Category Archives: Fifes & Drums

Le Carillon National, Ah! ça ira and the Downfall of Paris.


List of Manuscripts
Le Carillon National and M. Becourt
Ah! Ça Ira, Dictum populaire Air du Carillon National
M. Ladre
Benjamin Franklin and Marquis de Lafayette
Lewis C. Elson
Lewis S. Winstock
Ah! Ça Ira, Covent Garden and William Shield
Downfall of Paris , Fall of Paris, The Fall of Paris or The Downfall of Paris
The Downfall of Paris and Ça Ira

List of  Manuscripts: 

A. 17??-Le Carillon National, University of California, Los Angeles
B. 1789-Ah! Ça Ira, Dictum populaire Air du Carillon, Bibliothèque nationale de France
C. 1790-Le Retour Du Champ De Mars, Bibliothèque nationale de France
D. 1792-Ah! Ça Ira, Harvard University Library
E. 1790-Chanson Novelle, Le Carillon National, Bibliothèque nationale 
de Strasbourg
F. 1900-Ça Ira, Lewis C. Elson, The National Music of America

G. 1788-Surrender of Paris,Thos. Molyneux Tune Book, Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections, University of Birmingham. (Finding number: SH 645)
1795-The fall of Paris or Essex Quick Step:, Cambridge University Library
I. 1812-The Downfall of Paris, University of Pennsylvania Rare Books and Manuscripts Library
J1817-Ça Ira. and Downfall of Paris., Harvard University Library Theater Collection
K.  1808-Complete Instruction for the Fife, Andrews, Fort. York National Heritage Site Library, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
L. 1812?The Fall of Paris, Buttrey Manuscript, National Archives of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario
M. 1814-Fall of Paris, Riley’s Flute Melodies, Fort York National Heritage Site Library, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
N. 1862-Downfall of Paris, Geo. B. Bruce and Dan D. Emmett, Drummers’ & Fifers’ Guide

O. 1794-Ah! Ça Ira The Aird Collection, Vol. IV, Fort. York National Heritage Site Library, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Swiss army marching towards marat, (contemporary-print) Prologue

After the fall of Rome, the Swiss are believed to have been the first to move their armies with the sounds of fifes and drums. For more than 150 years, Swiss halberdiers, fighting either to defend their homeland or as mercenaries to foreign monarchs, were the scourge of Renaissance battlefields. At the battle of Marat in 1476, Swiss halberds destroyed French heavy cavalry, proving for the first time in the west that foot soldiers could defeat armored men and horses. Military use of fifes and drums quickly spread to France, the rest of Europe and England.

Henry VIII (1491-1547) was a true Renaissance man. He composed music and kept a self serving eye on military innovations. Henry employed kettle and field drummers, but we do not know what they played. After Henry’s death a paper dating from about 1455 was found inscribed with seven military (drum) signals but written in words only.

Subsequent to Arbeau’s 1588 Orchesography, and the 1627 Torneo by Bonaventura Pistofilo one might expect drum notation to have evolved along the lines of its pitch producing contemporaries. Drummer’s however appear to have encountered or invented difficulties writing down what they played. Controversies over Renaissance and Classic Era drum notation continue today while readable fife tunes from the same period, abound.

The tunes that led men into battle and kept their faces forward were sometimes written by the likes of Handel and Mozart while others were written by the most prolific composers of all, anon. Due in part to their opaque origins, some of the most famous tunes from history proved susceptible to mythologizing.


The assistance of my nephew Paul Peeling was invaluable. His computer and library skills allowed him to obtain manuscripts that remained beyond my reach. Within three days of my first conversation with him, manuscripts began arriving in my computer mail box. The manuscripts continued to arrive and I was released from one of the most  frustrating aspects of my research.

Many years ago, before the idea of this article was born, linguist Dr. Andre Mather translated the words on the first printing of Ah! Ça Ira. Later I called upon his brother Eric to translate the dance movements for Becourt’s Le Carillon National. The translations were not simple because the texts were in a  colloquial French spoken more than 200 years ago. Additionally, Becourt’s instructions for the dance were troublesome due to his use of arcane dance step abbreviations.

The University of Toronto Faculty of Music Library is one of the best in North America and its head librarian and assistant head are Kathleen McMorrow (ret. 2013) and Susanne Meyers Sawa. They and their staff were extremely gracious and patient as I plied them with  questions arcane concerning old war songs, drum beats and the accoutrements of medieval and Renaissance armies. Kathleen once said, “Ask me something difficult!” When I did, she had the answer.

Edmund Boyle is a fifer from Philadelphia and an e-mail friend. To say he is well connected is an understatement. He teaches fife students living around the world and maintains a very useful website. Ed has introduced me to fife and drum players and aficionados as well as inspiring me by his restorations of historic drum and fife manuals.

My former colleagues in Nexus, Bob Becker and Bill Cahn have, by their interest in and questions about the so called Ancient Style of drumming, emboldened me and on more than one occasion sent me back to my “drawing board”.

I have also known some very good drummers whose influence has made me think long and hard about every sentence I write on the subject of rudiments and rudimental drumming. Fred Johnson and Paul Mosley of C.A.D.R.E., Nick Attanassio and Ken Green are a few who immediately come to mind. And of course Dennis DeLucia without whose assistance the 2002 Percussive Arts Society Historic Drummer’s Heritage Concert would not have succeeded. John Wooton and Jim Campbell are two renowned teachers who have often befriended and impressed me with their skills and knowledge.

Special tributes to the US Military Academy Band Field Unit, the Hellcats; 3d United States Infantry (The Old Guard) Fife and Drum Corps; and the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums (also known as the Field Music of the Virginia State Garrison) and their inspired teacher,composer, historian and director, Lance Pedigo. Then there is the inimitable John S. “Jack” Pratt who has guided me around and through many mind fields and who for me will always be the quintessential composer of martial snare drum music. Jack’s knowledge and drumming prowess have been a source of inspiration to field drummers and percussionists world over.

I am especially grateful to Ray Dillard for extricating me from more computer crises then anyone should have to endure. As Ray talked me through impasse after impasse, I sometimes felt like a stalled rock climber, frozen by fear, being directed hand and foot until once again safely on the ground.

Most important to me has been the support of my wife Eleanor. She has not only suffered my fits of frustration, she has tolerated my writing binges and proven herself an editor of uncanny skill.

” .  .  . any number of explanations are still current and proffered as facts, merely on the presumption that embellished reiteration of statements correctly or incorrectly quoted produces facts.”
Oscar Sonneck, Library of Congress Report on Yankee Doodle


The music known today as Le Carillon National, Ah! Ça Ira 1 and The Downfall of Paris 2 are in turn, associated  with an 18th century dance craze, the French Revolution (1789-99), and the Napoleonic era (1799-1815). Both tunes obtained widespread popularity in Europe, Great Britain, Ireland and North America. Yet very little is known about when or by whom they were written. Only the last name of Le Carillon National’s composer is known, verified by an 18th century piano publication. Anything else about the man is rumor. The lyricist of Ah! Ça Ira was a prolific writer and his last name appears on many French Revolution era documents, but details of his personal life are meager and serve more to tantalize than inform. No written evidence gives the name of the composer of The Downfall of Paris and its first use or appearance is unknown. Nevertheless, certain stories about these works are regularly repeated as fact by authors and lecturers. This article examines the veracity of those stories and reproduces the earliest extant manuscripts of the music.

