Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Early Band Concert Music

pic from memory.loc.gov/ammem
Prior to the mid 19th century, brass bands were utilized mostly in the battle field as the brass instruments were heard more readily and their clumsiness did not lend very well to a more refined dance sound as woodwinds and string instruments did. However, post Civil War the quality and sophistication of brass instruments grew and many concert bands were formed. Concert music encompassed much of the popular music of the day and dance music was most definitely included.

Listening: Reviews:

Helene Schottishe, CD1, #20 from Recordings for An Introduction to America's Music

Written in the 1860s by Walter Dignam, the Helene Schottishe is a light and precise arrangement based on a dance form called the Schottishe. Similar to a polka, the Schottishe is a combination of steps and hops, which is apparent in the music that accompanies the dance. Accents within the song, such as staccatos, indicate where dancers would hop in a manner similar to earlier European court dances. As such the dance is most likely done by the middle to upper class in a ball setting.

This particular arrangement is for a concert band of 12 instruments: cornets, saxhorns and percussion. In an ABAC form, which is repeated twice completely, the music is purely to accompany the dance and is very balanced in sets of 8 for each section. The song is highly repetitive and predictable, therefore not making it very artistic. There are some dynamic contrasts within the music which happens mostly when a solo instrument is highlighted playing the melody. The instruments play crisp and sharp and the downbeat is accentuated in order to be clear to the dancers. At the end of the tune there is a slight ritard, which is where the dancers would most likely bow to each other.

To view an example of a Schottishe dance click on the video below

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