Trumpets, drums and the sources for their symbolic authority in Britain

Herbert, Trevor (2016). Trumpets, drums and the sources for their symbolic authority in Britain. Music in Art: International Journal for Music Iconography,, 41(1-2) pp. 65–81.



Trumpeters, drummers and to an extent pipers have been distinct in the military, and must be regarded as a separate species from those that make up what were known in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as bands of music. They had key operational functions in armies and navies, but they were also symbolic. They were marked out and categorized for their essential duties, and their status was unchallenged even by more senior soldiers. In Britain, trumpeters and drummers were the only categories of musician that could legally be the recipient of official funding. Their duties required bravery, but also high levels of discipline and remarkable feats of memory and precision. Images of them were repeatedly called up in representations of victory and defeat; less frequent are representations of their roles in the administration of military discipline. The position these players held in peace and in fields of conflict is more complex than the images suggest. By necessity, the players stood apart from other soldiers, mentoring and often controlling them.

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