Le Carillon National and M. Becourt.

The quadrille titled Le Carillon National 3 was probably written in Paris during the last quarter of the 18th century.  M.(Monsieur) Becourt, who, depending on one’s sources, was either a violinist or drummer in the Theatre du Vaudeville or in the Theatre Beaujolais, is cited as its composer.

The contradictions about Becourt’s profession and place of employment is understandable as he seems to have been a “One hit” composer whose life was later pieced together in order to provide some form of dignified patrimony for the revolution’s first and most famous “Dictum Populaire”. 4

A. 17?-Le Carillon National. Without Becourt’s full name, publisher’s imprint or date, nevertheless this may well be the earliest and perhaps only printing of the composition. (University of California Library, Los Angeles.)Though the extent printing is dated by libraries 1790, it must have been known prior to that date for the tune to become popular and adopted by French activists as a song of protest. Becourt, Carillon national (quadrille), first-extant printing. Movements
1. A gentleman and a lady, of opposite, cross over and rigaudoon.
2. Chassé to the right and to the left Cross back to their places and rigaudoon
3. Forward with the lady standing beside and to the right, and spin on the spot.
4. Turn by right with the lady of opposite.
5. All four forward and back.
6. The Angloise half chain, and back to your places. Counterpart for the six others.

B.  1790 ca.-Ah! Ça Ira, Dictum populaire Air du Carillon National. (Bibliotheque Nationale de France.)

1790-Ah! Ca Ira, copy of first printing.

Ah! Ça Ira, Dictum populaire Air du Carillon National was sung during the storming of the Bastille, (14 July,1789) and again that year on 5 October, when market women from Paris made their famous March to Versailles. 5The women were protesting the price of bread. Ironically, the shortage of food and its high prices were due in part to the French Government’s financial support of America’s War for Independence. 6. 1789-Womens march to Versailles. By the time of the first festival of Federation in July 1790, commemorating the fall of the Bastille,5 Ah! Ça Ira, had become the premier song of the French Revolution. The manuscript below was in all likelihood published for the occasion with new lyrics by Mr.Deduit. These lyrics express a certain optimism because King Louis had made some concessions to the people of France.

C. 1790-LE RETOUR DU CHAMP DE MARS, Lyrics by Mr. Deduit. (Bibliotheque Nationale et Universitaire, Strasbourg.) On 17 July 1791, the infamous massacre known in France as the fusillade du Champ-de-Mars took place. Citizens had gathered to sign a petition demanding the King be removed. After dispersing, the crowd returned led by Georges Jacques Danton (1759 – 1794) and was fired upon by the National Guard commanded by the Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834). Estimates of the number killed ranged from twelve to fifty.

As events became darker, the words to Ah! Ça Ira became ever more threatening and abhorrent to European monarchs. And with good reason. Two years later on 21 January, 1793. King Louis XVI was beheaded.

D. 1792-Ah! Ça Ira Outraged the monarchs may have been, but the song was catchy. An indication of its wide spread popularity in Europe and England is the illustration below; a version of Ah! Ça Ira printed in England with an accompaniment, but otherwise melodically accurate to the original French printing and with up-dated French lyrics. This version from 1792 may have been published just a few months before King Louis was dispatched. (Harvard University Library.)

M. Ladre

Le Carillon National was reputedly first set to words by a former soldier and professional street singer M.Ladre.7 Though little is known about Ladre, he did exist and is credited with writing the lyrics to the first Ah! Ça Ira. He submitted a formal request to the Committee of Public Instruction asking financial renumeration for his service to the nation as a lyricist. His claim was rejected. 8. Ladre composed more than 50 other revolutionary songs. 9.

In the period just prior to and during the French Revolution, political messages were sometimes printed on pieces of paper and sold for a pittance on street corners. The texts were often set to popular tunes which facilitated memorization and dissemination. Below is such a printing with Ladre’s lyrics, though unattributed, with the title Chanson Novelle,, Le Carrillon National, the tune by Becourt to which the words were meant to be sung.

E. 1790-Chanson Novelle,, Le Carillon Nationale. (Bibliotheque Nationale de France.) 1790-Chanson Nouvelle, M. Becourt.

Chanson Nouvelle, p-2.

Benjamin Franklin and Marquis de Lafayette.

How Ladre’s song obtained its name is a popular yet unsubstantiated story. During his tenure as American Ambassador to France (December 1776-85) Parisians are said to have asked Benjamin Franklin about the prospects for American colonial independence. Franklin’s response was,“Ah! ça ira” meaning, “It will happen”, or, “It’s going to be alright”.The Marquis de Lafayette is said to have overheard Franklin’s comment, and suggested to Ladre that he name his song Ah! Ça Ira.

Considering LaFayette’s noble heritage and great wealth, his empathy for the monarchy, his position as leader of the King’s Paris Guard at the time of the attack on the Bastille and the Massacre on the Champ de Mars, it is very unlikely he ever met Ladre let alone suggested as a title for his anti-establishment song, a colloquialism by Benjamin Franklin.

Ben Franklin, age 72 when his ambassadorship began, was a great celebrity in Paris. He was admired, written about, hovered over and feted wherever he went, 10 but no contemporary documents written either by Franklin, Lafayette, Ladre or anyone else, credits Franklin with inadvertently naming Ladre’s song.

“.  .  .   these are retrospective explanations attempting to ascribe some kind of elite authorship to  a phrase that emerged as a popular (and essentially authorless) phenomenon.”
Professor Laura Mason, University of Georgia. Letter to R. E.

Lewis C. Elson

The  Franklin, LaFayette, Ladre story is related without attribution by Lewis C. Elson in The National Music of America, ca.1900, pp. 97-100. Elson also reproduces a cotillion titled Ça Ira which he dates 1792. This cotillion is interesting because, unlike other contemporary  publications of Ah! Ça Ira, the title does not include the word Ah! and the tune, begins on the first beat of the bar.11

Elson did not reproduce the original copy of his Cotillion, preferring rather to have all his music examples freshly engraved. Therefore, his Cotillion is pristine, without signs of use or age and the pages are undated and lack either a composer’s name or publisher’s imprint. Elson provides no attribution other than stating it is from his personal collection.

F. 1900-Elson, Ça Ira

1792-Elson Cotillion. i1792-Cotillion, p.2.

Another common story attached to Ah! Ça Ira concerns an event following Napoleon’s final defeat . During the triumphal march down the Champs Êlysées, 7 July, 1815, allied bands of the Austrian, Prussian and Russian armies were said to have played Ah! Ça Ira. The crowned heads of Europe attending would have known this tune and the history of its populist uprisings and Madame Guillotine. Aghast, Wellington commanded the musicians to cease.12. Given the popularity of Ah! Ça Ira and the military tradition of playing tunes of defeated enemies, this story sounds plausible. However, the idea of all allied bands playing the same tune is suspicious.13.

Lewis S. Winstock

The most oft quoted source for this musical faux pas is in Lewis Winstock, Songs and Music of the Redcoats: A History of the War Music of the British Army, 1970, pp. 105-07. Winstock quotes an eye-witness account by a Captain Blakeney who said the Austrian, Prussian and Russian army musicians played the downfall of Paris. Subsequently he learned that those musicians had actually played what they knew to be Ça Ira.On page 106 Winstock reproduces the first strain of the tune which he titles “The downfall of Paris”.  It is not Ça Ira. Indeed it is, with minor deviations, the Downfall of Paris as commonly published at the time.

But the matter doesn’t end there. Winstock says Captain Blakeney was” peeved” to hear this tune because it was, quotes Winstock, ” a tune of ours”. Thus, Winstock and Blakeney believed the Downfall and Ça Ira were the same tune and the tune was of British origin.

Here indeed is a case of mistaken identity and attribution. Years prior to Captain Blakeney’s observations, these tunes were well known by their own name and there should have been no excuse for confusion. To enforce the point, listed below are some prominent events in the history of these works that predate the allied victory parade in Paris.

Ah! Ça Ira , Covent Garden and William Shield

1790 – 20 and 21 December.  A popular story, often told and printed, says William Shield wrote an opera for Covent Garden titled The Picture of Paris and included Ah! Ça Ira. The date and location are entirely accurate, but the rest is problematical. The truth is messier, but more fun.

In 18th century England, pantomimes were a popular form of entertainment especially during the holiday season of Christmas. They were light entertainments, often employing on stage mechanical devices.

Thomas Harris(1742-1820), the manager of Theatre Royal Covent Garden wished to capitalize on holiday traffic by presenting a pantomime on a popular contemporary theme, the French Revolution. He hired the controversial playwright and poet Robert Merry (1755-98) and staff writer Charles Bonner to write a libretto and engaged the attractive and popular actress Anne Bruton to play a leading role.

The Covent Garden in-house composer was William Shield  (1748-1829), considered something of a workhorse for writing incidental music for plays and pantomimes within tight deadlines.  Shield probably wrote the arrangement of Ça Ira that was played in the orchestra after the prologue. However, inserted throughout the pantomime were vocal selections  from the opera Amphion, by Dresden born composer Johan Gottlieb Naumann  (1741-1801). In this case Shield could be considered an assembler of music for a pantomime rather than the composer of an opera.

Five artists were hired to paint  the scenery which accurately depicted Paris locations associated with the revolution. Machinery was constructed for special effects. The resultant pastiche was premiered on 20 December, 1790 and titled The Picture of Paris, Taken in the Year of 1790.  A critic called it a “Hodge Podge, two act pantomime concocted by Charles Bonner and Robert Merry”.  Appalled by what they called the “Follies”, Ann Bruton and another actor refused to appear in the second, and last performance.

Harris was castigated for his profligate production and the Tory government under William Pitt, nervous about the potential spread of the revolution to England, let him know that future productions should not dabble in politics.14.

1793 – On 23 May, the British 14th Regiment of Foot is given the right to use Ça Ira as its quickstep march after the battle of Farmars and without the Ah!, it remains to this day the Yorkshire Regimental quickstep. (See Footnote 15 below.)

1794 –  Ah! Ça Ira is published in Scotland in Volume IV of the Aird collection. (See Footnote 14.)

ca. 1795 –  The Downfall is published in England by Gow and Shepherd under the title The much admired quick step called the Downfall of Paris.

1801 –  The Downfall crosses the Atlantic and is published in Philadelphia by G. Wilig and Sons.  G. E. Blake of Philadelphia publishes it in 1812 as does G. Graupner of Boston.

With these histories, how was it possible for Blakeney, a contemporary military man, to confuse the two tunes?  Was he so deceived by the eighth and 2/16th note motive, he failed to notice the disparity between them? Had he forgotten or ever known the French heritage of Ça Ira? Was Winstock simply unaware of their existence as two different works?  Or was he fabricating an entertaining Anglo centric story for history? Whatever the reason, in the minds of some people the two names became associated with one tune, The Downfall of Paris.

SURRENDER OF PARIS, Downfall of Paris,  Fall of Paris, The Fall of Paris or The Downfall of Paris.

I am indebted to Joe Whitney, fifer and drummer of Virginia, for reading this article and informing me of a manuscript titled “The7th Reg., Quick March or Surrender of Paris”  in the possession of the Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections, University of Birmingham, England.

Though Mr. Whitney had not seen the manuscript, he quoted the national tune index to confirm “Surrender of Paris” was what later became known as “The Downfall of Paris”. “Surrender of Paris” appears on page 5  of a tune book inscribed  “1788”  and “Thos. Molyneux., English – 6th Regnt Shelburn, Nova Scotia”.

Subsequently I purchased a copy of the manuscript from Cadbury Research Library. It is indeed what we know today as The Downfall of Paris. Of interest in this Surrender of Paris, is a Tag which does not appear in any version of the Downfall I’ve seen. If the date 1788 and entry of the tune coincided, Surrender of Paris would predate by 7 years the earliest printed version of The Fall of Paris in my possession and  by 2 years the first printings of Le Carillon National and Ah! Ça Ira.

However, dates such as those found in Molyneux tend to raise questions. Was 1788 the date Molyneux purchased his tune book and the “Surrender of Paris” entered later?  Or did a relative incorrectly inscribe the book years after Molyneux’s death? And was the regiment in Nova Scotia in 1788?

The meaning of the title also presents something of a conundrum. “Surrender” might refer to the Treaty of Paris after the Seven years War between Britain and France, known in North America as the French and Indian War.(1754-63). The treaty made France cede all its Canadian territories to Britain and Louisiana to Spain. Whoever chose the title could well have considered the Treaty of Paris to have been the surrender of Paris.

Moreover, in 1783, five years before Molyneux, there was another Treaty of Paris, this one ending the United States War for Independence. Might a staunch loyalist soldier considered this to have been a surrender?

As a manuscript title, The Fall of Paris does not appear until five years after the beginning of the French Revolution and by 1812 the title The Downfall of Paris appears.  Did the 7th Royal Fusiliers (City of London) keep their “Surrender” Quick March while other British Army musicians began playing The Fall and Downfall?

“The 7th .Regiment was formed in 1685 from 2 Companies of the Tower of London Guard. They were bestowed the title of The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment), 7th. Regiment of Foot, until the British Army Regimental numbering system was abolished in 1881, thus dropping the 7th. number with their Depot in the Tower and, along with the 5 Foot Guards Regiments, has today the privilege of marching through the City of London with ‘bayonets fixed, Colors flying and drums beating’. It served in Canada in1751.

G. 1788, Surrender of Paris from a Tune Book of Thos. Molyneux. Inside cover inscribed ” Thos. Molyneux English 6th Rednt.. Shelburn Nova Scotia”.  Page 5, inscribed “The 7th Reg., Quick March or Surrender of Paris .”

“The 7th were the Royal Fusiliers (City of London) and the 6th the Warwickshire. Regiment.” Greg Tunesi.

The 7th Reg.,Quick March Surrender of Paris .

Below,is a ca.1795 printing from Dublin, Ireland of The Fall of Paris or Essex’s Quickstep.16 (The manuscript is in a layout popular during the late 18th and early 19th centuries; a rather simple keyboard adaptation published with an additional part for melody instruments.) This version, as with three others shown below from 1805 and 1814, does not give a composer’s name. Commercial publications such as this, usually made by in-house arrangers, suggest the tune was already well known, in the air if you will.

Aside from dotted notes, the absence of a  triplet 16th note pickup to the first measure and some melodic alterations just prior to phrase endings, this 1795 melody is remarkably similar to the arrangement Daniel Emmett made about 67 years later.

But whence cometh the name The Fall of Paris? England and France were perennial enemies and, if one accepts English authorship, the title could have been inspired by wishful thinking. Perhaps an ex pat or republican sympathizer meant it as a musical momento mori when the great city was despoiled by Revolution. However, no explanation, composer’s name or date appears on this or any other manuscript of the tune.

H. ca.1795- The fall of Paris or Essex Quick Step: for the piano forte or harpsichord with Flute or Guitar, 16. Book Dated ca.1795.

The dotted eighth notes in measures 1 and 2 are obviously engraving errors. This is born out by their absence in the body of the work and in the  Flute and Guitar music. ((The white background impressions are the stamp of Cambridge University Library.)

1795-The Fall of Paris-Essex's Quickstep/ 1795-Page two.

. (Harvard University Theater Library.)

1817-Ah! Ca Ira, Tthos. Wilson Dancing Master, London.

1817-The Downfall of Paris, Thos. Wilson, Dancing Master, London.

Ken Purvis, historian and  War of 1812 specialist, said he’d heard the Downfall was written by British musicians as a parody of Ah! Ça Ira.  A parody it may have been. Unlike most folk tunes which are in an A-B-(A) form, The Fall of Paris, is structured A-B-C-D, which for a parodist, allows more repetitions of the  eighth and two sixteenth motive. The H. Andrews version below, from 1805 contains thirty one repetitions of the eighth and two sixteenth motif where as the 1790 Ah! Ça Ira contains only nineteen.

K. Complete Instruction for the Fife,H. Andrews, London, England, 1805.

ca. 1805, H. Andrews, Complete Instructions for the Fife, London

Because of its dynamics, the H. Andrews is of more than passing interest. As a rule,folk songs in  collections, diaries and manuscripts do not contain dynamics. Therefore in this example their use and placement is unusual.

L. The Fall of Paris from the Buttrey Manuscript, ca. 1805, perhaps earlier.17 This could have been copied from the 1795 Dublin version excepting the tied whole note reversal in the second strain. The dotted 16th notes are common in early printings. If one plays or sings the tune at a typical tempo of the era, m.m=72, the dotted notes add an appealing lilt to the straight 16th version. ca.1805-The Fall of Paris, Buttrey Manuscript, Ft. York, Toronto.

M. Fall of Paris from Riley’s Flute Melodies, 1814.17 (Again, with dotted notes.) 1814-Fall of Paris, Riey's Flute Melodies, N.Y., New York.

N . Downfall of Paris, arranged by George B. Bruce and Dan D. Emmett, Drummers and Fifers Guide, Wm.  Pond and Co., New York, 1862 .

      1862-Downfall of Paris, Bruce and Emmett, New York, NY.

With the assistance of Ed Boyle the following additional titles for Downfall of Paris were found on contemporary song indexes: Ça Ira, Carillon National, Ceimsios Parais – Central Paris?, Downfall Of Paris, The Downfall Of Paris March, The Downfall Of Paris Set Dance – n.b. Irish set dances are based in the Quadrille, England The Home Of The World, The Fall Of Paris, La Ira,. There are probably many more.


The purpose of this article was to provide the Quadrille Carillon National, the song Ah! Ça Ira Dictum Populaire Air du Carillon and The Downfall of Paris with  an historic context by determining their first appearance in print, the name of their authors their uses and relationships to each other.  With the assistance of libraries in  Europe, England, Ireland, the United States and Canada who provided me with digital images of manuscripts from their collections,I feel  my efforts have at least partially been successful. (The composer and date of creation for the Downfall of Paris remains unknown.)

I also wanted to investigate some of the more popular anecdotes which accompany these tunes. In their telling, they were entertaining, but I had never seen nor heard any proof of their accuracy.

Ah! Ça Ira, though composed originally for a dance, was and is most famously a song. Its melody was regularly altered to accommodate a variety of lyrics, but remained recognizable because it always contained the repeated words  Ah! Ça Ira and their rhythmic pattern. (listen to Edith Piaf note 18 below and compare her performance to the fife renditions above. The 18th century quick march of the 14th Regiment of Foot and today’s Yorkshire Regiment, was and is Ça Ira. And It is almost identical to the tune as published in Paris in 1790.   See footnote 19 for an audio link to the Yorkshire Regiment Band performing Ça Ira.)

Of the two tunes, the Downfall, as it is popularly referred to today, is better known in North America because of its inclusion in Daniel Emmet and George Bruce’s famous Drummers’ & Fifers’ Guide of 1862. The Guide was never approved for use by the Union Army probably because it was considered too difficult for the average military musician, but Bruce and Emmett’s arrangements achieved a kind of cult status, most notably among drummers and The Downfall of Paris especially has been lauded as a perfect blending of melody and rhythm.

To my knowledge only two drum beatings for the Downfall appeared in print during the first half of the 19th century; Colonel H.C. Hart’s in his “New and Improved Instructor for the Drum” and George Bruce’s in the Drummers and Fifers Guide. The Downfall melody appears in only one book In my collection of drum tutors and fife tunes, published in the United States between 1810 and 1861.20

Judging by the number of arrangements for piano and melody instruments published in the Eastern states just prior to and after the War of 1812, The Downfall of Paris was a popular tune in the parlors of American homes. (Popular as well in other countries.) During my searches I found among other oddities, The fall of Paris: a favorite Russian air arranged as a rondo with an introduction for the harp, Published in London by the Royal Harmonic Institution, 1823.

The eminent musicologist Henry George Farmer (1882-1865) expressed concern for the lack of interest his fellow countrymen displayed towards British military music. The mysteries surrounding the date and authorship of the Downfall of Paris seem to make his point.

I suspect all the questions surrounding  Le Carillon National, Ah! Ça Ira and the Downfall of Paris will not be answered fully here, or to everyone’s satisfaction. But perhaps this and future articles will ameliorate some of the more egregious anecdotes.

As my friend, scholar David Waterhouse said, “It never ends”.


1. Pronounced ah sah ear-rah.

2. The earliest manuscripts are titled Fall of Paris and The Fall of Paris.
3.The Quadrille was an intricate exhibition of military horsemanship dating from the 1600s. It inspired a dance which became all the rage in Europe. Composers such as Joseph Lanner (1801-43) and members of the Strauss family wrote Quadrilles.  The dance was introduced into France during the 1760s where it became a lively dance for couples known as Quadrille de Contredanses. The Quadrille reached England in 1803 where by 1813 it was fashionable among the upper class.

