The British military as a musical institution, c.1780-c.1860

Herbert, T. and Barlow, H. (2012). The British military as a musical institution, c.1780-c.1860. In: Rodmell, P. ed. Music and Institutions in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Music in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, pp. 247–266.



The perceived need to centralise control arose from a growing sense of discomfort about the role played by foreigners in the military band network of the United Kingdom. Most bands had foreign conductors; they were musically competent, and their foreign origins offered some kudos to them and the officers who employed them, but they were also keenly protectionist, expensive, unreliable and usually outrageously corrupt. They were, for example, readily complicit in a corrupt system which bound a bandmaster exclusively to a particular instrument manufacturer, in exchange for commission on orders for instruments and printed music.2 They regarded themselves as private contractors, held civilian contracts and refused to accept anything close to military discipline. While a blind eye had been turned to this for decades, by the middle of the century it was reaching proportions that were beyond tolerance.

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