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date: 30 March 2020

Band in the United Stateslocked

  • Raoul F. Camus


A musical ensemble consisting of the standard woodwind, brass, and percussion instruments. Adjectives, such as circus, college, concert, military, parade, symphonic, or town denote specific functions, often implying instrumental combinations and usages; this article deals mainly with the history of such ensembles in the United States (See also Circus Music; Military music; and Wind Ensemble.) In its more general sense, the term “band” is used to describe other vernacular ensembles, such as banjo, dance, jazz, jug, mummers, rock, steel, string, and theater bands. For information on such groups see Country music; Folk music; Jazz ; Pop ; and Rock .

The terms “band” and “orchestra” were often used interchangeably in the past but have become increasingly distinct. Bands, descended from the medieval “high” (loud) instruments, the human Marsyas in Greek mythology, the waits, and Stadtpfeifer, generally performed outdoors, therefore requiring a predominance of the louder brass and percussion instruments. They were mobile, usually associated with a military organization and therefore uniformed, had a vernacular appeal, and generally gave free performances of lighter forms of music for the mass public. Orchestras, on the other hand, are descended from the medieval “low” (soft) instruments, the god Apollo, and the concept of chamber music. The musicians normally performed indoors using predominantly strings and the softer wind instruments; were stationary and usually associated with the church or nobility; and appealed to a sophisticated audience with more serious music for which audiences paid. Until the early 20th century professional musicians were expected to be “double-handed”: competent on both string and wind instruments. The function therefore determined the ensemble’s instrumentation, the performers forming a wind band for outdoor occasions or an orchestra for indoor concerts and entertainments....

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