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Please note that this session has been postponed until January 2023.

The French Wars were experienced by the ears as much as the eyes, yet the aural dimensions of these conflicts have received relatively limited attention from historians. This paper interrogates the reach and reception of military music in wartime Britain and Ireland by drawing on a wealth of evidence from memoirs, diaries, press reports, and archival research. It demonstrates that regimental bands provided sought-after entertainment in provincial and garrison towns, playing not only at military parades but at myriad public events including balls and dinners, civic processions, concerts, and church services. Martial music-making, moreover, was regarded as a potent form of cultural propaganda: a means of inculcating patriotism, intimidating political dissenters, and asserting the sonic supremacy of the established order in a revolutionary age. The performances of drummers and regimental bandsmen certainly enjoyed considerable popularity across society and evoked a variety of affective responses, including national pride and fond feelings towards the military. Yet martial music also provoked irritation, controversy, and distress, not least by generating noise complaints, violating the sanctity of the Sabbath, and exacerbating sectarianism in Ireland through the performance of so-called party tunes. The paper concludes by considering the role of military music in overseas colonies and foreign theatres, arguing that it functioned as a form of soft power, helping legitimise imperial authority, aiding diplomacy, and easing relations with local inhabitants. An intrusive symptom of large-scale military mobilisation, martial music shaped civilian attitudes and soundscapes while profoundly influencing the development of wider musical culture.

All welcome. This event is free to attend, but advance registration is required.

This will be a ‘hybrid’ seminar with a limited number of places available in person and a larger number of bookings for online attendance via Zoom. Those attending in person are asked to bring a Wi-Fi enabled laptop, tablet or phone.

The session will start at the slightly later time of 17:30.