The Bibliotheque national de Francaise, the Bibliotheque nationale et Universitare, Strasbourg and the University of California, Los Angeles have copies of this Frere publication and date them 1790. See also; Brecy, Robert: “The French Revolution in Song”, page 59, Francis Van De Velt/Christian Pirot, France,1988 and Mason, Laura: “Singing the French Revolution. Popular Culture and Politics,1787-1799”, Cornell University Press, 1996.

4. The Rare Books Collection of the University of Toronto Library maintains a copy of Constant Pierre’s Les hymnes et chansons de la Revolution: apercu general et catalogue, Paris, 1904, but Becourt’s name does not appear.

5. The Bastille was stormed to obtain its cache of weapons. At the time only eleven prisoners were incarcerated. There would have been twelve had not the Marquis de Sade (1740-1814) been moved  earlier to another location. The Marquis spent thirty years in prison, but was a delegate to the Revolutionary Council during the Revolution.

6. Id. Mason, Laura. Pages 162-63. See also Schama, Simon; Citizens, Alfred Knopf, New York, 1989.

7. I am indebted to linguist Andre Mather  for his translation of the original Ladre lyrics to Ah! Ça Ira Dictum Populaire Air du Carillon National, (1790) as published in Brecy, the lyrics to Chanson Patriotique (tune: Ah! Ça Ira)  July 1791, Brecy, and other insights into the French revolutionary period.

I am also indebted to his Brother Eric Mather for the translation and interpretation of Becourt;s instructions for the dance movements to the Quadrille, Le Carillon National.(See manuscript A above.)

Ah! Ça Ira 1790, translated from Brecy

The people in this day
continually repeat Ah ca ira
in spite of the ministers
everything will work out
our confused enemies are finished
and we are going to sing Alleluia.
Ah ça ira, ça ira, ça ira.

Chanson Patriotique, July 14, 1791, translated from Brecy.

String up the aristocrats
we will hang the aristocrats

Despotism will end
liberty will triumph
We don’t have any nobles or priests

Equality will rain everywhere
the Prussian brigades will fall
the aristocratic slaves will follow
this clique will flow away.

8. Id. Mason, Laura.

9. Pierre, Constant:  Les hymnes et chansons de la Revolution: apercu general et catalogue, Paris, 1904

10. Franklin was famous in Europe as an author, publisher and scientist, In 1783 the French gave Franklin a demonstration on the Champs de Mars of the first hydrogen balloon which had just been invented by Jacques Charles and the Robert brothers in August 1783.   A Hydrogen balloon was first effectively used in combat during the battle of Fleurus  (1794) where it played a decisive role in the French victory over an allied army of the first coalition. (1792-97)

Below are two contemporary paintings of the battle, each showing the Charles and Robert brother’s Hydrogen balloon.

Bataille de Fleurus,1794

Bataille de Fleurus,1794

1794-Battle of fleurus. 11. This reminds me somewhat of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, where Copland used the great Shaker gift song Simple Gifts, but changed the original eight and one half bar phrase to eight bars. See: Patterson, David W.; The Shaker Spiritual, page 372-3, Dover Publications Inc., Mineola, NY, 2000.

12. If British troops participated, the culprits were probably musicians of the British Army 14th of Foot. The Quick march of the 14th, later incorporated into the Yorkshire Regiment, had beenAh! Ça Ira for about twenty years prior to the battle of Waterloo and is the Quick march of the Yorkshire Regiment today.

13. A similar story comes from the American War for Independence. In 1781 Lord Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, and 8,000 soldiers, a third of all British land forces in North America laid down their arms. Surrendering, were battalions and brigades from ten British regiments, each possessing its own band and battle honored tune. As they marched out of Yorktown,  the British and Hessian troops were said to have played The World Turned Upside Down. (ca. 1646)  Perhaps The World Turned Upside Down was played at Yorktown, but it seems very unlikely that all the musicians, including the Germans, would, or could have played this one tune. Further, it is not mentioned in contemporary accounts of the surrender.

The phrase The World Turned Upside Down has become synonymous with major socio political upheavals. It has survived 350 years and is suggested during Mel Gibson’s film The Patriot when Cornwallis recognizing defeat at the hands of a colonial “rabble” says forlornly,  “Nothing will ever be the same”.

Years later an eyewitness to the surrender claimed Yankee Doodle (ca. 1758)) was  played by Colonial musicians.  The surrendering British troops, proud veterans too, humiliated to acknowledge their defeat by a peasant colonial army, steadfastly looked at the French who were aligned on the opposite side of the road from the colonials. An irate Marquis de Lafayette is said to have ordered Washington’s musicians to play Yankee Doodle, originally an English tune, ‘at’ the British in order to make them acknowledge their conquerors. According to David McCullough in his book The Greater Journey, Americans in Paris,  this event is confirmed by the Marquis himself.

14. A primary source of information for Covent Garden’s production of the pantomime The Picture of Paris &c. was the 37 page vocal score published by Longman and Broderip, London. The score lists Naumann, Merry and Shields as authors and contains information regarding the music,the placement of Ah! Ça Ira and a cast of characters.

Anne Bruton, see Doty, Gresdna; The Career of Mrs. Anne Brunton Merry in the American Theatre, pages 34 – 35, Charles Bonner &c., see Highfill, Philip H; ,A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers and Other Stage Personnel in London, 1660 to 1800; Volume 16, page 71, The Board of Trustees, Southern Illinois University, 1993.

Johan Gottlieb Naumann studied in Dresden, Germany with a student of Bach and today is mostly known as the composer of the Dresden Amen. Felix Mendelsohn in the Reformation Symphony and Richard Wagner in his opera Parsifal, used Naumann’s Amen.

15. The British troops at the battle of Farmars were commanded by the Duke of York. To honor him and from a sense of patriotic duty, the first Govenor General of Canada, John Graves Simcoe changed the name of Toronto, a native American name, to York. The town soon became known as Muddy York because of its location which bordered a lake to the south and a  swamp to the east , both creating almost impassable roads in spring and winter.  York was renamed Toronto in 1834.

O.  1794-Ah! Ça Ira, The Aird Collection, Fort York National Heritage Site Library, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 1794-Aird Collection-Vol IV. 16. “The dance Essex Quickstep was in all likelihood not named for a person, but rather for the county in England whose early Saxon name means East Saxon.”  David Waterhouse, phone conversation with R.E.

There is no printed date on the work or any note relating to it. However the paper has a 1795 watermark, therefore it can be dated as 1795 at the earliest (although of course it could be later than that).”

Margaret Jones, Senior Asst. Librarian, Music Dept., Cambridge University Library. Letter to R.E.

17. The National Archives of Canada, Ottawa.

“The Buttrey manuscript appears to have been the tune-book of the 34th regiment and contains a first hand account of the Battle of St. Kitts in 1782. John Buttrey was born in that year and didn’t join the regiment until 1797 and didn’t leave England until 1799. His name appears twice on the inside cover and there is a naive looking water-colour of a drum major from about 1805 on the same page. Buttrey leaves the service in 1810 and is back in Lincoln England by 1811.”
Ken Purvis, Historian, Montgomery’s Inn, Toronto. Letter to R.E.

