Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Trevor Herbert & Helen Barlow's "Music & the British Military in the Long Nineteenth Century"

Trevor Herbert was born in south Wales. He played trombone with many leading London orchestras and chamber and period instrument groups before joining the staff of the Open University, where he is now Professor of Music. He has published prolifically on the history, repertoire and performance cultures of brass instruments. He is also the author of numerous articles for the world's leading reference works.

Helen Barlow was born in India and grew up in south Wales. She is a Research Fellow in Music at the Open University (UK), and her work focuses on literature and iconography as sources for music history. In addition to her published papers, she has written entries for several major reference works including the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Herbert applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Music & the British Military in the Long Nineteenth Century, and reported the following:
Page 99 stops a little short of capturing the story, but it hints at the breadth of evidence that makes it: news of a brilliant German musician to take charge of an elite band of a household regiment, a single sheet of paper plotting the creation of a sophisticated band of music in Scotland, an image of a hand-written part-book found in the depths of Wales, and more news - this time of the forming of a band in Hardy’s county Dorset. The headline story is that it was not the rise of romantic opera or the symphony that caused the music profession and the commercial infrastructures that underpinned it to increase exponentially in the nineteenth century, but the demands of aristocratic army officers who, in a single generation, established the British military as the largest single employer of musically literate musicians that the world had known. The tale could be told in similar terms for most western countries, but in Britain it had a special edge. Ordinary soldiers, many of them the rural poor and recruits from workhouses and orphanages, were rapidly trained as instrumentalists to enhance military display and (perhaps more important) to enliven the social prospects of officers. The expansion was as widespread as it was rapid. Later in the nineteenth century the British state fully comprehended the potency of music as a means of communication and the intoxicating effect it had on a populace when matched with military colour and precision: it became a powerful device for diplomacy and influence at home and in the empire. However, lurking in these pages is another story. Bands of music – expert ensembles all of them – travelled with their soldiers to the many killing fields of the period: India, Afghanistan, South Africa. There they serenaded men whose destinies could be measured only in days or sometimes even hours. They played to them - tunes sacred and profane - and sometimes they died with them. The journals of soldiers tell of the remarkable effect of the music in those desolate times.

But it started in the late eighteenth century with the recruitment of inspirational German musicians who traversed the kingdom to initiate this most remarkable musical project.

From Page 99:
[C F Eley] had been employed along with a group of German musicians in May 1785 as bandmaster of the Coldstream Guards. He was a clarinettist but was better known outside military circles as a cellist and author of an instruction book for the bassoon. Eley and others with a high status in London’s royal band circles had influence which spread further (Fig. 4.3). A letter written in 1805 by the commanding officer of the Royal Artillery band hints how fashions in instrumentation ere disseminated:
The General has asked for a description of the Band of Music which appeared at the Palace, so that the eight request ... sundry new instruments in the place of those which are old and worn out. I have obtained [a list of] these from Mr Eisenherdt the Master of the Band.... The band of Music has 26 musicians, counting the drummers, etc. 3 Trombones, 2 Trumpets, 2 French Horns, 2 Bassoons, 1 Serpents & 1 Bass Horn instead of the Serpent.
Less than a year later, a similar imitation appears to have been under way in Scotland. A single sheet of paper dated 27 September 1806 and preserved in the National War Museum of Scotland lists an impressive range of instruments and other musical accoutrements that Eley was asked to acquire by His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester for the band of the 3rd Guards. The considerable cost of £230 18s. 3d. is indicative of the elaborate instructions he received. Some years later, in 1833, when the Dorset Militia was establishing a new band, their Colonel looked first to the instrumentation of the neighbouring Wiltshire Militia band, which had ‘nine Brass Instruments, one
Learn more about Music & the British Military in the Long Nineteenth Century at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue