Staff Note: Notes from the Music Staff is a series of posts discussing what the York County Library offers music fans. From our widely varied collection of music CDs to our nonfiction and fiction books covering all aspects of music, we've got something for everyone and we want to share our love of music with you!
Tomorrow, November 11, is Veterans Day, so we thought it was fitting to look into a specific subgenre of military music: Field music.
In European and American culture, drums ordered the daily lives of soldiers, providing cadences for marching and signals for battle, as well as marking routine activities such as meal and bed time. The drum most associated with the military was a snare drum known as a side drum because it hangs on a sling at the player’s side.
The side drum was played alone or with a fife, a small wooden flute with six finger holes on a diatonic scale. The traditional pairing of the drum and fife developed from the medieval practice of a single player performing on a tabor (small drum) and pipe to accompany dances. In Colonial America, drummers summoned men from rural areas to take up arms. Revolutionary War drummers and fifers, who appear in in the famous Spirit of '76 painting by A.M. Willard (at right), signaled soldiers to fire.