Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Rhythm of War

By Misty L. Harris

I’m a lover of “period” movies. Movies such as “Last of the Mohicans,” “Glory,” “The Patriot,” “Gladiator,” and “Kingdom of Heaven” hold my attention more than any others. Well, maybe throw in the occasional Sci-Fi or mythological movie (die hard “Lord of the Rings” fan) and I’m all set! But in my younger years, there was always something that perplexed me about these movies, especially those with battle scenes.

Why when the men went off to war did they march with music? The ever present drummer boy or flutist leading the troups to defend their land. Was this not a time of uncertainty, perhaps even fear? What significance did the music play in war? Later on in my studies, I would learn that not only did the drumming keep the pace, they relayed orders from the commanders that could not otherwise be heard by the sound of voice. “Drummer Boys” were not local musicians; however, they held ranks such as sergeant or corporal. Flutes, harmonicas fiddles even banjos were among the popular instruments often heard during the call to battle. Music played such an integral role in the order of things both on and off of the field.

So what do you think of when you see the words war music or battle? If someone would have asked me this 10 or 15 years ago I would have said “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again” or maybe Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” which screams victory is ours! But now I think the face of “battle music” or music in time of war has changed. I guess it depends on the type of battle but scores that come to my mind are that of the previously mentioned “Last of the Mohicans” (if you have not heard it, you can Google it today), “Gladiator,” and even the likes of “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Music that speaks volumes without words. Moreover, I think of songs that inspire those who were left behind to wait. In recent times, we have had a flourishing amount of musicians both vocal and instrument record pieces to give us hope and help us through the tough time of uncertainty.

Well, what did people listen to in the 1800’s? How did they take their minds off of Johnny who marched away from home perhaps for the last time? Classical 94.5 FM WNED’s Stratton Rawson took a closer look at the music of the 19th century specifically focusing on the year 1812 to coincide with the WNED-TV premiere of “The War of 1812,” airing Monday, Oct. 10 at 9 p.m. Go “Inside the Music Library” beginning at 2 p.m. on Oct. 9 and hear, musically, what it was like to live in time of war in the 1800’s. Was the music solemn, peaceful, encouraging or ominous? How does it compare to the music of today? You decide and let us know!


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