tournament experiences, and I try to learn from them. Someone complained to me about subdistributional stuff in one of my tournaments this year. I responded with why I thought my original balance makes sense, but when it comes time for me subdistribute the Literature for my next tournament, I'll take their ideas into account.

Of course, I totally agree with you that there are many legitimate approaches to subdistributional questions. In the case of the music distribution, I think there were two major eras (1950-present and the Classical era) and one genre (chamber music) about which I did not hear a single tossup. I was not hurt as a player by their absence, but their absence nonetheless felt rather marked to me. I'm sorry if you think this is "extremely narrow".
The Superfluous Man wrote:Sorry to call you out on this, John, but you should remember that you have been among the strongest advocates for clues that reward 'musical understanding' of a piece, and I think the community's desire to meet that goal is responsible for all these unhelpful clues. Ex.: Immediately after the Nats finals last year, I remember you griped that the Messiah tossup didn't reward musical study of the piece. So what if it didn't? At least every clue was buzzable. Personally, I'd much rather hear helpful performance and historical clues in the first four lines of a tossup rather than unhelpful theory clues (and God knows baroque music has plenty of unhelpful theory clues ripe for the picking). In an ideal world, each tournament would include helpful theory-based lead-ins in the music questions. And I appreciate the work you put into making your own music questions reach that ideal. But face it, the quizbowl machine as a whole can't make every tournament like that. If we keep pushing for music questions that A) use only buzzable clues and B) reward 'real' musical analysis... well, we don't really have enough editors to make that work.
First of all, I most certainly did not gripe about the Messiah tossup on those grounds! I argued only that I was surprised by his choice of lead-ins and middle clues, as I thought they were more well known than they apparently were. That was a fine tossup. I think I am on record in writing as consistently supporting Magin's music writing, and in encouraging inexperienced writers to model themselves on his style of writing, if they are at all unconfident in their ability to work from scores. I praised Will Nediger's music editing at Regionals this year. And I think I have also supported your music questions in print (if I haven't, I've certainly praised them in person), which also do not use tons of score clues. All of you, diverse as you are in approach, have done a fine job of rewarding "musical understanding".

Yes, I made some bad posts back in 2010. But I have repeatedly disavowed them, and I have even (at least once) commented that my current support of Magin-style questions is in opposition to the philosophy I would have advocated back in 2010. I have never been an advocate of plucking out random moments from the middle of movements and attempting to describe them; this is not a good way to write clues. The caricature you and others make of what kinds of clues I "like" is a parody of a stance I have not held in about four years. And if you need proof, in addition to actually reading my recent posts, you have only to look at the music questions I have written and edited in the past couple of years (in particular, ACF Regionals 2013 and CRR). You will find an abundance of performance clues, history clues, and various clues that do not require music theory expertise, intended to reward as many different definitions of "musical understanding" as possible. And if you compare them with the kinds of clues that were written for QUARK, Penn-ance, Penn Bowl 2013, and SCT 2014, you will find that these days I actually use fewer "score clues" than what seems to be the circuit average.

But if Aaron is right, and there are people who are writing these unhelpful score clues in the hopes of gaining cred with some caricature, "music mafia" incarnation of me from several years ago: please stop it, and go read this thread (http://www.hsquizbowl.org/forums/viewto ... =9&t=15161) and the music part of this post (http://www.hsquizbowl.org/forums/viewto ... lo#p266368), and try to learn from Magin's example. If you are someone who does understand music theory/terminology, and you want advice from me as to how to get better at learning how to use these skills in writing lead-ins to questions and bonus parts (because that is where these clues should go!), you are welcome to e-mail me.
Auroni wrote: For what it's worth, I did transcribe the opening notes to the first Mephisto Waltz, because I knew that was famous and was confident people could sound it out.
I suppose this further proves your point, but: you transcribed them wrong, and this prevented me from buzzing. The third note of the Mephisto Waltz opening build up is an F-sharp and not a D (as you wrote); the point is that he's stacking fifths to sound like a violin tuning. My guess is that you misread the first right-hand note as being in treble clef rather than in bass clef.

I'll do a proper write-up of the music cluing problem when I have time in a day or two (or maybe Jacob will beat me to some of these), but your two biggest problems in this set seemed to be:

1. You seem to be parroting the descriptions given by the particular sources you are using without verifying whether the things they are saying are ways of describing / conceiving of a movement that would be common to musicians generally, or are merely things particular to the source. i.e. You are stating a particular author's interpretation of a piece as if it were an accepted fact; and in many cases, not having read the same source as you, I have no reason to conceive of the piece in those terms.
2. When you find musical moments that have the potential to be clued well, you give so little precise context or detail about where in the piece they are happening and what exactly is going on, that it becomes difficult to buzz.

EDIT: Grammar
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Tue Apr 15, 2014 8:49 pm

Inkana7 wrote:Matyas Rakosi ["salami tactics" is a clue I learned in high school for him so I could just be misplacing its easiness])
I haven't seen the Rakosi tossup (or any question of 2014 ACF Nats, for that matter), but if you were aware of Matyas Rakosi as a high schooler than you likely have 90th+ percentile Rakosi knowledge and should just take the points. There's certainly stuff about him harder than salami tactics so its not a good lead-in, but again I don't know where it was placed.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Lagotto Romagnolo » Tue Apr 15, 2014 8:51 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote: First of all, I most certainly did not gripe about the Messiah tossup on those grounds! I argued only that I was surprised by his choice of lead-ins and middle clues, as I thought they were more well known than they apparently were. That was a fine tossup. I think I am on record in writing as consistently supporting Magin's music writing, and in encouraging inexperienced writers to model themselves on his style of writing, if they are at all unconfident in their ability to work from scores. I praised Will Nediger's music editing at Regionals this year. And I think I have also supported your music questions in print (if I haven't, I've certainly praised them in person), which also do not use tons of score clues. All of you, diverse as you are in approach, have done a fine job of rewarding "musical understanding".
Very well. My apologies for misconstruing your arguments as such.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by KissND » Tue Apr 15, 2014 8:53 pm

As a relative newcomer to Quiz Bowl (I didn't know what QB was until late second semester freshman year) I can't speak much about the tournament format and gameplay as compared to other tournaments. In preparation I read a ton of previous Nationals sets and I will say that I noticed a substantial difficulty bump for this tournament, particularly in the answer lines for Literature and Music which ranged from "easily accessible," the same tropes we are all used to, to "very, very difficult." If the goal of ACF Nationals is to crown the best teams in the country then it's probably a good idea that difficulty increases year to year. This is important because I'm sure most people would agree that A) the quality of teams generally increases over time as people accrue experience and B) each year the canon expands almost exponentially, there are tons of more packets for people to read and make themselves better when sets are released. My only concern is whether or not the increase in difficulty is best accomplished by mixing the standard difficulty answer lines (Benjy Compson, Stephen Dedalus) with the incredibly difficult ones (Marianne Moore/Chekhov obscure works-"The Black Monk" went dead against Maryland). Someone earlier in this thread mentioned that authors/books/characters can be switched around to accomplish this. My biggest problem this tournament was hesitating on ringing in because I wasn't sure if my answer "was difficult enough for ACF Nationals." Last year the tossup on World War I was great because it threw people for a loop, that alone making it difficult, however I'm not sure if this is a tactic that ACF supports wholeheartedly or just occasionally. For my first Nationals I will say that it was an excellent experience and I look forward to improving from the second bracket in years to come.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Auroni » Tue Apr 15, 2014 9:01 pm

In the case of the music distribution, I think there were two major eras (1950-present and the Classical era) and one genre (chamber music) about which I did not hear a single tossup. I was not hurt as a player by their absence, but their absence nonetheless felt rather marked to me
Excepting the finals 2 packet, here are the tossup answerlines in this tournament. I've bolded every tossup with chamber music or classical or post-1950 content:

pelleas and melisande jn hummel bach's double violin concerto clarinet ave maria paris bach oratorios sergei prokofiev beethoven piano sonatas Tchaikovsky motets chopin's piano sonata 2 brahms violin concerto six sibelius symphony 2 hector berlioz mahler's 5th r schumann music for strings, percussion, celesta mephisto waltzes khachaturian anton bruckner tarantella hahn

It's true that I could have used more exclusive chamber music content in the tossups; I hadn't noticed that I was lacking in tossups on string quartets and piano trios. There were plenty of deep tossups on the corpus of the most widely-listened to composers. I do not see it as an obligation to write a post-1950-only tossup. Everything you mentioned was also well-represented in the bonuses.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Tue Apr 15, 2014 9:02 pm

KissND wrote: My biggest problem this tournament was hesitating on ringing in because I wasn't sure if my answer "was difficult enough for ACF Nationals." Last year the tossup on World War I was great because it threw people for a loop, that alone making it difficult, however I'm not sure if this is a tactic that ACF supports wholeheartedly or just occasionally.
Speaking solely for myself, I wholeheartedly support the mixing in of hard tossups on very easy answers into all high-difficulty tournaments; part of being a knowledgeable person is having very deep knowledge of basic material, and the testing of such knowledge (rather than merely expanding out into recognition tests for obscurer and more far-flung parts of literature) makes quizbowl a more accurate reflection of the sort of knowledge we want intelligent, intellectually-curious people to have. The fact that Ted and Auroni's known fondness for Core Works allowed this tournament to have Nats-difficulty tossups on Stephen Dedalus, Benjy Compson, Lear's fool, Tess Durbeyfield, Edmund Spenser, etc. was a positive good thing, and helped keep people honest. (Some of the outliers may have been excessive nonetheless...) I suspect, Andrew, that you'll develop more of a sense of confidence on when to buzz on easy answers at hard tournaments as you keep playing -- it took me a while, too -- and I hope you keep having fun doing so!
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Apr 15, 2014 9:11 pm

Andrew wrote (and I slightly modified) the tossup on Word and Object. Seth didn't write any questions, he just gave me some feedback on the earth science and astro tossups. Matt Reece also looked at a few questions that touched on field theory topics (Lorentz invariance and symmetry breaking).
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Tue Apr 15, 2014 9:17 pm

KissND wrote:My biggest problem this tournament was hesitating on ringing in because I wasn't sure if my answer "was difficult enough for ACF Nationals." Last year the tossup on World War I was great because it threw people for a loop, that alone making it difficult, however I'm not sure if this is a tactic that ACF supports wholeheartedly or just occasionally. For my first Nationals I will say that it was an excellent experience and I look forward to improving from the second bracket in years to come.
This concept is called "hard questions on easy answers" and the last three ACF Nationals have been written at least in part by people who are staunch adherents of it. It's a great way to ensure that tossups challenge experienced players while also being accessible to new players at the end.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Apr 15, 2014 9:24 pm