18. Piaf sings Ah! Ça Ira: Click HERE.

19. The Yorkshire Regimental Band playing its Quick March, Ça Ira. Click HERE.

20. The tune appears as Downfall of Parais (sic) in Vol. 9 of Musical Miscellany, The Martial Music of Camp Dupont, &c Pennsylvania, published by the author in Philadelphia, PA, 1815.


Posted by on October 28, 2011 in Articles, Fifes & Drums, History


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Edmund Boyle, Passion and Patience: restoring historic documents.

Ed Boyle
Ed Boyle

I first connected with Ed Boyle while researching part three of my Examples of Snare Drum Notation. Doug Kleinhans a former Hellcat drummer, composer and teacher  from Medina. New York had sent me a manuscript obtained from a former student and member of the Lancraft Fife and Drum Corps of North Haven, Connecticut, with a notation he called “the Connecticut Code”.  I visited the lancraft website, looked for a contact and discovered Ed’s name. We exchanged e-mails and,though himself a fifer, Ed recruited a half  dozen Lancraft drummers to further my inquiries into “the Code”.1

After I’d finished my article, Ed and I continued to communicate. As I began looking over the historic manuals for Fife and Drum offered on his website, I noticed many of these manuals were advertised as “digitally enhanced”.  I asked Ed to explain and he sent me a copy of the 1812, Charles Robbins Drum and Fife Instructor as an example of his work. What I saw was revelatory.2

My collection of historic fife and drum manuals consists almost exclusively of copies made from original editions. Some of them were given to me by friends. Others I photographed or purchased in libraries. But for the most part, they had been obtained from purveyors of fife an drum accoutrement. These books are xerox copies, too often faint or indecipherable and poorly bound. When Ed’s book arrived and I saw the quality of his reproduction, layout and binding, I asked him to explain the process necessary to achieve such exemplary results.

In response to that question and others posed by me, Ed wrote the following:

“I am 71 years of age and began fifing at age 11 in New Haven, Connecticut. Over the intervening years, I have lived in Maryland, Virginia,and as a member of the US Air Force,  all over  the United States. I have been a resident of Pennsylvania for about 40 years. I started in a corps at my parish church and joined Lancraft Fife and Drum Corps in 1957. I have been a member ever since. With the late Bill Reamer, I founded Independence Fife and Drum Corps (Broomall, PA) in 1974, just in time for the Bicentennial. I presently own and manage Philadelphia Fife and Drum, which performs at Independence Hall daily every summer and opens many conventions, etc, in eastern Pennsylvania. We have performed in England and Italy.

It seems as if I have always taught. I have attended many a reenactment over the years, teaching young and old fifers in the process. This is what really got me going: At most reenactments, I would be approached a few times by people asking where they could get fife lessons. I responded in the affirmative, volunteering my services, only to find that they lived hundreds or thousands of miles away. Consequently, I wrote my Tutorial on the Fife and created an audio CD to go with it, so my students could actually hear how a lesson should sound. I created a website, to sell it. I am happy to say that, to date, I have created close to 2000 fifers worldwide! Over the years, I have added various products useful to fifers and drummers alike.

During my fifing career I have often seen photocopies of various music manuals and tutorials for sale at sutlers tables that were of pretty dismal quality. Some of them must have been 10th or 15th generation photocopies some probably dating to when thermal paper was used.

One day  in 2003 or so, I was visiting the Library Company of Philadelphia, founded by Benjamin Franklin. While digging around, I happened to run across Willig’s Compleat Tutor for the Fife. I recalled that a 20th century friend of mine once told me that he used that very book to learn the instrument. So, I sat there in wonderment, roped in at a special table in the library, wearing white cotton gloves, holding a piece of history in my hands. History had not been good to it. The paper had the brownish hue of a cigarette filter, had rips, tears, stains, and was extremely faded, almost to the point of total illegibility. In short, it was shot. I had copies made on a special copying machine at a stiff price, took them home and scanned them into my computer.

Using the finest graphical software of the day, it was impossible to automate what I did. It still is. The 30 pages of Willig took me an average of about ten hours per page to restore. Page 30 took me three days. I had to redraw lines, stems, clefs..the whole works. . . for the entire book. Below are the before and after images.

Since then, I have restored 21 other manuscripts. The process begins by scouring the world’s libraries for a good quality original, copy, microfilm, or microfiche. Sometimes, I have resorted to devious means, but no harm done…I would never reveal my co-conspirators. Often, because one copy was of poor quality or missing pages, I had to use multiple sources. On average, it requires 300 – 500 hours per book.

Some books took me years to complete. In every source of Massachusetts Collection of Martial Music, a few notes were missing in the first line of Robinson’s March. Since the book was compiled by Alvyn Robinson, I assumed that he wrote the tune. He didn’t! I set it aside for 2 – 3 years. I was digging through a pile of loose pages of various music that predated the book by at least 50 years and found the missing notes! Delighted, I completed the book.

Beyond any doubt, the hardest part of what I do is cleaning up text, simply because it is the definition of tedium. I can start anywhere. Find a letter in whatever ancient font was used, like a lower case “e.” Look around through the entire book and find a good looking “e.” Magnify it, and clean it up manually. Then cut and paste that “e” replacing all the “e”s that turn up in a 65 page book. I then do the remainder of the alphabet, upper and lower case. There is a very thin line between determination and insanity. Restoring calligraphy on the front covers can push one over the top.3

In every copy I have ever seen of Hart’s Instructor for the Drum (1862), there are seven pages at the end  that were blurred beyond comprehension and in a very small font. It took an inordinate amount of permutations and guesswork to figure it all out, but now any historian knows the duties of a Civil War drum major in consummate detail.4

There are no “trade secrets” to what I do. It is just hard work. Since I don’t do much performing, I usually work on the books in the winter. I am probably not going to restore any more, anyway, because about a year ago I received an email with an Adobe file attached.  The file was a a book I had restored. The message was “Here is a copy of Strube. Print it, sell it, or give it away.” It is a different world nowadays, where copyright means nothing and intellectual property can be stolen at will.

Oddly enough, the bills aren’t paid by fifers or drummers. They are paid by guitar players, collectors and owners of old Les Paul, Telecaster, etc. Guitars. It is a strange story.

For most of my life, I have encouraged all woodwind players to oil their instruments. A proper oil preserves the tropical hardwoods from which they are made, makes the bore hydrophobic, and the instrument is easier play and sounds better. Fifers just don’t listen. However, almost a decade ago, owners of rare 50s and 60s guitars learned that the oil I carry, named Bore Doctor, was great for preservation of their Ebony and Rosewood fret boards. I had it packaged in larger bottles and called it Fret Doctor. I sell thousands of bottles per year all over the world.

It is also used on wooden clarinets, oboes, bassoons, English horns, knife handles, cutting boards, wooden sculpture, pistol grips, bagpipe drones and chanters and even marimba bars. Maybe some day the fifers will catch on.


A few days later Ed sent me this follow-up which to me reads as a perfect Post Script to the story above.

