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date: 17 October 2019

Military musiclocked

  • Raoul F. Camus


Instrumental music associated with the ceremonies, functions, and duties of military organizations. By the 17th century, when settlers brought European culture to America, military music served several functions, some practical, others ceremonial; these included strengthening the morale of soldiers, conveying signals and commands, and providing accompaniment for ceremonial, social, and recreational activities. The American colonists preserved the European distinction between two types of military musical unit, the field music and the band of music.

The colonial field music evolved from English models. At various times the field music consisted of fifes, drums, trumpets, and bugles; infantry units used the fife and drum, mounted troops used the trumpet, and bugles were later used by light infantry, riflemen, and detached parties. Irish and Scottish settlers sometimes used bagpipes instead of fifes. Black soldiers were often musicians, since they were required to serve but in many colonies forbidden to bear arms. As a member of a company or troop, the field musicians were usually given rudimentary musical training by the battalion’s drum or fife major. Boys, especially the children of soldiers or widows, were taught the fife and drum (for one such veteran’s fascinating reminiscences, see Meyers, ...

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