RyuAqua wrote:The philosophy at this tournament, both "conceptual" and otherwise, was very good, and even the very hard answer lines (I frankly doubt how many people know more than a bonus part's worth of info about "ressentiment," speaking as someone who's read Genealogy for three distinct classes) were all on theories of pretty central importance to important philosophical debates. Jerry Vinokurov sure knows how to make a philosophy question sing, and the balance of times, eras, interests, people, and concepts in this part of the distribution was more or less perfect. A+, will emulate in future writing.
Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad you enjoyed these questions.
I also want to draw attention to the "your choice" at this tournament; almost all of the "your choice" was on intellectually interesting topics that earnestly deserved to be asked about, even if they didn't fit well into other categories, and served as a model for other tournaments to emulate. In particular, I liked the attempts at "public intellectualism" questions (e.g. Lippmann, Mother Jones/McSweeney's/n+1) and "cultural critic" stuff (e.g. the excellent "flaneurs" tossup). Can I see a full list of the questions which were characterizes as Your Choice for this event? It'd be cool to see that list isolated and divvied up by subtype, so as to help spur future editors' ideas in this field.
Tossups:

laughter, Prison reform, Periplus, patenting genes, Walter Lippman, flaneur, drought, Phuket, coral castle, postmodernism, Hot Springs National Park, Vladimir Propp, Ur, Luzon, Ecuador, Ebro River, Hannah Arendt, jury nullification, Saudi royal family, Robert Bork, tennis, Richard Burton, Clean Hands, Shiraz

Bonuses:

Mother Jones / McSweeney's / n + 1, unreasonable effectiveness/ wigner/ schrodinger's cat, Peten/Chiapas/Belize", Clovis / Monte Verde /Kennewick Man", Masscult and Midcult/ Macdonald/ Agee, Anne Bonny / Calico Jack / Blackbeard, MFK Fisher / Brillat-Savarin / Anthony Bourdain, defensible space theory/ city beautiful movement/ World's Columbian Exposition, Wildstein/ Christie/ Buono, oysters/ ocean acidification/ Great Lakes, Society of the Spectacle/ Debord/ Dada, Pantanal/ Discovery Coast/ Brasilia, Gitlin/ Howe/ Occupy, EU-US Free Trade Agreement/ Rompuy/ Greece, Haight-Asbury/ Mantra-Rock/ Altamont, Mauritius/ Mascarene Islands/Mayotte, pornography/ MacKinnon/ Canada, Axial Age/ Jaspers/ omega, world systems theory/ Wallerstein/ Fanon, Balaton/ seiches/ British Columbia, Adirondack Mountains/ Mount Marcy/ Tear of the Clouds, Paul Morphy/ Philidor Defense/ New Orleans, Arcana Celestia/ purgatory/ Margaret Fuller

Of these, I wrote the Bork tossup and the bonuses on Macdonald and Gitlin, plus editing a few others.
Looking through the answer lines, it seems like there were some ungenerous prompts. What would be done if someone gave the answer "the enactment of slave morality" for the ressentiment tossup, or "Justified true belief cases" for Gettier problems, for example? At a hard tournament like this, where moderators can't be expected to have firsthand knowledge of all the clues, generous prompt lines are key. [Note: Either of my specific examples may result from the rather free-association-heavy thought process which I use while playing tossups, and may be stupid.]
I don't think these are stupid examples, but I think they're a bit unrealistic. It seems like these examples require someone to be knowledgeable enough to know of the arguments about the problem with justified true belief or the references to the sources of the slave morality, and yet somehow not know the terms by which both of those things are known. To me, that seems quite unlikely, and I confess that it didn't occur to me that people would say that. If that happened in my room, I would prompt, I suppose; for future references it would probably be good to be more generous with prompts overall, although I find it hard to come up with a general rule for when such answerlines might be promptable.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by ryanrosenberg » Tue Apr 15, 2014 9:25 pm

KissND wrote:Chekhov obscure works-"The Black Monk" went dead against Maryland
I saw this tossup as a really good example of how to look beyond "core works" in an interesting/important/knowable way. I'm taking a class on Chekhov now, and his short stories are a key part of the scholarship on him, to the point where my syllabus left his plays until the last month to allow for more time on the short stories and novels. This tossup and the later "Gusev"/Chekhov/"Gooseberries" bonus were both great to hear.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Cody » Tue Apr 15, 2014 9:32 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:Yes, Cody your reasons are indeed obvious, and seemingly rather petty, if this is about you still being pissed about that thread. (I can pluck out subdistributional complaints from nearly any discussion thread this year.)
Don't worry, I'll be begrudging that inane complaint for quite a while!
ThisIsMyUsername wrote:Contrary to you, I do not think that subdistributional gripes are automatically illegitimate. I care about listening to people's concerns about little things that affect the quality of their tournament experiences, and I try to learn from them. Someone complained to me about subdistributional stuff in one of my tournaments this year. I responded with why I thought my original balance makes sense, but when it comes time for me subdistribute the Literature for my next tournament, I'll take their ideas into account.

Of course, I totally agree with you that there are many legitimate approaches to subdistributional questions. In the case of the music distribution, I think there were two major eras (1950-present and the Classical era) and one genre (chamber music) about which I did not hear a single tossup. I was not hurt as a player by their absence, but their absence nonetheless felt rather marked to me. I'm sorry if you think this is "extremely narrow".
Of course there are legitimate complaints about subdistributional issues (too much poetry, no poetry, half the music being modern, no earth science tossups, blah blah blah: you get the gist); I wouldn't suggest otherwise. However, one person or a narrowly defined set of persons not liking a distribution doesn't mean it isn't perfectly fine, just as it was in this case. [For example, I'm sure Eric does not particularly love my biology distribution, but there's nothing wrong with it in the way there was a problem with the CRR bio distribution]. In particular, this tournament had one of the most balanced music distributions that I've played in a while (in both time period and piece type). Complaining about a legitimate approach to the music distribution (i.e. this tournament) pretty much just confirms the view that you'll never be satisfied by a set's music unless it is written by one of about two people.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Tue Apr 15, 2014 9:33 pm

RyuAqua wrote:-At the risk of stealing Will Alston's hobbyhorse: The Brigid tossup used a clue of the form "Caesar conflated this Celtic god with ___" which was actively useless and confusing, since Caesar's descriptions of barbarian gods only use the Roman names without specifying the god to whom they're compared, and we have to basically speculate on who he was referring to
I would heartily agree that such clues are bad ideas, and would refrain from using them in tossups, as much as I get excited when clues about the Suebian fertility goddess Nerthus and etymological connections to Njord come up.

I'd also like to echo the lauding of "interesting geography" and "other academic" topics, though I do think the world systems theory/Wallerstein/Fanon bonus skewed fairly easy compared to a lot of the others. The tossup on the Ebro river is one of my favorite questions to ever play on, and I'm sad I didn't get to play the Shiraz question - I'll definitely have to look that one up.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Apr 15, 2014 9:37 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote: I agree that Option (a) is untenable in most situations, and is probably responsible for 2011 Nats. I've done Option (b) multiple times, and I'm well aware of how much work that becomes. For me, though, where exercising Option (b) becomes necessary is when you are exercising a question-writing philosophy that is very different than that of the submissions you are getting. (So, as a counterexample, I didn't notice any cohesion problem this year with your Philosophy question between Editors' and submitted packets, because it seems to me that there was a great deal of diversity in both.) But you seem to be saying that cohesiveness is not merely a difficult thing to attain, but also an unimportant one, and this surprises me. We would surely agree that if I picked a well-edited ACF Regionals and ACF Nationals from previous years, and ran a tournament alternating between packets from the two, it would be sub-optimal at determining a champion in a coherent way, because it would be luck of the draw whether you happened to play an opponent at the difficulty you happen to be better at. Likewise, I contend that playing Editors' packets that feel different than submitted packets has a similar effect: the three prelims matches that carry over feel like they were decided via different criteria than were the later ones in the playoffs.
The thing about that is that many times, I had no real choice about whether or not to rewrite a question in my category because the submission was not very good. This was especially the case for science; a lot of teams just don't have good science writers (and some teams that did have good science writers... disappointed me), so most of the time I'm just writing those questions from scratch, even if I'm reusing those answer lines. I suspect I have a sufficiently distinct style that a lot of people reading my questions can tell I wrote them, and perhaps that makes it seem like it's more consistent than it really is. I submit that this is more of a case of apophenia than anything else; to the extent that my categories appear consistent, they merely reflect a particular writing style rather than any concerted efforts to match the editor packets to the submissions. In fact, in philosophy, there's a major difference in that there is only one tossup on a work in the editor packets, and one on a philosopher, while the submissions predominantly feature tossups in those two sub-areas.

I certainly do value philosophical coherence across a set. But I don't value it above getting the actual set done. As an editor, especially for Nationals, one is always in triage mode. Any time I can shave an hour off my workload by using a good question someone else wrote, I will do that without reservations, because I can then use that hour to fix a bad question. If we didn't have to prioritize, then probably we could be much more selective in terms of how we'd deal with submissions, but in reality we have about 3 months to edit all the stuff that comes in. We were actually done a week before the tournament was to be played, which might be the earliest a Nationals set has ever been completed, and that gave me time to leisurely print the set over three evenings, rather than pitch a tent in the 24 hour Kinko's the night before the tournament. Ultimately, we operate under real time constraints, and our top priority is giving you good questions; if that means that we are not able to satisfy some difficult-to-articulate criterion of philosophical coherence, that's a price I'm willing to pay.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Apr 15, 2014 9:42 pm

As far as subdistributions are concerned: it would of course be weird if most the questions in a particular section of the distribution were concentrated in one particular sub-area. Like, if half the physics was exclusively on stuff encountered in solid state physics classes, that would be bad. But if I go to a tournament and I don't hear a question from solid state physics, that doesn't necessarily mean anything. I'm not a music guy, but three centuries of music doesn't seem to me to be exclusively narrow at all; complaining about there not being enough chamber music appears to be a lot like complaining about not enough solid state physics. If someone were to pose that complaint to me, I wouldn't consider it particularly damning.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by vinteuil » Tue Apr 15, 2014 10:16 pm

Ukonvasara wrote:
Cody wrote:
vinteuil wrote:Also, it just occurred to me that this process doesn't include actually listening to the piece (not implying that you didn't). There's no reason that a clue has to be "written about" to be recognizable—more people listen to music than read listener's guides. An evocative description that you came up with of a memorable moment is probably better than trying to rely on someone else's description of two themes as "Beauty" and "the Beast" or whatever.
This is the nuttiest post so far in this thread wrt music, which has been full of nutty stuff. Are you so ensconced in the music mafia that you can't see how absurd this is?
Agreed--this way lies absolute madness. I promise you, Jacob, that you will not enjoy the results of the average writer trying to come up with an "evocative description" of a musical piece entirely by listening to it.
I apologize for not making clearer the context in which I was considering this: Auroni said that he was writing about moments in pieces. I suggested a way of doing that. I don't think that saying "people aren't able to clue specific moments properly" is relevant: if you can't do that, then you shouldn't be trying to!

