Pictures from “The Music Men”

For the final post in this series we’ll look at a small sampling of the wonderful photographs and other images found in The Music Men: An Illustrated History of Brass Bands in America, 1800-1920, by Margaret Hindle Hazen and Robert M. Hazen.  If you’ve been following this series you know that this book presents a historical overview of the brass band movement in America, from its beginnings through its “Golden Age.”  The images in this post are all from “Tools of the Trade,” Chapter Five of The Music Men. At the beginning of the chapter Hazen points out that bandleaders took advantage of the many technological developments applied to brass and woodwind instruments during the 19th century, and experimented with new instruments and unusual combinations. Changes in instruments and instrumentation happened quite rapidly, if unevenly.  Often, bands included a random sampling of both old and new designs.  In the diagram below, scanned from page 93, one can see the over-the-shoulder brass instruments popular during the Civil War, as well as the more modern versions which gradually replaced them.

The next photograph, found on page 94, shows an unusual type of band instrument, shaped in a circle.  The caption for this photo offers more details.

The McGibeny Family Band of Philadelphia employed three “helicon” or circular-form instruments (an E-flat alto, B-flat tenor, and B-flat bass) in their act. Helicons found special favor with horse-mounted bands and with small children because they were easier to carry than conventional upright-bell models. (p. 94)

Continuing with photographs featuring unusual combinations of instruments, we have this one (p. 105).

The caption reads:

Members of this British juvenile band possess an unusual assortment of band instruments, including a circular alto horn or ballad horn (second from left), E-flat baritone sarrusophone (third from left), and jingling johnny (far right). Without additional instruments this band would have produced an odd sound. (p. 101)

You can follow the links above for more information on the circular alto horn and the sarrusophone, but I thought the “jingling johnny” might be worth a bit more explanation.  See the quote below.

…marching bands were occasionally preceded by a jingling johnny or “Turkish crescent.”  Several feet in length, this ornate instrument consisted of a vertical shaft that supported several brass crosspieces or inverted brass bowls. Each brass device was fringed with small bells that produced the characteristic rhythmic, jingling sound. Traditional jingling johnnies were crowned with a brass crescent, but American versions sometimes featured an eagle or other patriotic symbol. (p. 101)

And to close out this post is one of my favorite pictures from the entire chapter.  I’m not sure exactly what makes it my favorite – perhaps the juxtaposition of the scenic backdrop (complete with horse and buggy) and the somewhat ragtag community band – or maybe it’s just the matter of fact expressions and body language of the band members.  They seem to be saying “yeah, we play in a band, and that’s all right.” It also looks like one of the players has music or perhaps a small piece of clothing stuck in the bell of his instrument.  At any rate, this photo is scanned from page 105.  The caption is also included below.

Most small-town American bands prior to 1900 had about a dozen members, with two percussionists and the rest brass players.  The band of Barnet, Vermont (population about fifteen hundred when this photograph was taken ca. 1890) exemplifies the typical American brass band of the time. Vermont Historical Society. (p. 105)

If you found these pictures interesting, I encourage you to check out The Music Men and other information on the history of bands in America.  It’s fascinating stuff.

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