History of Marching Bands

The marching band originated with traveling musicians who performed together at festivals and celebrations throughout the ancient world. It evolved and became more structured within the armies of the early city-states, becoming the basis for the military band, from which the modern marching band emerged.[1] As musicians became less important in directing the movement of troops on the battlefield, the bands moved into increasingly ceremonial roles – an intermediate stage which provided some of the instrumentation and music for marching bands was the modern brass band, which also evolved out of the military tradition.

Many military traditions survive in modern marching band. Bands that march in formation will often be ordered to “dress their ranks” and “cover down their files”. They may be called to “attention”, and given orders such as “about face” and “forward march”. Uniforms of many marching bands still resemble military uniforms.

Purdue Block P

The first marching band formation, the Purdue All-American Marching Band “Block P”

 

Outside of police and military organizations, modern marching bands are most commonly associated with American football, specifically the pregame and halftime shows. Many U.S. universities had bands before the twentieth century. In 1907, the first formation on a football field was the “Block P” created by Paul Spotts Emrick, director of the Purdue All-American Marching Band.[2] Spotts had seen a flock of birds fly in a “V” formation and decided that a band could replicate the action in the form of show formations. The first halftime show by a marching band at a football game was done by the University of Illinois Marching Illini also in 1907 at a game against the University of Chicago.[3][unreliable source?]

Another innovation that appeared at roughly the same time as the field show and marching in formations was the fight song. University fight songs are often closely associated with a university’s band. The University of Illinois also had the first fight song, “Illinois Loyalty”. Many of the more recognizable and popular fight songs are widely utilized by high schools across the country. Four university fight songs commonly used by high schools are the University of Michigan‘s “The Victors“, The University of Illinois‘ “Illinois Loyalty“, the University of Notre Dame‘s “Victory March“, and the United States Naval Academy‘s “Anchors Aweigh“.

Other changes in marching band have been:

Since the inception of Drum Corps International in the 1970s, many marching bands that perform field shows have adopted changes to the activity that parallel developments with modern drum and bugle corps. These bands are said to be corps-style bands. Changes adopted from drum corps include:

  • marching style: instead of a traditional high step, drum corps tend to march with a fluid glide step, also known as a roll step, to keep musicians’ torsos completely still (see below)
  • the adaptation of the flag, rifle, and sabre units into “auxiliaries”, who march with the band and provide visual flair by spinning and tossing flags or mock weapons and using dance in the performance
  • moving marching timpani and keyboard percussion into a stationary sideline percussion section (“pit“), which has since incorporated many different types of percussion instruments such as: Tambourines, Crash Cymbals, Suspended Cymbals, Bass Drum and Gong Sets, Chimes, EWIs (Electronic Woodwind Instrument), and most Keyboards
  • marching band competitions are judged using criteria similar to the criteria used in drum corps competitions, with emphasis on individual aspects of the band (captions for music performance, visual performance, percussion, guard (auxiliary), and general effect are standard).

 

Source – Wikipedia

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