I think I've misrepresented my position a bit (sorry!): I agree with John that music questions do not have to, or shouldn't even be mostly "score clues," and that I'm an enormous fan of Magin's questions from 2013 ACF etc. I also agree that it seems that people seem to think "music players want "score clues""—I know I certainly don't, I just want clues that I, and anyone else, can buzz on. I don't think that a large chunk of this year's Nationals clues were buzzable, frankly.
grapesmoker wrote:As far as subdistributions are concerned: it would of course be weird if most the questions in a particular section of the distribution were concentrated in one particular sub-area. Like, if half the physics was exclusively on stuff encountered in solid state physics classes, that would be bad. But if I go to a tournament and I don't hear a question from solid state physics, that doesn't necessarily mean anything. I'm not a music guy, but three centuries of music doesn't seem to me to be exclusively narrow at all; complaining about there not being enough chamber music appears to be a lot like complaining about not enough solid state physics. If someone were to pose that complaint to me, I wouldn't consider it particularly damning
I suppose that this could be construed as excessively based on my personal tastes (i.e. I listen to more chamber, instrumental, and vocal/choral music than orchestral music), but a music student not knowing things about chamber music would be more like a physics student not knowing thermo, or optics, or fluid dynamics, instead of solid state physics—just plain absurd.

[EDIT: I'm in the middle of typing up a detailed critique of the questions, but, honestly, at this point, I'm not sure what the value is of that for anyone—if anyone wants or needs to be convinced of how awful (read: completely unbuzzable) so many of these clues were, I'll post it, but the big take-away is clearly "don't write clues from the score of a piece unless you can be absolutely positive that they a) match up to your listening experience, b) are described in a way that other people can understand on the fly, and c) are absolutely error-free. Otherwise, follow Magin's excellent, excellent guide on how to write music questions"]
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Wed Apr 16, 2014 5:57 pm

To follow on what Jerry said, not only is it "triage mode", but at some point you have to respect that this is a submission tournament and you can't go around completely re-writing 75% of the submitted tossups to deal with sub-distributional irregularities (nor would I do so, even if time were no issue, and I loved doing it). As I said in my first few posts, I do try to touch all relevant parts of the canon (I don't try to do that at tourneys other than ACF Nats, but I think the collegiate national tournament deserves that treatment) - but you just can't get completely obsessive about that.

For instance, Yale submitted a pretty nifty "Ballot or the Bullet" speech question - let's say I had already written a tossup of my own on Stokely Carmichael. I'm not gonna throw away a perfectly good submitted tossup just because it doesn't fit perfectly into the distribution. Or, a real example - Michigan State submitted a usable "Attempted Assassination of Jackson" tossup - and I didn't throw it away just because I'd already written a Nicholas Biddle tossup. If you go doing things like that, you're gonna drive yourself into the loony bin, and you're going to be wasting a lot of perfectly decent submissions.

That Shiraz tossup was in the WUSTL packet and was submitted - I made a few additions and subtractions to it.
The ruler Adud al-Dawla kept his court in this city when it was the capital of the Buyid dynasty, which arose around 934 CE. That ruler built several monuments in this city, including the sprawling Vakil Bazaar, a dam connecting this city to Estakhr, and the massive Qur’an Gate at its northeast entrance. André Godard re-designed a mausoleum in this city that includes the Musalla Gardens on the banks of the Ruknabad river. Its profligate raisin production followed centuries of its namesake wine being prized along the Silk Road. The ruins of Pasargadae lie on the outskirts of this city, which was the capital of the Zand Dynasty, and is currently the capital of its nation’s province of Fars. It’s also just south of ancient Persepolis. Baha’i pilgrims in this city visit the House of the Bab. This city fostered the poetic careers of its native sons Sa’di and Hafez, whose tombs are located here. For 10 points, name this major artistic center, the largest city in southern Iran.
ANSWER: Shiraz
I really like that tossup as Misc. Academic because it has important clues from history, art, religion, archaeology, geography, and literature - the clues in all of those areas are not just throwaways but are all quite important and interesting things. This is one of my favorite questions in the tournament. I did a lot of the same things with the Ebro River tossup.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Auroni » Wed Apr 16, 2014 6:11 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:The third note of the Mephisto Waltz opening build up is an F-sharp and not a D (as you wrote); the point is that he's stacking fifths to sound like a violin tuning. My guess is that you misread the first right-hand note as being in treble clef rather than in bass clef.
Yeah that's what happened, and I'll cop to that. Here's some of the tossups that have been mentioned so far in the thread.

6. Near the end of this symphony, the trumpets play D-E-F sharp-G, finally adding a fourth note to an omnipresent three note motif introduced in its first movement by the strings playing F-sharp-G-A. The second movement of this symphony begins with a long pizzicato passage played by double basses and cellos, and later features a C-major theme above which the word “Christus” was written. In its finale, the oboe repeats a note nine times before introducing a motif inspired by the suicide of the composer’s sister-in-law. The D minor bassoon theme in this symphony’s second movement Tempo andante, ma rubato occurred to the composer as he was being haunted by a vision of Don Juan. Because this symphony was begun while its composer was living in Italy, thanks to the generous donations provided by its dedicatee Axel Carpalan, it largely avoided Russian influence and became popular with patriots in his homeland. For 10 points, name this 1902 symphony in D major, the most frequently recorded and performed by Jean Sibelius.
ANSWER: Sibelius’s Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43 [or Sibelius 2; or Sibelius’s D major symphony before it’s mentioned at the end; or Sibelius’s op. 43; prompt on all of those answers that don’t mention Sibelius if they are given before the end of the question, AT THE END OF THE QUESTION, accept: second symphony, Symphony No. 2, op. 43]

9. At one point in this symphony’s first movement, two trumpets play a double-dotted A Major scale fragment before playing the high notes “E G-Sharp B” over the chords “A Major, E Major add6 (“add-six”), B Major add6.” The recapitulation of this symphony’s slow movement begins after a soft, slow glissando in the violins from a high D to a C two octaves below. The scherzo of this symphony opens with the horns playing a solo that end with the notes “B C-Sharp D F-Sharp B,” followed by both a landler and a waltz. This symphony’s fourth movement is played only by the strings and harp. This symphony, which begins in C-Sharp Minor and ends in D Major, features an very difficult opening trumpet solo in its first movement funeral march. Its fourth movement Adagietto may have been intended as a love song to the composer’s new wife Alma. For 10 points, name this Mahler symphony which immediately precedes his Tragic symphony.
ANSWER: Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 [accept equivalents like Mahler’s fifth; just fifth or 5 needed after “Mahler” is read, but prompt on it before]

Note: type of piece and composer needed
5. In one of these pieces, a spooky theme in its scherzo is reprised with the left hand playing staccato while the right plays legato, offset half a beat. Another of these pieces contains a theme with octave intervals with frequent sforzandi, nicknamed “The Beast,” which is defeated by the other theme, “The Beauty.” The Andante favori movement of one of these pieces was discarded and published separately. In his series of lecture-recitals on these pieces, Andras Schiff defended the traditionally-disliked Op. 54 F major one. The second movement opens with a recitative-like arpeggio resting on B-flat major in another of these pieces, which contains three tempo changes on the first page and according to the composer’s biographer Anton Schindler was inspired by a Shakespeare play. Repeated pianissimo chords open another of these pieces, followed by a three- and four- note descent. A huge three-voice fugue in triple meter closes another of these pieces, the composer’s op. 106 in B-flat major. For 10 points, name these thirty-two pieces, such as the Tempest, Waldstein, and Hammerklavier, composed by Beethoven for a solo keyboard instrument.
ANSWER: Beethoven’s piano sonatas [prompt on piano sonatas, but accept it after Beethoven has been read]

5. The finale of this piece reprises the theme in G minor instead of the expected tonic D minor and consists of two instances where repeated double stops are played in eighth notes in accompaniment of the orchestra. This piece opens with a four-voice fugue, and an F major 12/8 cantilena meter characterizes its middle movement, in which a four-note fragment punctuates overlapping and imitative phrases four times. The close canon opening this piece’s allegro finale marks a return to the tripartite ritornello principle. A trill was added to this piece for didactic purposes in the version appearing in Volume 4 of Suzuki. On a recording with Mozart’s Turkish concerto, Jascha Heifetz unusually played this piece by himself, and Jaime Laredo and Jennifer Koh often played it together. Nearly two decades after this piece was written during its composer’s time as Kapellmeister of Anhalt-Kothen, it was transposed into C minor and arranged for multiple harpsichords. For 10 points, name this Bach piece for orchestra and more than one stringed soloist.
ANSWER: Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins, Strings and Continuo in D minor [or Bach’s Double Violin Concerto; or BWV 1043; prompt on Bach’s violin concerto; Bach isn’t needed after he is mentioned in the question]

14. According to Jeffrey Kallberg, this piece was directly inspired by the Act II finale of Rossini’s La gazzaladra. The second movement Scherzo of this piece reprises an E-flat minor theme at the end in the key of G-flat major. Part of this piece was orchestrally transcribed in D minor by Edward Elgar at the invitation of conductor Adrian Boult. A very long, four-bar Grave (grah-VAY) section opens this piece before proceeding to an agitato theme. An interlude in D-flat major interrupts its third movement, which was composed around two years before the rest of the piece. The disunity of this piece led Robert Schumann to suggest that the composer “simply bound together four of his most unruly children.” The third movement, oft-performed on its own, gives this piece its common nickname and was performed at the composer’s own burial. For 10 points, name this B-flat minor solo piece by Chopin with a gloomy nickname.
ANSWER: Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, Opus 35 [or, The Funeral March; or March funebre; ONLY AFTER CHOPIN IS READ should you accept second piano sonata or Piano Sonata #2; prompt on “Chopin’s piano sonata” throughout, prompt on “piano sonata” after Chopin is read]