“Just came home from Philadelphia’s new Sugarhouse Casino, which opened today. I provided the fife and drum music.

While there, with my trusty PDA, I set up a meeting between a fifer in Johannesburg, South Africa, with another fifer in Pretoria, both of whom I taught. They may have located a drummer. By any measure, that’s a corps!

Yesterday, I shipped 30 plastic fifes to a woman in South Australia. When she was a kid, her school had a fife and drum corps, but girls were not allowed in. Now, she is a teacher in the same school, and she is getting even. I will be teaching the teacher.

A lady in Maryland lost a ferrule on an old Ferrary fife. I made arrangements for its repair. A lady in Denver, Colorado wants the proper fingering for high C natural. I gave it to her. A kid in Malaysia wants to know how to finger a G#…

This is what I do.



1. Bill Maling, Ken Mazur, James Laske, Dave Delancey and Jack McGuire are some of the drummers associated with Lancraft who helped me by providing examples of the code and explaining their interpretation and use.  My thanks to all of these men.  See the footnotes to Part 3, Examples of Snare Drum Notation on this blog Or visit the Lancraft  Fife and Drum Corps website for the names of other legendary Lancraft drummers.

2.  Since receiving this book, I have  replaced all of my flawed drum manuals with Ed’s publications.

3.  An example of “front cover calligraphy” can be seen below on the photocopy of Charles Stuart Ashworth’s Drum Beating from 1812.

4.  See notes on Hart in Part 3, Examples of Snare Drum Notation.






Posted by on September 26, 2010 in Articles, Fifes & Drums


Examples of Snare Drum Notation, Part 1: 1589-1797.

PROLOGUE to Examples of Snare Drum Notation:

I have studied military snare drum manuals published during the 18 and 19 centuries. They provide insights into the beats drummer’s played and the type of  drum instruction available 100 or more years ago. They have their own personalities and the diaries written with quill pens, books printed with crude type, hand made paper, colorful, antiquated language and interesting notation provide glimpses into the life and times of their authors.

As I turned pages, I became fascinated with their unique and sometimes indecipherable notations. Had these been invented to assist drummer boys learning the military camp duties, boys who were often unable to read music, or had the teachers, grappling with the intricacies of a drum beat, been forced to invent their own notations, or both? But those theories didn’t make complete sense.

For example, music notation had become highly evolved and standardizeds during the Baroque era (ca. 1600-1750), well befor the first drum manual was published in America in 1810. An extensive set of symbols, particularly for keyboard and string music, was developed for embellishments ranging from single grace notes to trills and complex ornaments. Thomas Arne (1710-78) wrote in traditional notation, eight and five stroke snare drum rolls for March with a side drum in his Masque Alfred (1740).

So, why did teachers of the drum develope their own unique notation and sometimes nomenclature, while all the music surounding them was using a notation familiar today.  I believe the answer is rather mundane. The authors wanted to sell books. It is interesting to note how often the words best, authentic, most, easiest, true, approved, complete, etc. appear on their front pages immediately after the title.

The war for independence had just ended and the tradition of local militiamen  was still very strong. In New England where all of these books were written, every hamlet, village, and town maintained an armed militia and at least one fifer and drummer.  This area of the United States was still sparsely settled particularly outside a large town such as Boston. Competition among teachers and teaching methods and rivalries between militias and their fifers and drummers must have existed, as they continue to do.

Today, Much effort has been expended by teachers and instrument manufacturers in attempts to standardize sound, methods and nomenclature. In Examples of Snare Drum Notation one will encounter not so much an evolution of the drummers craft as his independent spirit. As the reader will discover at the end of Part 3, there are drummers still marching to a different notation.


Until the early twentieth century, instruction books for snare drummers were written to conform with military protocol.1 These books contained names for drum strokes, signals for camp duty and field maneuvers,  exercises or ‘rudiments’2, and often, appropriate tunes for fife, the instrument most commonly paired with the field snare or side drum.  They did not tell drummers how the drum was played,3

Creating symbols for the snare drum strokes, signals and exercises, and staves upon which to put them, has occupied players and teachers of military drumming for at least 350 years. The examples of drum notation which follow, are arranged as closely as possible in chronological order and represent all extant drum manuals or fragments thereof in my possession from the period of time covered

1555? The first mention of military drum signals in English history, date from the reign of Queen Mary (1553-58).  They applied to foot soldiers and were titled March, Alarm, Approach, Assault, Battle, Retreat and Skirmish. However, these seven signals survive as names only, no music notation for them is known to exist.4

1589. The earliest extant music notation for military drum is in Orchesography, a treatise on the honourable exercise of dancing by Thoinot Arbeau, published by Jehan des Preyz, Langres, France.5

1589-Orchesography,Thoinot Arbeau, Langres France.

1589-Orchesography,Thoinot Arbeau, Langres France.

Arbeau’s notation is easily understood today if one reduces each note by half, i.e., a half note (minum) to a quarter note, a quarter to an eighth, etc. There are no grace notes or rolls in Orchesography. The right hand plays the first note of each group and both hands together play the last note. The right hand stroke coincides with the left foot, and the fifth note-hands together-coincides with the right foot, thus completing one stride. This sequence of right hand-left foot, left hand-right foot, “keeps the player in balance” while marching.6 Some scholars believe the 16th c. minum was a relatively quick beat much like the quarter note today; perhaps 115 beats per minute”

1627. Bonaventura Pistofilo’s, Torneo (Bologna, Italy,), a book of illustrations instructing Cavaliere (Knights or soldiers) in postures for weapon’s drill, 7 contains, according to James Blades (1901-99), the first  drum beats actually used in a military context.8 In the example below, lines one and three show the drum beats, while lines two and four dictate the soldier’s movements in response to the drum. The notation is similar to Arbeau, but the bar lines, typical of the age, do not mean what they mean today.*9

1621-Torneo, Bonaventura Pistofilo.

1621-Torneo, Bonaventura Pistofilo.

There are other mysteries as well.  What is the relationship between “Primo tempo” and “Secondo Tempo”?  What is the meaning of the dots over some notes, the + (‘crosses’) and the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, which appear only under the soldier’s staves? These remain to be deciphered, but the onomatopoeia device, here, ta – pa,  was also used in Arbeau and will be familiar to modern military drummers.10 So too is the stem down, stem up notation which may make its first appearance here, and probably indicates right and left hands, a device in use to this day.

1632. Charles I of England(1625-49), issued a Warrant directing the restoration of the English March to its original rhythm as it had suffered from improper interpretation. Copies of the march and warrant have appeared in various texts. The original has not been found.

1632-Warrant, English March.

1632-Warrant, English March.

At first glance, the deciphering of this beat seems to be at our fingertips: the notation in Arbeau and Pistofilo are similar, but how this march was played, has been argued since its actual sound faded from memory.11 Note the use of both single and double bar lines, fermatas, and the onomatopoeia, here pou and tou, with a final poung.12 The capital R, appears with intriguing regularity and may indicate a roll or a ruff; perhaps a key to deciphering the March.

