Marching music - the world doesn't march the same

geschichte, marsch -

Marching music - the world doesn't march the same

Each of us can imagine something about marching music. Music for marching. But what else is behind it and what does marching music look like in other countries?

What is meant by marching music?

A march as a musical genre is a piece of music with a strong regular rhythm that was originally written expressly for marching to, and most often performed by, a military band.

In terms of atmosphere, the marches range from the moving death march in Wagner's Götterdämmerung to the brisk military marches of John Philip Sousa to the martial hymns of the late 19th century.

Examples of the diverse use of the march can be found in Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, in Franz Schubert's Marches Militaires, in the Marche funèbre in Chopin's Sonata in B minor and in the Dead March in Handels Saul

Special features of marching music

Marches can be written in any time signature, but the most common time signatures are 4/4, 2/2, or 6/8. However, some modern marches are written in 1/2 or 2/4. The modern marching tempo is typically around 120 beats per minute. Many funeral marches conform to the Roman standard of 60 beats per minute. The pace corresponds to the pace of soldiers walking at a walk. Both tempos reach the standard rate of 120 steps per minute.

Each section of a march typically consists of 16 or 32 bars, which may repeat. Most importantly, a march consists of a strong and steady percussive beat, reminiscent of military field drums.

Marching music often changes key once, modulates into the subdominant and occasionally returns to the original key. If it starts in a minor key, it modulates to the relative major key. In marches , countermelodies are often introduced during the repetition of a main melody.

Marches often have a penultimate "dogfight" vibe, with two sets of instruments (high/low, wood/ winds , etc.) alternating in a statement/response format. In most traditional American marches there are three tribes. The third variant is called “Trio”.

Different countries, different marches

The marching pace of 120 beats or steps per minute was supposedly adjusted by Napoleon Bonaparte so that his army could move faster. Since he planned to occupy the conquered territory, instead of his soldiers carrying all their provisions with them, they would live off the land and march faster.

The French marching pace is faster than the traditional pace of British marches; The British call marches at the French pace rapid marches. Traditional American marches use the French or fast marching tempo.

There are two reasons for this: First, U.S. military bands adopted the marching pace of France and other continental European nations that aided the U.S. during its early wars with Great Britain. Second, the composer of America's greatest marches, John Philip Sousa, was of Portuguese and German descent. Portugal exclusively used the French tempo - the standard tempo that Sousa learned during his musical training.

A military band playing or marching at the traditional British marching tempo would appear to be unusually slow in the United States.

Connection to the military

Marching music comes from the military, and marches are usually played by a marching band. The most important instruments are various drums (particularly the snare drum), horns, pipe or woodwind instruments, and brass instruments .

Today, marches and marching bands still have a strong connection to the military, both for drill and parade. Marches played in steps at multiples of the normal heartbeat can have a hypnotic effect on the marching soldiers, putting them into a trance.

This effect was already widely known in the 16th century and was used to guide soldiers in closed ranks against enemy fire in the wars of the 16th and 17th centuries.

Marching music is often important for celebratory occasions. Processional or coronation marches, such as the popular coronation march from Le prophète by Giacomo Meyerbeer and the many examples of coronation marches written for British monarchs by English composers such as Edward Elgar, Edward German and William Walton, are all in traditional British tempos.

The history of marching music

Marches were not recorded until the late 16th century; Until then, time was generally kept by percussion alone, often with improvised pipe embellishments. With the extensive development of brass instruments , particularly in the 19th century, marches became widespread and often elaborately orchestrated.

Composers such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Hector Berlioz, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Gustav Mahler, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Charles Ives, Arnold Schönberg, Igor Stravinsky, Alban Berg, Sergei Prokofiev, Paul Hindemith, Dmitri Shostakovich and Leonard Bernstein wrote marches and sometimes incorporated them into operas, sonatas, suites and symphonies. The popularity of John Philip Sousa's band marches is unmatched.

The style of the traditional symphonic march can be traced back to symphonic pieces from the Renaissance period, such as pieces written for the nobility.

The German and Austrian marching style

German marches move at a very strict tempo of 110 beats per minute and have a strong oom-pah-polka-like/folk-like quality, resulting from the playing of the bass drum and low brass on the downbeats and the alto voices, like peck horn and snare drum playing on the offbeats. This gives these marches a very martial quality. The low brass is often featured prominently in at least one stem of a German march.

To balance the rhythmic martiality of most movements, the final movement (the trio) often has a lyrical (if somewhat bombastic) quality. The well-known German and Austrian march composers include Carl Teike ("Old Comrades"), Hermann Ludwig Blankenburg, Johann Gottfried Piefke ("Prussia's Gloria"), Hans Schmid, Josef Wagner and Karl Michael Ziehrer.