17. In the third movement of one of this composer’s symphonies, a funeral march consisting of violins playing jagged dotted-rhythms struggles against another funeral march played by winds. In another of his symphonic third movements, a gavotte transitions into a trio, which transitions back to the gavotte in the flutes while strings play pizzicato accompaniment. He quadrupled the length of the first-movement development section in a revision of his fourth symphony, whose third movement depicts a seductive dance performed by the Beautiful Maiden. The glockenspiels and xylophones imitate ticking clocks in his last symphony, to which he added an energetic coda in the vain hope of winning a prize; that piece was originally composed for a children’s radio program. This composer’s fourth symphony drew heavily from his ballet The Prodigal Son. His chosen title for his first symphony indicates that he attempted to reconcile 20th century music with the music of Haydn. He was posthumously awarded the Lenin Prize in 1957 for his last symphony. For 10 points, name this Soviet-era composer of seven symphonies, such as the Classical.
ANSWER: Sergei (Sergeyevich) Prokofiev

So, when I selected the clues for each of these tossups, they struck me all as fairly unique features of the relevant pieces (with the possible exception of the ritornello principle clue in the Bach Double). Which of them are bad clues, and is there a pattern to which ones are bad? How can I avoid being seduced by bad clues when looking up materials to write questions from in the future? How many of them are hinting at something legitimately important, but are being deemed bad by you since you haven't heard of them?
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Tanay » Wed Apr 16, 2014 6:34 pm

Would all of the editors be open to writers asking for feedback on their specific submitted tossups?
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Wed Apr 16, 2014 6:42 pm

I don't know that this is in dispute, but it's obvious that my questions have a very different aesthetic than you see from many writers today. Increasingly, I see people writing questions today that try to sink "buzzpoints" further and further down in the question in favor of more vague, circumstantial clues. When I say buzzpoints, I mean very discrete and self-contained clues - the easy example is the title of a book, but this also includes a bunch of other things - the name of a battle or a war, the name of a person, a famous line of a poem like "pluck your berries harsh and crude", the name of an effect in physics. There's such a paranoia among a lot of writers these days that those types of clues are "faker" than others, and they either get sunk or ignored in a lot of questions.

For example, I'm well aware that I just came out and dropped the name of Wendell Willkie's travelogue in the first line. "Salami Tactics" on Rakosi was closer to the middle of the question, but I certainly came out with it quicker than most writers today would drop it. The reason for this is that I absolutely love "clean buzzpoints" - that is, buzzes off of discrete, self-contained clues. There's a certain opinion out there today that "add up the clues" kinds of buzzes are more impressive than clean buzzes, or more indicative of deep/real knowledge. An "add up the clue" buzz is one where the player has not really been given any one discrete clue that he flat-out knows or has remembered - but through a combination of previous clues, he has managed to deduce the time period, or the location, or the genre of literature, or the general "tradition" that some work fits into, or the area of scientific study - and the player adds up all those items, and he reaches an acceptable "confidence level" that the answer must be X because it is the only one that seems to generally fit the bill.

These buzzes are quite often just as "fake" as any buzzes - because often they rely upon a good deal of "quizbowl experience" - an intuitive sense of what probably would and probably wouldn't come up, an intuitive sense of how questions tend to be written, etc. There are a lot of players who excel at "add up the clues" kinds of buzzes, specifically because they have a lot of quizbowl intuition. This is not true on all occasions - it may be that the player just generally recognizes a lot of terminology going on in the question because the player has studied that time period or that scientific technique in detail, and all those words seem familiar - so they draw correct conclusions. But, similarly, a player who makes a clean buzz off of a "buzzpoint," I think, has an equal chance that he may have acquired knowledge of that buzzpoint through such an academic encounter (especially these days, where it's becoming increasingly uncommon for players to memorize lists of titles).

So, long story short - I'm just not into pussyfooting around the way that a lot of tossups these days seem to want to. I'd tell people to be careful about just blabbering for four lines about some quote that appears in Chapter 11, Page 195 of some book that you're writing on....a lot of times those tossups get a fifth-line buzz because the fifth line is the first place where any reasonably discrete clue shows up. And then, for some stupid reason, people think that's a better way to write than just coming out with the hard, discrete clue at the top.

Now, sure - it's obvious that I just screwed up with a few tossups like Algerian War for Independence (Milk Bar) and Battle of the Golden Spurs ("shield and sword") by throwing out a few clues which had gained greater popularity than I thought. Those were just errors of mine. What I'm saying is - hey, if you're Matt Jackson and you can buzz on the Battle of Gully Hole Creek - then it's jolly well fine to be buzzing on the first or second line of the tossup! Don't tell me I should have included a random line from James Oglethorpe's journal to delay Matt's buzz until the fourth line. Somehow, that's the kind of thinking I see from a lot of people now.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Wed Apr 16, 2014 6:44 pm

Would all of the editors be open to writers asking for feedback on their specific submitted tossups?
I'm fine with that, Tanay. Just post the tu or bonus answers you want feedback on here. If it has to be private for some reason, you can give me your email too - and I'll send it by email. But, otherwise, I'll just post my thoughts in this thread.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Wed Apr 16, 2014 7:03 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote:
Would all of the editors be open to writers asking for feedback on their specific submitted tossups?
I'm fine with that, Tanay. Just post the tu or bonus answers you want feedback on here. If it has to be private for some reason, you can give me your email too - and I'll send it by email. But, otherwise, I'll just post my thoughts in this thread.
So, here are the history bonuses I wrote for this tournament that made it into the set:
Dartmouth ACF Nationals Packet wrote:
These two countries and Sweden formed the Triple Alliance to threaten another country to end of the War of Devolution. For 10 points each:
[10] Name these two countries, which fought the Battle of the Gabbard and the Battle of Leghorn. Companies chartered by these countries fought the Komenda Wars.
ANSWER: Kingdom of England and The Republic of the Seven United Netherlands/Provinces [accept Dutch Republic or Republiek der Zeven Verenigde Nederlanden /Zeven Provinciën for Netherlands; prompt on Britain for England [...]; accept United Provinces for Netherlands]
[10] The Royal African Company and the WIC fought the Komenda wars off the coast of what is now Ghana. Europeans named that coast after this resource, which West African kingdoms often traded for salt.
ANSWER: gold [or Au; prompt on transition metals or other less specific answers]
[10] This Welsh pirate, who captured over four hundred ships in three years, got his start in the Gold Coast. This captain of the Royal Fortune established a code of ten rules on his ships and was killed in a clash with the HMS Swallow.
ANSWER: Bartholomew Roberts [or John Roberts; or Black Bart; or Barti Ddu]

This man led the Demmin campaign of the Wendish Crusade along with Conrad I. For 10 points each:
[10] Name this member of the House of Ascania and Margrave of Brandenburg, whose vigorous campaigning and strong personal qualities won him an animal epithet.
ANSWER: Albert the Bear [or Albrecht der Bär; prompt on partial answer]
[10] Albert the Bear briefly ruled as duke of this German region, which was also ruled by Henry the Lion and in the eighteenth century by Augustus the Strong.
ANSWER: Saxony [or Sachsen]
[10] Albert the Bear formed the Margravate of Brandenburg out of this former Wendish territory granted to him by Lothair III in 1143. This territory’s control earlier reverted to Slavic hands after a Lutician rebellion in 983, and it was one of several created by Otto the Great out of land owned by the margrave Gero.
ANSWER: Northern March [or North March; or Nordmark]

The region of Kangju identified by Zhang Qian is thought to have been part of this region. For 10 points each:
[10] Name this region of central Asia, where the Rock of Ariamazes was captured during Alexander the Great’s conquest of Achaemenid Persia. The Tang general An Lushan was originally from this region.
ANSWER: Sogdiana [or Sughdia; or Sogdiane; or Sute]
[10] The most prominent city of Sogdia was this city, whose reconstruction was detailed by Ruy Gonzales de Clavijo. The Ulugh Beg Observatory was constructed in this city, which was selected by Timur to be his capital.
ANSWER: Samarkand [or Marakanda]
[10] An example of Sogdian art depicting ambassadors was found in this hilly site just north of Samarkand. This place may be named for a mythical king of Turan, and it contains the Shah-i-Zinda complex, where the tomb of Qusan bin Abbas is located.
ANSWER: Afrasiyab
Besides wanting general feedback, I had a few specific questions:

I was wondering why you guys decided to make Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo the hard part of my Sogdiana bonus. Did it have to do with the tossup on "Persian kings" later in the packet, or was it just decided that the archaeological site/old city of Afrasiyab was too hard? Gonzales de Clavijo is kind of a stock clue for Tamerlane/Samarkand at this point (I threw him in for the sake of having additional helpful information in the easy part), or at least I'd say so since he comes up in 7 or 8 different tossups on Tamerlane or Samarkand in the packet archive, and those aren't exactly obscure people/places with super-limited canons.

I can't remember the replacement hard part for Bartholomew Roberts, but I'd like to see the reasoning for using a different part there as well. Am I underestimating (or overestimating) the pirate knowledge of people who didn't take a class on the history of pirates for their mandatory first-year writing seminar?
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Wed Apr 16, 2014 7:20 pm

Will - my thoughts on those are:

I thought Maerten Tromp (the replacement hard part for Roberts) was a more historically-important person from that time period, and I already wrote my own bonus on pirates (hooray,Calico Jack!). It wouldn't have killed me to have kept Roberts; the clues do seem a little thin - I guess you have to know the name of his ship or his "Ten rules" and I didn't think many would know that.

I turned Saxony into Welf to get rid of the Augustus the Strong reference (there was tu on him, obviously) and because I think Welf is a more sure-handed easy part (it's easy to say - "hey, it's not the Ghibellines!"). I wanted a little easier middle-type part for Northern March, so I opted for Wittelsbach in its place.

