March 2017

On the March

The bounds of marching music stretch beyond parades and football games.

America’s band traditions predate the nation’s birth, but it was “the March King,” John Philip Sousa (1854-1932), who played the biggest role in creating music specifically for marching ensembles. His compositions continue to be cornerstones of the repertoire, perhaps most notably the U.S.A.’s official national march, “The Stars and Stripes Forever”—performed here by the U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps (“The Commandant’s Own”).

Staying in step and in musical sync with your bandmates can be tricky during a parade, but at least you can pretty much depend on the fact that you’re all going in one direction: forward. On the football field, it’s a whole different situation. To create formations (letters, numbers, and/or other shapes), band members may have to move sideways, diagonally, or backward. This pregame show by the University of Illinois’ Marching Illini gives you an idea of how complicated things can get.

The indoor competitions of Winter Guard International (WGI) don’t rely on formations, but they test the limits of marching music in other ways. Groups at these events are using their instrumental skills to tell a story, evoke a mood, or make a point. Here’s the California ensemble Pulse Percussion performing the show that won them WGI’s 2016 Percussion Independent World gold medal. Note the use of elaborate props and sets; the neat division between front ensemble (stationed closer to the camera) and marching members; and the intricate choreography.

Drum Corps International (DCI) groups take a similar artistic approach to WGI’s, but transfer it from the indoor arena to the outdoor stadium. As this performance of “Down Side Up” by 2016 DCI World Class champions the Bluecoats shows, the larger canvas allows for even more complex displays of precision. Watch as standard drill patterns merge with modern dance.

If you’d like more information on the organizations mentioned in our March article, here are some links to check out:

University of Illinois Marching Illini
U.S. Marine Drum & Bugle Corps