March (music)

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Landsknechte piper, drummer (Trommler und Pfeifer for infantry) and flag bearer under Georg von Frundsberg calling farmers to arms in the early 16th century. The cavalry had timpanist and trumpeter (Pauker und Trompeter). The Thirty Years' War also marked a significant step in development, as it was here that military marching music came into its own for the first time as a symbol of individual units and to cheer on soldiers in battle. This new function of military music is linked to the introduction of drilling with and without weapons.

A march (German: Marsch, plur. Märsche or Marschmusik), as a musical genre since the 16th century in the Holy Roman Empire, is a piece of music with a strong regular rhythm which in origin was expressly written for marching to and most frequently performed by a military band.


Regimental music of the 1st Guards Regiment of Foot of the Guard Corps around 1910 in Potsdam under Kapellmeister Walter Bernhagen (1875–1957). The bearer of the bell tree was the Imperial Moor Ben Aissa from Morocco.
Battle of Badonviller on 12 August 1914, among the many fallen was Major Karl Euler
Battle Of Britain March.jpg

In addition to the instruments common in brass music, marching music also includes: those used whose bell is directed more forward when playing; so-called substitution instruments, which are rarely or never used in fully symphonic orchestras – these are usually brass instruments. British marches typically move at the standard pace of 120 beats per minute. German marches move at a very strict tempo of 114 beats per minute, and have a strong oom-pah polka-like/folk-like quality resulting from the bass drum and low-brass playing on the downbeats and the alto voices, such as peck horn and snare drums, playing on the off-beats. French military marches are distinct from other European marches by their emphasis on percussion and brass, often incorporating bugle calls as part of the melody or as interludes between strains. The climax of American march music existed from 1855 to the 1940s when it was overshadowed by jazz, which the march form influenced (especially through ragtime).

March, originally, musical form having an even metre (in 2/4 or 4/4) with strongly accented first beats to facilitate military marching; many later examples, while retaining the military connotation, were not intended for actual marching. The march was a lasting bequest of the Turkish invasion of Europe, where it eventually consisted formally of an initial march alternating with one or more contrasting sections, or trios. One of the earliest allusions to martial music appeared in a dance treatise by Thoinot Arbeau (1588). In 17th-century France, the military band of Louis XIV played marches, and France literally set the pace for march music all over Europe well into the 19th century. The French Revolutionary decade with its countless public rituals left a profound imprint on Ludwig van Beethoven’s numerous marches, such as those in the Piano Sonata in A Flat, Opus 26, and the well-known funeral march from the Third Symphony (Eroica). Similar events of the Napoleonic and post-Napoleonic eras are reflected in the pageantry of the march in Frédéric Chopin’s Piano Sonata in B Flat Minor and the much-emulated “March to the Gallows” section of Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique. Certain marches are often performed for nonmilitary occasions in Europe and in English-speaking countries: Felix Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1843) and Richard Wagner’s music from the wedding scene of his opera Lohengrin (1850) are frequently heard at nuptials, and Sir Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” is a standard processional march at American school and college graduation ceremonies. In the 20th century, Sergey Prokofiev and Igor Stravinsky evoked the march for satirical purposes as well. A relatively gentle tradition evolved in Austria from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Franz Schubert to Gustav Mahler, whereas Britain excelled in marches that were theatrical rather than military in nature and as such were virtually unrivaled until the early 1900s, when John Philip Sousa established America’s preeminence in the field of band music. Known as the “march king,” Sousa contributed more than 130 works to the genre, including “Semper Fidelis” (1888), “Washington Post” (1889), and “The Stars and Stripes Forever” (1897).[1]

Composers such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig von Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Gustav Mahler, Johann Baptist Strauss, Charles Ives, Arnold Schoenberg, and Leonard Bernstein wrote marches, sometimes incorporating them into operas, sonatas, suites, and symphonies. Of the number of marches intended for special purposes and occasions (festive marches, homage marches, church marches, almost exclusively on stage during processions, etc.), the funeral march (Trauermarsch) stands out as particularly characteristic. There are also songs in march form, which are also performed instrumentally as a promenade march.


During the time of Friedrich the Great and later the German Wars of Liberation, the German military march developed into a number of forms, known or referred to as parade marches, presentation marches, speed marches (quick march), storm marches, cavalry and regimental marches. In Prussia, the “Little Game” (Kleines Spiel), which goes back to the drummer and piper music of the Landsknecht forces, included the transverse flute and triangle. With the introduction of the regulated synchronicity in the 17th century, other instruments were added: woodwind and brass instruments, percussion and bells, the “Great Game” (Großes Spiel).

The Armeemarschsammlung (Army March Collection), also known as the Prussian Army March Collection (Preußische Armeemarschsammlung) refers to the basic catalog of works of German military march music. The basis for the creation of an extensive set of scores for military brass bands lies in a highest cabinet order (Allerhöchste Kabinettsorder) of King of Prussia Friedrich Wilhelm III on 10 February 1817 requesting a selection of proven compositions for every regiment of infantry, cavalry and artillery:

In order to assist the regiments of the army in the selection of good military music, I have had a number of well-proved pieces prepared, and a set of them is to be supplied to each regiment. As, in this way, the army will come into the possession of good music, I decree that on all ceremonial occasions, at grand parades, and reviews, and particularly those at which I am present, no other marches will be played.

Friedrich Wilhelm III's initial collection consisted of 36 slow marches and 36 quick marches for infantry. All the marches incorporated into the army march collection have an official number including a Roman numeral designation (denoting collection) and an Arabic number (list number in the collection).

A new Army March Collection was decreed by the Reichswehr Ministry on 15 May 1925, under the supervision of military musician Hermann Schmidt (who would serve as Heeresmusikinspizient – Head of Music for the Armed Forces 1929–1945). Old and newly composed marches were incorporated. Marches of the former Royal Prussian, Royal Bavarian, Royal Saxon, and Royal Württemberg Armies were now merged into one collection, alongside those of the lower ranking states of the former Empire. Preparation of this collection ended in 1945.

Badonviller / Badenweiler Marsch

Georg Fürst (1870–1936), who had led the music corps of the Infanterie-Leib-Regiment since 1911, composed the Badonviller-Marsch, also known as the Badenweiler-Marsch,[2] for the Royal Bavarian Infantry Guard Regiment. The title refers to heroic fighting on 12 August 1914 near Badonviller in Lorraine, where the Royal Bavarian Infantry Guard Regiment (Königlich Bayerisches Infanterie-Leib-Regiment) achieved during this successful rial by fire (Feuerprobe) a first great victory against the French at the beginning of the First World War. The composer's lively two-tone entrance motif was by some accounts inspired by the duotonic sirens of field ambulances, with which the wounded were removed. This march is included in the Heeresmarsch collection as HM II, 256.

After the death of Reich President Paul von Hindenburg in 1934, the march was used as a personal "Führer-Marsch" for Adolf Hitler, alongside his possession of a personalised standard, to signal his arrival and therefore personal presence at public events. The march is still one of the most popular with the Bundeswehr[3] and at Oktoberfest celebrations, but also British and American bands, e.g. "the President's own" United States Marine Band.[4]

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