On Sogdia - there was a lot of archaeology in this tourney and that was one reason I wasn't wild about Afrasiyab. Secondly, it seems like a word that very few people are gonna be able to piece together. I probably went too easy with Gonzalez de Clavijo (I know he's become pretty canon-famous), but there's always a push-pull....you want to pick something that knowledgeable teams have a shot at getting for the hard part (because you want those points to be real), but you don't want to hand them points without demonstrating good knowledge. I decided that a good many teams probably still wouldn't remember Gonzalez' name, even if they remembered "oh, it's that guy who comes up in the Tamerlane tossups these days"
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Tanay » Wed Apr 16, 2014 7:23 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote:That Shiraz tossup was in the WUSTL packet and was submitted - I made a few additions and subtractions to it.
The ruler Adud al-Dawla kept his court in this city when it was the capital of the Buyid dynasty, which arose around 934 CE. That ruler built several monuments in this city, including the sprawling Vakil Bazaar, a dam connecting this city to Estakhr, and the massive Qur’an Gate at its northeast entrance. André Godard re-designed a mausoleum in this city that includes the Musalla Gardens on the banks of the Ruknabad river. Its profligate raisin production followed centuries of its namesake wine being prized along the Silk Road. The ruins of Pasargadae lie on the outskirts of this city, which was the capital of the Zand Dynasty, and is currently the capital of its nation’s province of Fars. It’s also just south of ancient Persepolis. Baha’i pilgrims in this city visit the House of the Bab. This city fostered the poetic careers of its native sons Sa’di and Hafez, whose tombs are located here. For 10 points, name this major artistic center, the largest city in southern Iran.
ANSWER: Shiraz
I really like that tossup as Misc. Academic because it has important clues from history, art, religion, archaeology, geography, and literature - the clues in all of those areas are not just throwaways but are all quite important and interesting things. This is one of my favorite questions in the tournament. I did a lot of the same things with the Ebro River tossup.
I'm glad this submission was well-received. It's worth pointing out that it was actually much easier for me to write the original tossup than if it had been a traditional "geography" tossup on Shiraz--trying furiously to cram in the names of random streets and proximate mountains and rivers. I hope that this trend of integrating history and culture catches on. I enjoyed the Ebro River tossup for the same reason.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Wed Apr 16, 2014 7:30 pm

Plus, I'll say this generally - I think it's hard for writers to imagine their questions being played.

When you sit there in front of the bonus you just wrote, it's easy for you to think "oh, teams will get that part, no problem...what an easy 20!" - because you just wrote it, and you're able to look at it in type, which always is much easier than playing questions that are being read.

As we all know, though, the reality is that teams screw up a lot of parts like Sogdia and Gonzalez because they forget things, they don't hear the right words or associate them with the right things for whatever reason, etc.

Sometimes, it's not so bad to give teams a 20 and a 30-point part that are both fairly reasonable (i.e. you suspect that the top 7-8 teams will get it). Quite often, some or even many of those teams will botch it anyway, and only get 20. If you insist on always being a real tight-ass on that 30-point part, you end up with a whole lot less points being scored than you want.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Apr 16, 2014 7:32 pm

Naturally, I'm on the other end of the questionwriting spectrum from Ryan stylistically. But hey, whatever works. Anyway, anyone who wants feedback on their questions from me should either post here or email me if they'd like it to be private. I encourage people to post in this thread though because that discussion can be instructive for everyone.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Wed Apr 16, 2014 7:45 pm

I wanted a little easier middle-type part for Northern March, so I opted for Wittelsbach in its place.
I intended Albert the Bear to be the middle part, since I thought "animal epithet" would trigger enough peoples' memories, but I suppose I was wrong; good call.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Wed Apr 16, 2014 7:52 pm

I intended Albert the Bear to be the middle part, since I thought "animal epithet" would trigger enough peoples' memories, but I suppose I was wrong; good call.
Eh, I think I intended Albert and Wittelsbach to be fairly close in difficulty. Both the type of "reasonable 20-30s" that I talked about in the other post. I don't think all hard parts have to be created equal - some are solid "this is definitely a hard part" and some are "eh, both of these things could be harder middle parts" - I think that's okay
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Wed Apr 16, 2014 8:31 pm

Auroni wrote: So, when I selected the clues for each of these tossups, they struck me all as fairly unique features of the relevant pieces (with the possible exception of the ritornello principle clue in the Bach Double). Which of them are bad clues, and is there a pattern to which ones are bad? How can I avoid being seduced by bad clues when looking up materials to write questions from in the future?
Since there have been a lot of problems with this recently, I'm going to start a separate thread on how to pick "musical content"-based clues from secondary sources (for writers who are interested in that), and how to evaluate these clues when they are submitted (for editors). I hope to have this up by Friday. I'll give very full explanations there. I'm hoping that my post there will be helpful not only to you, but to other writers/editors who may feel unconfident about how to handle these things.

Short answer for now: there are certainly a couple of instances where what you're describing is totally generic (I'll talk about how to spot these things), but that's not the most persistent problem. More often, you have found a genuinely interesting and unique moment, but you clue that moment with insufficient detail or context (or with a confusing or nonsensical use of musical terminology) that makes it virtually impossible for the description to conjure a memory of the piece you're talking about. (Even now, I had to do several minutes of googling or flipping through scores to figure out what some of these clues are trying to describe, and in some cases, I can't still can't figure out what you're talking about.)
How many of them are hinting at something legitimately important, but are being deemed bad by you since you haven't heard of them?
I do not know why you felt the need to insinuate this, but I resent this. I do NOT automatically support tossups that I can get early (please see my reservations about some of the lit in this tournament, even though I killed lots of it in game), and I do NOT automatically condemn clues I can't buzz on (some of the clues in the Prokofiev (symphonies) and Sibelius 2 tossups are totally fine, but I wouldn't be able to buzz on them, because I just don't know that stuff well enough). I'm not pretending that I have achieved some state of enlightened objectivity, but my complaints do not correlate strongly with my personal performances on questions. (I lost only one music tossup at this tournament.) I'm the first to admit that I do not have perfect knowledge of my specialty categories, and that I am not "entitled" to buzz early.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by vinteuil » Wed Apr 16, 2014 8:42 pm

I don't have time to do these all at once, so I'll be posting one at a time. But first:
Auroni wrote: So, when I selected the clues for each of these tossups, they struck me all as fairly unique features of the relevant pieces (with the possible exception of the ritornello principle clue in the Bach Double). Which of them are bad clues, and is there a pattern to which ones are bad? How can I avoid being seduced by bad clues when looking up materials to write questions from in the future? How many of them are hinting at something legitimately important, but are being deemed bad by you since you haven't heard of them?
Auroni, I don't appreciate the (slight) insinuation that the only reason that John and I didn't like the music is because it was too hard for us (i.e. we didn't know the clues). For instance: I buzzed on like the fifth line of the Bach double concerto tossup, and I know that piece better than I know almost any other work by Bach, and I was in a room with Eric Mukherjee, who's actually played the piece. There is something wrong with a question like that, even if the clues were all well-written and correct, which, I think I can demonstrate, is not true.
Auroni wrote: 6. Near the end of this symphony, the trumpets play D-E-F sharp-G, finally adding a fourth note to an omnipresent three note motif introduced in its first movement by the strings playing F-sharp-G-A. The second movement of this symphony begins with a long pizzicato passage played by double basses and cellos, and later features a C-major theme above which the word “Christus” was written. In its finale, the oboe repeats a note nine times before introducing a motif inspired by the suicide of the composer’s sister-in-law. The D minor bassoon theme in this symphony’s second movement Tempo andante, ma rubato occurred to the composer as he was being haunted by a vision of Don Juan. Because this symphony was begun while its composer was living in Italy, thanks to the generous donations provided by its dedicatee Axel Carpalan, it largely avoided Russian influence and became popular with patriots in his homeland. For 10 points, name this 1902 symphony in D major, the most frequently recorded and performed by Jean Sibelius.
ANSWER: Sibelius’s Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43 [or Sibelius 2; or Sibelius’s D major symphony before it’s mentioned at the end; or Sibelius’s op. 43; prompt on all of those answers that don’t mention Sibelius if they are given before the end of the question, AT THE END OF THE QUESTION, accept: second symphony, Symphony No. 2, op. 43]
The first clue describes a very "legitimate" thing (the opening of the piece), but not in a very "evocative" way—for instance, why didn't you just say that "this symphony begins with the strings playing F-sharp G A"? Also, unfortunately, no matter what you do, the last four notes of a major scale being played in the trumpets are almost not going to evoke particular memories of a given piece, just because that's so incredibly common.

The second clue is wrong—the second movement begins with a timpani roll! This was confusing to me.
But, let's say that it does actually begin this way. It might be unique (although I almost buzzed on "second movement pizzicato" with "Simple Symphony"), but it's again not very "evocative"—lots of pieces have the cellos and basses playing pizzicato, and there's nothing here that makes you "hear" Sibelius 2, because this doesn't make me think "THAT" pizzicato passage—just "some pizzicato passage."
Giving the key of a theme helps almost nobody, especially when it's not the key of the movement. But wait, I can't even find this theme! I think I found your source:
Some LA Phil program notes writer wrote:Eventually he starts singing. At this time, Don Juan notices who he is – Death.” On the reverse side of the sheet he noted the date 2/19/01 and sketched the melody that became the D-minor bassoon theme of the Tempo andante, ma rubato second movement of the Second Symphony. Two months later, in Florence, he drafted a C-major theme above which he wrote the word ‘Christus.’ This theme became the second theme, in F-sharp major, of the same movement. The former may well stand for death and defeat and the latter for life and resurrection.
So, you can see that this clue is actually just wrong, because the theme is neither in C major, nor does it have 'Christus' written over it in the score.

The next clue again just doesn't make me think "THAT oboe theme" (there are VERY few cases in which I'm counting how many repeated notes an instrument plays) and I have trouble believing that the "sister-in-law" fact is particularly known (yes, I didn't know it, but I'm struggling to think of why anyone would). Also, did you think this was pyramidal? I'm curious as to why this clue is so much easier.

Describing the second movement as having one tempo indication is a recipe for disaster, considering that it changes tempi like every 10 measures. The Don Juan clue is pretty similar to the "sister-in-law" one to me (and "d minor bassoon theme" is extremely generic).

The next sentence is biography, which i guess is fine, but it doesn't seem particularly specific. Also, the thing about Russian influences is completely subjective (I would argue that Sibelius's orchestration, for instance, is consistently influenced by Russian composers), and very unhelpful, and DEFINITELY not unique to this piece.

The giveaway, where both John and I buzzed (I've heard this piece dozens of times, and I've been through the score about five of those times), is fine.
Last edited by vinteuil on Thu Apr 17, 2014 12:21 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by vinteuil » Wed Apr 16, 2014 8:57 pm

Auroni wrote: Note: type of piece and composer needed
5. In one of these pieces, a spooky theme in its scherzo is reprised with the left hand playing staccato while the right plays legato, offset half a beat. Another of these pieces contains a theme with octave intervals with frequent sforzandi, nicknamed “The Beast,” which is defeated by the other theme, “The Beauty.” The Andante favori movement of one of these pieces was discarded and published separately. In his series of lecture-recitals on these pieces, Andras Schiff defended the traditionally-disliked Op. 54 F major one. The second movement opens with a recitative-like arpeggio resting on B-flat major in another of these pieces, which contains three tempo changes on the first page and according to the composer’s biographer Anton Schindler was inspired by a Shakespeare play. Repeated pianissimo chords open another of these pieces, followed by a three- and four- note descent. A huge three-voice fugue in triple meter closes another of these pieces, the composer’s op. 106 in B-flat major. For 10 points, name these thirty-two pieces, such as the Tempest, Waldstein, and Hammerklavier, composed by Beethoven for a solo keyboard instrument.
ANSWER: Beethoven’s piano sonatas [prompt on piano sonatas, but accept it after Beethoven has been read]
The first clue is actually so generically described that I actually can't find which piece you're thinking of. I promise that this is despite having played through each of the Beethoven sonatas dozens of times.

The second clue: nobody says "with octave intervals"—that could mean that the theme goes down by octaves, whereas (if I've searched Schiff's excellent lectures properly), this is trying to describe the right hand "playing in octaves" at the beginning of Op. 2/2 (that theme has no sforzandi in it, and like every piece has "frequent sforzandi" if you want to expand the area to which that's applying). John has already explained why it's so ridiculous to treat Schiff's nicknames for these themes as accepted fact.

The next two clues are fine, although I'd dispute that people dislike No. 22, just that they don't know it.

The next clue is just wrong (also, why not just say "the second movement opens with an arpeggiated B-Flat Major chord'"? Or is that too obviously non-unique?): my Henle of the Beethoven sonatas has four tempo changes on the first page, because of the Adagio closing figure of the first allegro.

Is the next clue trying to describe the Waldstein? Because it gives no context (why not something like "quick, repeated, low C Major chords?" Still not very evocative, but better); then "followed by" makes it sound like they stop (also, "a three- and four- note descent" is not a good way to describe what the right hand is doing in mm. 2-3).

There are lots of three voice fugues in triple meter.
Last edited by vinteuil on Wed Apr 16, 2014 9:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Ndg » Wed Apr 16, 2014 9:01 pm

Auroni wrote: In its finale, the oboe repeats a note nine times
I suppose if we're going to start picking apart this question, it's worth noting that this is actually in the third movement, not the finale, of the Sibelius.

EDIT:
vinteuil wrote: Also, unfortunately, no matter what you do, the last four notes of a major scale being played in the trumpets are almost not going to evoke particular memories of a given piece, just because that's so incredibly common.
Hopefully I'm not being too antagonistic here, but I totally agree with this. As it happens, I played the first trumpet part of this symphony in concert less than two weeks ago, and I'm not sure even I would have found this evocative/unique enough to buzz on it. Of course, even if I had, it probably shouldn't require having played the actual part to recognize it.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by vinteuil » Wed Apr 16, 2014 9:20 pm

Nice catch, Andrew.
Auroni wrote: 5. The finale of this piece reprises the theme in G minor instead of the expected tonic D minor and consists of two instances where repeated double stops are played in eighth notes in accompaniment of the orchestra. This piece opens with a four-voice fugue, and an F major 12/8 cantilena meter characterizes its middle movement, in which a four-note fragment punctuates overlapping and imitative phrases four times. The close canon opening this piece’s allegro finale marks a return to the tripartite ritornello principle. A trill was added to this piece for didactic purposes in the version appearing in Volume 4 of Suzuki. On a recording with Mozart’s Turkish concerto, Jascha Heifetz unusually played this piece by himself, and Jaime Laredo and Jennifer Koh often played it together. Nearly two decades after this piece was written during its composer’s time as Kapellmeister of Anhalt-Kothen, it was transposed into C minor and arranged for multiple harpsichords. For 10 points, name this Bach piece for orchestra and more than one stringed soloist.
ANSWER: Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins, Strings and Continuo in D minor [or Bach’s Double Violin Concerto; or BWV 1043; prompt on Bach’s violin concerto; Bach isn’t needed after he is mentioned in the question]
This first clue is absurd: the third movement (which is NOT a "finale") of this piece has statements of the main theme in so many keys that there is no possible way any of theme could be unexpected.
The second clue is true ("in accompaniment of" is extremely weird phrasing, but semi-parseable), but "repeated double stops" are a feature of many violin concerti, so this didn't get me to those magnificent moments in the last movement.

Lots of pieces open with fugues. Lots of pieces are in F major in 12/8 (could you explain to me what "cantilena meter" means, at least to you? I'm curious to see if you actually understand all of the words you're using—if not, then why would you use them?). The next description is awfully confusing and non-evocative (also, "imitative and overlapping" usually go together), considering that "four note fragment" could mean anything from the opening of Beethoven 5 to the chorus of "What's Going On."

Again, could you explain what you meant by the next sentence? I'm not sure how you could have written it understanding all the words and not realized that it's not at all evocative of a single piece.

Suzuki editions add trills to many pieces; I guess it's legitimate to know which volumes pieces appear in (presumably someone who did Suzuki violin would have learned trills from the stuff at the end of that volume and might remember this), although I have no clue which pieces were which volumes of cello Suzuki I did before moving away from Suzuki.

I don't really like the next two clues, but they're fine (I buzzed on the second one, and John buzzed on the first). Unfortunately, the next clue clue be true of the hypothetical violin/oboe concerto BWV 1060r, but I'm not sure that's a major problem.

Giveaway is fine (if the hypothetical BWV 1064r etc. aren't a problem).
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Wed Apr 16, 2014 10:00 pm

vinteuil wrote:so this didn't get me to those magnificent moments in the last movement.
I object, both philosophically and viscerally, to any line of criticism which is phrased such that the main fault of the question appears to be its failure to allow the critic to achieve orgasm.

That is all.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Auroni » Wed Apr 16, 2014 10:06 pm

RyuAqua wrote:
-At the risk of stealing Will Alston's hobbyhorse: The Brigid tossup used a clue of the form "Caesar conflated this Celtic god with ___" which was actively useless and confusing, since Caesar's descriptions of barbarian gods only use the Roman names without specifying the god to whom they're compared, and we have to basically speculate on who he was referring to That said, I'm glad to be out-classicsed on this one if I'm mistaken and there's a source other than Gallic Wars 6.17 that expressly makes the connection. [EDIT: removed Wotan clue complaint since that said Tacitus, though I'm pretty sure Tacitus didn't expressly identify Germanic gods by their Proto-Germanic names either.]
Yeah, at one point it did occur to me two that two of those clues were more than enough for the set. The point in including them was not so much to test the primary source knowledge of people playing, but instead to test some awareness of comparative mythology.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Wed Apr 16, 2014 10:55 pm

Auroni wrote:
RyuAqua wrote:
-At the risk of stealing Will Alston's hobbyhorse: The Brigid tossup used a clue of the form "Caesar conflated this Celtic god with ___" which was actively useless and confusing, since Caesar's descriptions of barbarian gods only use the Roman names without specifying the god to whom they're compared, and we have to basically speculate on who he was referring to That said, I'm glad to be out-classicsed on this one if I'm mistaken and there's a source other than Gallic Wars 6.17 that expressly makes the connection. [EDIT: removed Wotan clue complaint since that said Tacitus, though I'm pretty sure Tacitus didn't expressly identify Germanic gods by their Proto-Germanic names either.]
Yeah, at one point it did occur to me two that two of those clues were more than enough for the set. The point in including them was not so much to test the primary source knowledge of people playing, but instead to test some awareness of comparative mythology.
They didn't turn out to really serve the comparative mythology awareness function either, since we don't have sources that do the direct comparison except by conjecture, but ah well, it was worth a shot.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by vinteuil » Thu Apr 17, 2014 12:20 am

Auroni wrote: 17. In the third movement of one of this composer’s symphonies, a funeral march consisting of violins playing jagged dotted-rhythms struggles against another funeral march played by winds. In another of his symphonic third movements, a gavotte transitions into a trio, which transitions back to the gavotte in the flutes while strings play pizzicato accompaniment. He quadrupled the length of the first-movement development section in a revision of his fourth symphony, whose third movement depicts a seductive dance performed by the Beautiful Maiden. The glockenspiels and xylophones imitate ticking clocks in his last symphony, to which he added an energetic coda in the vain hope of winning a prize; that piece was originally composed for a children’s radio program. This composer’s fourth symphony drew heavily from his ballet The Prodigal Son. His chosen title for his first symphony indicates that he attempted to reconcile 20th century music with the music of Haydn. He was posthumously awarded the Lenin Prize in 1957 for his last symphony. For 10 points, name this Soviet-era composer of seven symphonies, such as the Classical.
ANSWER: Sergei (Sergeyevich) Prokofiev
I'll cop to not knowing much about Prokofiev's symphonies outside of 1 and 5, but I do think that the clue about "gavotte" is too early (I didn't buzz on it because of the question on Romeo and Juliet earlier and the fact that that's an obviously "classical" feature of the "Classical" symphony).

That said: the first clue (about the third movement of 5?) isn't very helpful, partly because funeral marches usually include some kind dotted rhythms.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Tees-Exe Line » Thu Apr 17, 2014 11:02 am

Ukonvasara wrote:
vinteuil wrote:so this didn't get me to those magnificent moments in the last movement.
I object, both philosophically and viscerally, to any line of criticism which is phrased such that the main fault of the question appears to be its failure to allow the critic to achieve orgasm.

That is all.
On the contrary, the aim of all quizbowl tossups ought to be to make the players achieve orgasm.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Thu Apr 17, 2014 11:37 am

Tees-Exe Line wrote:
Ukonvasara wrote:
vinteuil wrote:so this didn't get me to those magnificent moments in the last movement.
I object, both philosophically and viscerally, to any line of criticism which is phrased such that the main fault of the question appears to be its failure to allow the critic to achieve orgasm.

That is all.
On the contrary, the aim of all quizbowl tossups ought to be to make the players achieve orgasm.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Thu Apr 17, 2014 11:43 am

Allow me to momentarily interrupt #nationalsmusicchat to make a few general comments about this year's science (focusing on the areas of physics and other science only) and philosophy submissions.

I was pleasantly surprised by the generally good quality of the science submissions. I noticed that even teams that didn't have any outstanding science players on their squad made an real effort to write good questions; I appreciate that most teams successfully stayed away from the "eponymous effect soup" phenomenon. Some questions required only a rearrangement or rewording of clues in places where I felt that the details of the question were insufficiently clear. The main problems with those questions were misplaced clues (usually well-known stuff coming too early), and confusing wording. The most common mistake I saw in submissions was to pick a more challenging answer than was really workable; for example, a tossup came in on eddy currents, and once I started digging through the clues, I realized that a number of them were pretty ambiguous and in fact it was hard to write a more clear question that would get people to say "eddy currents," so I scrapped it. Some other questions I thought were just too weird to really be gettable (magnetorheological fluid), and a few ran against my sense of quizbowl aesthetics (Cygnus).

As far as philosophy goes, I thought the submitted material was generally pretty solid. There were a few questions that I deemed too exotic for the field (e.g. intentionalism), and a few others that had to be rewritten to make them less vague. One problem I saw pop up in a few questions was clues that could have been applicable to a number of things (e.g. the tossup on animals), so I usually reworked those questions to make them unambiguously point to the answer. In a few cases, I was just dissatisfied with the general aesthetic of the question and felt it wouldn't play well, so I wrote a complete replacement for it.

But overall, the submissions were pretty good, as you can tell from the fact that most of the questions got used. I really like the effort teams made this year and hope it extends to future tournaments. Just remember: you do not have to write a question on anything exotic for it to be good or challenging. You can write tossups on basic concepts like "frequency" and if you put in the right clues, teams with good science knowledge will get them before teams that don't have that knowledge.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Thu Apr 17, 2014 2:18 pm

So, unlike Jacob and Jonathan, I played quizbowl when music was notorious for having people write incompetently on "cool" modern composers rather than make any attempt at having quizbowl music reflect the canon of Western music (on top of all the terrible Missouri high school questions and bad NAQT music I was stuck playing on). Chicago Open 2009 literally had 60% of their questions on 20th century composers. When people did write other music, most of the time it was abysmal and full of unbuzzable information, or else it drew on an incredibly narrow set of works and clues that tended to a) have come up before in quizbowl, and b) have a catchy name and very unusual clues. Lutoslawski, Ligeti, and Henry Cowell were probably more likely to come up than Mendelssohn's (or Brahms's, or Beethoven's, or Bach's) violin concerti, to give you just a small taste of how warped the canon was. Emerging from this environment, I learned to just play the questions anyway, and realize "oh, music is super hard for other people to write well, the same way science is super hard for me to write well" and have some empathy for the thankless job of taking on that category, when there are no qualified musicians around to step in. Reading through this thread, I am amazed at how far ahead we have leaped, if THESE are really the complaints we're lobbing at editors.

You can either get really worked up and make a bunch of over the top posts about how much you hated the questions because of Auroni's clues not always being great, or you can calm down, suck it up, and realize "Hey, Auroni did a lot better than we can realistically expect from a non-musician editor, especially compared to many other sets non-musicians have edited, good for him" and then offer up criticism that you could realistically expect a non-musician to get help from. Until more musicians come out of the woodwork to become great quizbowl editors, you're going to have to learn to deal with the game you're being presented a little better, especially since it's not like it's actually preventing you from beating everybody else to most of the questions.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by theMoMA » Thu Apr 17, 2014 2:29 pm

Horned Screamer wrote:So, unlike Jacob and Jonathan, I played quizbowl when music was notorious for having people write incompetently on "cool" modern composers rather than make any attempt at having quizbowl music reflect the canon of Western music (on top of all the terrible Missouri high school questions and bad NAQT music I was stuck playing on). Chicago Open 2009 literally had 60% of their questions on 20th century composers. When people did write other music, most of the time it was abysmal and full of unbuzzable information, or else it drew on an incredibly narrow set of works and clues that tended to a) have come up before in quizbowl, and b) have a catchy name and very unusual clues. Lutoslawski, Ligeti, and Henry Cowell were probably more likely to come up than Mendelssohn's (or Brahms's, or Beethoven's, or Bach's) violin concerti, to give you just a small taste of how warped the canon was. Emerging from this environment, I learned to just play the questions anyway, and realize "oh, music is super hard for other people to write well, the same way science is super hard for me to write well" and have some empathy for the thankless job of taking on that category, when there are no qualified musicians around to step in. Reading through this thread, I am amazed at how far ahead we have leaped, if THESE are really the complaints we're lobbing at editors.

You can either get really worked up and make a bunch of over the top posts about how much you hated the questions because of Auroni's clues not always being great, or you can calm down, suck it up, and realize "Hey, Auroni did a lot better than we can realistically expect from a non-musician editor, especially compared to many other sets non-musicians have edited, good for him" and then offer up criticism that you could realistically expect a non-musician to get help from. Until more musicians come out of the woodwork to become great quizbowl editors, you're going to have to learn to deal with the game you're being presented a little better, especially since it's not like it's actually preventing you from beating everybody else to most of the questions.
I heartily endorse this post. Many of the critiques in this thread are very interesting in their insight into how clues about features of musical works can be deficient, but a constructive approach that would help a non-musician editor work through how to (a) find good clues about features of works and (b) write the clues in a way that uniquely and helpfully conveys them to the players would be excellent.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Thu Apr 17, 2014 3:07 pm

So, here will be some better criticism more aimed at instructing non musicians how to better select some important clues, taking apart that same bach Double Concerto tossup:
Auroni wrote: 5. The finale of this piece reprises the theme in G minor instead of the expected tonic D minor and consists of two instances where repeated double stops are played in eighth notes in accompaniment of the orchestra. This piece opens with a four-voice fugue, and an F major 12/8 cantilena meter characterizes its middle movement, in which a four-note fragment punctuates overlapping and imitative phrases four times. The close canon opening this piece’s allegro finale marks a return to the tripartite ritornello principle. A trill was added to this piece for didactic purposes in the version appearing in Volume 4 of Suzuki. On a recording with Mozart’s Turkish concerto, Jascha Heifetz unusually played this piece by himself, and Jaime Laredo and Jennifer Koh often played it together. Nearly two decades after this piece was written during its composer’s time as Kapellmeister of Anhalt-Kothen, it was transposed into C minor and arranged for multiple harpsichords. For 10 points, name this Bach piece for orchestra and more than one stringed soloist.
ANSWER: Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins, Strings and Continuo in D minor [or Bach’s Double Violin Concerto; or BWV 1043; prompt on Bach’s violin concerto; Bach isn’t needed after he is mentioned in the question]
In the first sentence, I would agree that the G-minor thing is not astoundingly helpful, because most pieces, especially Baroque ones of a certain size, will modulate to both the dominant and subdominant keys at least once in a work (the opening movement of this piece repeats the theme in A minor 4 measures after it begins, for example).
Double stopping just means that a string instrument plays two notes at once, so being told "an instrument is double stopping with a bunch of eighth notes" is the sort of clue that will fly by in a game and might help you key in on the fact a string instrument is involved, but you won't be able to go "oh, it's that particular passage of that particular piece." I get the feeling that this sentence is attempting to help you key in on the fact it's a D minor work for string instruments, which is a good thing to include - I just think that if this sentence was preceded by some kind of VERY UNIQUELY IDENTIFYING clue for the Bach Double Concerto, it would work a lot better.

The second sentence sort of suffers from the same problem as the opening, namely that some kind of very uniquely identifying clue being inserted at the beginning of the tossup would make a lot of this stuff clearer. I'm not bothered by the time signature clue, 12/8 isn't THAT common (GET IT???), while the four note fragment thing is not a great description, I don't know of a great way to explain what's going on there without getting too technical.

The big thing that I think can be learned here is from the trill clue: One of the hallmarks of Baroque music is that it's extremely rare for there to be dynamic markings or ornamentation written out. Often, you are only presented with the notes, and an assumption that you will make tasteful choices determining the dynamics and addition of grace notes, trills, accents, etc. Modern editions of pretty much any baroque pieces have an editor go through and add all of those things in. Suzuki may have added a trill, but that addition wasn't them doing something unusual to modify the score, and my Galamian edition adds multiple trills, and I am pretty sure that the added trills are not for didactic purposes, but rather, for performance.

Now, on to attack some hysterical nonsense-

vinteuil wrote:This first clue is absurd: the third movement (which is NOT a "finale") of this piece has statements of the main theme in so many keys that there is no possible way any of theme could be unexpected.
Calm down dude! It's not an "absurd" clue, it's a little unclear, but kind of correct. Also, it's the final movement of a concerto. There's no reason why normal English speakers should be yelled at for having the audacity to call it a finale, because that's how lots of people use that word.
The second clue is true ("in accompaniment of" is extremely weird phrasing, but semi-parseable), but "repeated double stops" are a feature of many violin concerti, so this didn't get me to those magnificent moments in the last movement.
As already mentioned, lol.
Lots of pieces open with fugues. Lots of pieces are in F major in 12/8
Right, but you're still operating under the delusion that all clues ever need to be uniquely identifying that we ran up against when arguing about Missouri Open. They don't. Some clues exist to give you better context, and help you fill in the blanks yourself about what might be looked for (for example, every work that doesn't have an opening fugue is now ruled out, and come on dude, be real, how many pieces that have fugues AND 12/8 time F major 2nd movements time are there that are coming up in quizbowl? Don't be stupid about what clues really need to be fixed here, versus what clues you're just choosing to be puritanically obtuse about).
Again, could you explain what you meant by the next sentence? I'm not sure how you could have written it understanding all the words and not realized that it's not at all evocative of a single piece.
Maybe you could have the common courtesy of explaining why the close canon and ritornello clues are vague/wrong/etc. to somebody who is not a trained musician that is trying to write the best music set he can, rather than being a dismissive dick about it? Can you get real for like 2 seconds and stop acting like this set was the end of the world, rather than being a vast improvement on what lots of editors have crapped out in the past, especially since Auroni clearly worked very hard in a good faith effort to make the best set he could and deserves a little more respect for that than many other people out there who have done way worse jobs?
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by felgon123 » Thu Apr 17, 2014 5:41 pm

Thanks to all the editors for putting together a great tournament, and thanks to our opponents for some great games. Some thoughts:

First off, the literature was phenomenal. Ted and Auroni killed it. They certainly did ask about some difficult things I've never heard of, which is absolutely fair and to be expected at ACF Nationals, but their strong focus on writing in-depth, challenging questions on "core works" was exactly what was needed to differentiate top-level teams. Pretty much every literature buzz I got was from things I read, study, and love. I fully support their willingness, for instance, to include multiple questions on some of the most important writers of all time (2/0 Shakespeare, 2/0 Joyce, 1/1 Wordsworth), especially when college tournaments so frequently stock up six Japanese literature questions and throw a single (or zero) questions to Shakespeare and Milton to divide between them. Lest it be thought that I'm only speaking from self-interest, elitism, etc. and that these kinds of questions are not actually better for differentiating the best teams, I want to stress very forcefully that I saw more uncontested buzzes (early, middle, and late) on the literature at this tournament than I have ever seen. In fact, even overall, this tournament had fewer buzzer races than any I've played in my career.

An occasional lit tossup would have an early clue that seemed a bit easy or well-known, but that’s inevitable, and listing the few examples I can think of wouldn’t do any good for anybody, in addition to distracting people from the generally stellar quality of the questions. I guess I should add that I was delighted by the tossup on “The Steeple-Jack.” It’s a widely read poem by an important poet who comes up in quizbowl all the time, and I’ve been told several other players had early buzzes on it, so I’m not sure why it’s being waved around as an absurdity. There were a fair number of literature tossups on hard answers that I couldn’t have converted at the end. Why? Because they were on things I don’t know about. But other people did, so good for them; obviously they weren’t impossible, they were just hard, which is to be expected at ACF Nationals.

Now for a few (but only a few) less positive observations. Ted’s bonuses were noticeably more unforgiving than the bonuses in basically any other category. I think the majority of our 10’s across the tournament were on Ted lit bonuses, which, for a team with no less than three outstanding lit players, is pretty anomalous. Also, the English-language poetry oddly vanished on Sunday: in the 6 games I played or spectated, there were only 1.5 tossups in this subcategory (Auroni's Spenser tossup and Ted's Pound tossup focusing on his essays, both very good questions). Although I do think at least one of the English-language literature tossups each round should be poetry-oriented (which is usually the case), I’m not the kind of person to cry foul when the occasional round doesn’t have one. I only call attention to this because it’s a conspicuously low number.

Film: The Auroni-edited tossups on The Rules of the Game and A Clockwork Orange are truly model questions. At the risk of sounding a little self-indulgent, I’d place them alongside the film I wrote for 2012 NASAT as examples to be emulated by those who wish to write good film. As for that Hannah Arendt tossup: Margarethe von Trotta is an important director, and I would defend a tossup on her. I’ve seen two of her most famous films from the New German Cinema era, but had not heard of this recent Hannah Arendt film, so I was rather displeased, to put it mildly. If this is a tragic instance of a tossup that philosophy people knew that just happens to be on a not terribly famous film by an important but underrepresented director…I’m, uh, surprised. Anyway, I understand that Auroni wasn’t responsible for this as a “film” question, so it’s not that big of a deal.

As to the music debate, I wholeheartedly agree with everything Charlie has said. John and Jacob: you are both clearly oblivious to how petulant you look to the rest of the community. In order to offer you some advice while offering everyone a couple more comments on my pet category, I think it might be useful to draw an analogy to my relationship with film questions. For most of the “art film” subcategory’s existence, the questions written for it were, in my experience, almost universally awful. I’m sure some tournaments had an occasional good question written by someone who actually cared about film, but for the most part, they were just lazy literature tossups, unhelpful lists of character names or basic plots from films by one of a set of about ten possible directors. In the couple years since I posted about this, many writers and editors have started making a sincere effort to produce fresh, well-written film questions, and I cannot emphasize enough how pleased I am at this development and how grateful I am to those in the community who have responded productively to my suggestions.

This doesn’t mean that the film canon has magically changed to conform to my vision of it; answer selection, in particular, has remained quite conservative across the board. But some editors (like Evan for Regionals) have modestly pushed beyond the traditional answer space, and overall, question quality has dramatically improved, so I want to thank everyone who has contributed to this very positive trend, which I hope will continue, and to which I hope to contribute more directly in the future. (Now that my contending days are over, this year being particularly exhausting, I’ll probably be playing fewer tournaments, and I’d be very willing to chip in or playtest film questions for sets I won’t be playing.)

These contributors include John, who wrote exceptional tossups on Nosferatu and Director X (set not clear) for Regionals and Cane Ridge, respectively, easily the best that have been written on those pretty standard answers. Looking back at them, there are a couple minor errors, a clue or two I would have reordered, descriptions of shots that could have been a little more precise, more technical. I get that the errors in Auroni’s music questions delayed your buzzes in a way that these didn’t for me, but seriously, even if the early clues threw me off and I had to buzz on the fourth lines instead of the first, I sure as hell wouldn’t be whining about being deprived of the satisfaction of an early buzz on a well-intentioned question that I knew before everyone else anyway. In principle, I’d much rather have a middling buzz on a Director X tossup that made a genuine effort to be good, but picked up a couple technical errors in the attempt, than a first-line buzz on a lazy Director X tossup that led in with an obscure title.

Oh and science was good, too. There were plenty of cool answers (proteoglycans, stress tensors, imidazoles, beta-carotene, lactose intolerance, the list goes on and on), and they seemed quite well-written, as far as I could tell. Sure, the occasional clue seemed misplaced (e.g. Mermin-Wagner, the structure of graphene), but no real complaints. Thanks again, editors.
Tommy
UVA '15
Harvard...let's say '23

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vinteuil
Auron
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by vinteuil » Thu Apr 17, 2014 7:07 pm

felgon123 wrote: As to the music debate, I wholeheartedly agree with everything Charlie has said. John and Jacob: you are both clearly oblivious to how petulant you look to the rest of the community. In order to offer you some advice while offering everyone a couple more comments on my pet category, I think it might be useful to draw an analogy to my relationship with film questions. For most of the “art film” subcategory’s existence, the questions written for it were, in my experience, almost universally awful. I’m sure some tournaments had an occasional good question written by someone who actually cared about film, but for the most part, they were just lazy literature tossups, unhelpful lists of character names or basic plots from films by one of a set of about ten possible directors. In the couple years since I posted about this, many writers and editors have started making a sincere effort to produce fresh, well-written film questions, and I cannot emphasize enough how pleased I am at this development and how grateful I am to those in the community who have responded productively to my suggestions.

This doesn’t mean that the film canon has magically changed to conform to my vision of it; answer selection, in particular, has remained quite conservative across the board. But some editors (like Evan for Regionals) have modestly pushed beyond the traditional answer space, and overall, question quality has dramatically improved, so I want to thank everyone who has contributed to this very positive trend, which I hope will continue, and to which I hope to contribute more directly in the future. (Now that my contending days are over, this year being particularly exhausting, I’ll probably be playing fewer tournaments, and I’d be very willing to chip in or playtest film questions for sets I won’t be playing.)

These contributors include John, who wrote exceptional tossups on Nosferatu and Director X (set not clear) for Regionals and Cane Ridge, respectively, easily the best that have been written on those pretty standard answers. Looking back at them, there are a couple minor errors, a clue or two I would have reordered, descriptions of shots that could have been a little more precise, more technical. I get that the errors in Auroni’s music questions delayed your buzzes in a way that these didn’t for me, but seriously, even if the early clues threw me off and I had to buzz on the fourth lines instead of the first, I sure as hell wouldn’t be whining about being deprived of the satisfaction of an early buzz on a well-intentioned question that I knew before everyone else anyway. In principle, I’d much rather have a middling buzz on a Director X tossup that made a genuine effort to be good, but picked up a couple technical errors in the attempt, than a first-line buzz on a lazy Director X tossup that led in with an obscure title.
I'm really sorry if I seemed petulant about this. Tommy, I'm glad that you recognized the distinction between "not the best possible clues" (i.e. ersatz literature questions in the film distribution) and "unbuzzable clues" (i.e. a lot of this music), but I reject the notion that "because these questions distinguished between people who know things and people who don't, they were fine"—why not just use the last 4 lines of the tossup by themselves then? In some places, this did lead to buzzer races and the like in my rooms.
Horned Screamer wrote: Now, on to attack some hysterical nonsense-
vinteuil wrote:This first clue is absurd: the third movement (which is NOT a "finale") of this piece has statements of the main theme in so many keys that there is no possible way any of theme could be unexpected.
Calm down dude! It's not an "absurd" clue, it's a little unclear, but kind of correct. Also, it's the final movement of a concerto. There's no reason why normal English speakers should be yelled at for having the audacity to call it a finale, because that's how lots of people use that word.

Fair enough about the wording being a little much, but any clue that is only "kind of correct" and is not at all buzzable is not a proper quizbowl clue, and is therefore just as absurd in context as Subash's "His intermittent surrealist depictions and use of vivid color belied the realism and monochromatic pigments that the public associated with him."
Horned Screamer wrote:
The second clue is true ("in accompaniment of" is extremely weird phrasing, but semi-parseable), but "repeated double stops" are a feature of many violin concerti, so this didn't get me to those magnificent moments in the last movement.
As already mentioned, lol.
Yeah, this was not well-worded either, but, come on, if you're trying to describe a great moment, then you want to give people a sense of why it's great, or at least allow people to experience it again, or something.
Horned Screamer wrote:
Lots of pieces open with fugues. Lots of pieces are in F major in 12/8
Right, but you're still operating under the delusion that all clues ever need to be uniquely identifying that we ran up against when arguing about Missouri Open. They don't. Some clues exist to give you better context, and help you fill in the blanks yourself about what might be looked for (for example, every work that doesn't have an opening fugue is now ruled out, and come on dude, be real, how many pieces that have fugues AND 12/8 time F major 2nd movements time are there that are coming up in quizbowl? Don't be stupid about what clues really need to be fixed here, versus what clues you're just choosing to be puritanically obtuse about).
I guess this is could be construed as a problem with my playing style, but: I actually do think that each sentence (if not each clue) needs to point directly to the answer; if I didn't get to an answer from a clue, I will in fact throw it out, because I'll assume that it was a properly-formed clue that I just didn't know, and will therefore only distract me from the next one. Every discussion of common links ever has worked off this premise, and people in those discussions usually say that regular tossups are sort of like common links.
Horned Screamer wrote:
Again, could you explain what you meant by the next sentence? I'm not sure how you could have written it understanding all the words and not realized that it's not at all evocative of a single piece.
Maybe you could have the common courtesy of explaining why the close canon and ritornello clues are vague/wrong/etc. to somebody who is not a trained musician that is trying to write the best music set he can, rather than being a dismissive dick about it? Can you get real for like 2 seconds and stop acting like this set was the end of the world, rather than being a vast improvement on what lots of editors have crapped out in the past, especially since Auroni clearly worked very hard in a good faith effort to make the best set he could and deserves a little more respect for that than many other people out there who have done way worse jobs?
Look, Auroni didn't do the worst job in the world here (far, far from it), but this is in fact a massive step back from the past two ACF nationals in terms of music questions. He gets more respect than anyone who's written crappy music, sure, and I'm really happy that he clearly put in a lot of effort here (and has been doing so for a long time), rather than just throwing up his hands and saying that "I can't become a music editor." My only point is that there are certain kinds of clues that people should stay away from, unless they're really confident in their ability to write them.
Jacob Reed
Chicago ~'25
Yale '17, '19
East Chapel Hill '13
"...distant bayings from...the musicological mafia"―Denis Stevens

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