1634. After these tantalizing examples of almost decipherable drum notation,two  unique and aggravatingly obscure manuscripts appear. The first is a version of The English March shown in the Warrant above and published by Thomas Fisher in Warlike Directions or the Soldiers Practice.13

1644-Warlike Directions, Thomas Fisher.

1644-Warlike Directions, Thomas Fisher.

1= Left Hand,   I= Right Hand,   r= Full Ruff,   2= 1/2 Ruff,   Ir= Stroke and Ruff,    r2= A Ruff and a half joined together. (6 Rudimenss in this beating.)

The Preparation. which precedes the drum beat is, in Charles’ Warrant,The Voluntary Before the March

In the sentence below the drum beating, Fisher says, “I have insisted somewhat long in the office of the drummer, so that I find a great deficit in that place, and would wish a more general reformation.” Fisher is petitioning King Charles I for a job as drum instructor throughout the kingdom, and if the credentials he gives for himself in his book’s preface are believable, he may well have been qualified.

1650-90. And then, this curious document. Discovered glued to the inside of a book in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, England, it is referred to as the Douce (pronounced Dowse) Document after the book’s original owner. Shown below is one page of the document titled “The Grounds of Beating Ye Drum”. Under this title, arranged from left to right, are 11 symbols or pictographs representing drum strokes or rudiments.

1650-90 (ca.)-Douce, Grounds for Beating Ye Drum.

1650-90 (ca.)-Douce, Grounds for Beating Ye Drum.

The interpretations for these symbols read as follows:  “one stroke and a touch”, “Is a plain stroke”, “Is 4 strokes beginning easy and ending hard”, “Is a half ruffe beginning loud and ending loud”, “Is a whole ruffe which is 5 strokes ending loud”, “Is a ruffe and half which is 8 strokes”, , “Is a stroke with both sticks together”, “Is a stroke with both sticks and a touch”, “Is rolling two sticks with one hand and two strokes with ye other”, “Is continual rolling”, “Is a bang by ye hoop” (a Pointing, Poung, pong or poing stroke?  There is a similar instruction in Levi Lovering’s 1818 book,page 9.See my posting “What was a Poing Stroke?”)

1777. Reveille from Trommel Spielett, George L. Winters,(Berlin); according to the late James Blades,the earliest military drum manual in existence. The upward slanting being this on all the roles indicate crescendos. (A combination of upward and downward slanting beams appear on other pages in the manual.) The beating below is identical to the Reveille in use today in the Swedish and Dutch armies. (see Part II)

1777-George L. Winters, Berlin.

1777-George L. Winters, Berlin.

1778.   The Valley Forg (sic)drum beating below, is from A Revolutionary War Drummers Book, a possession of the Massachusetts historical Society. It’s twenty nine pages were written entirely with a quill pen, and contain much to recommend them to drummers. On his opening pages the anonymous author lists 20 exercises (rudiments). He begins with what he terms “The Rule of the first roll or Gamut for the Drum” i.e. closing the long roll.Included also is a Twelve stroke roll.

In the example below, the very first note is an eighth note with a backward beam. This is a 7, and indicates a seven stroke role, the first six notes of which precede the downbeat, but are not shown. “The letter R signifies A roll”. The two staves which separate Right and Left hands, are, to my knowledge, the earliest extant example of this device, a variant of the single stave with up and down stems in The Young Drummers Assistant from the same period.

1778(ca.) A Revolutionary War Drummer's Book.

1778(ca.) A Revolutionary War Drummer’s Book.

Above is my interpretation of the Valley Forg beat. Every drum beating in the book was named for a tune it was meant to accompany. (The Valley Forg(e) is a catchy tune.) Finding these tunes, many existing under different names,and transcribing the drum beatings into modern notation,was often a challenge, but always exciting.

1779-84. With the appearance of  The Young Drummers Assistant (London), illustrated below, drum notation appeared to be continuing in the mainstream of common practice, and the Thomas Fischer and Douce manuscripts appeared to have been anomalies.

1784(ca.)-Young Drummers Assistant, London.

1784(ca.)-Young Drummers Assistant, London.

The Young Drummers Assistant may well be the first drum manual published in the West utilizing three line notation;  the notes on the middle line indicate the primary beats, in this case, the end note  of rolls. Stems up indicate the Left hand, stems down, right hand.

“Mother”, is the five stroke roll.(See Ashworth, Part II) This book contains 12 “Marks” (rudiments), but the 5 stroke roll is not among them.  Interestingly, “Roll Continued” is listed recalling the “Roll Continuing” in the Douce Document from approximately 100 years earlier.  Also included is a “Pointing Stroke” Which cannot help but remind one of the “Poing Stroke”.

ca.1780-90. This Book titled Scotch (sic) Duty Beatings is part of the Thomas Shaw–Hellier collection devoted to mid to late 18th-century music manuscripts in possession of the Music Library, Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham, England. The  staff of the  Shaw–Hellier collection has not been able to date this manuscript, but agreed with me that based on its similarity to The Young Drummers Assistant above, it probably dates from the same decades,  The Scotch Duty Beatings’s staves are printed, but the notation is by hand and made with quill pen.  I have chosen to reproduce a similar section of Mother and three Camps Reveille from both books. The book contains 12 rudiments including a Six stroke roll.

ca1780-Scotch (sic) Duty Beatings

ca1780-Scotch (sic) Duty Beatings

1788. Die Erste Tagwacht, (Reveille.) The text reads: “The First Morning Call. To every measure of this morning call belongs a step. One will always beat the first and second part twice.” (repeat both parts always.)

1788-Swiss notation, Reveille.

1788-Swiss notation, Reveille.

A totally phonetic approach to teaching drummers. This Tagwacht drum beating “from the Berner Ordommanx1788. Likely even earlier, it appears as the identical French drum call, ‘Premier Reveille’ with the pretty melody, ‘Goddess Diana at the Break of Day.’ The oldest known morning call”.14

1797. Below is a reproduction of one page from Benjamin Clark’s Drum Book Titled Rules for the Drum.  The notation is similar to The Young Drummers Assistant and the Scotch Duty aboveexcept for the direction of the note stems, and lists rolls of varying lengths – the long roll, 10, 9, 7, 5, and  3 stroke rolls, as well as drags and ‘ruffe’.  Clark’s book was discovered in 1974 by Kate Van Winkle Kellerand subsequentlySusan Cifaldi collected and transcribed the fife tunes to match the books drum beatings transcribed into modern notation by Bob Castillo.15

1797-Benjamin Clark drum book.

1797-Benjamin Clark drum book.

Clark’s book contains nine exercises (rudiments) including a Three stroke roll..

Footnotes to Part 1:

1. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, two men wrote instruction books for percussion instruments which deviated from the military norm.  Harry A. Bower, who played in the Boston Symphony(1904-07), was first in 1899 with his  Imperial Method for the Drums, Timpani, Bells Etc.. The John Church Co., Philadelphia, PA., and followed in1911 with his System for Drums, Bells, Xylophone and Timpani., Carl Fischer, N.Y.

Carl E. Gardner was next in 1919 with his  Modern Method for the Drums, Cymbals and Accessories,  Carl Fischer, N.Y.  Gardner had also played with the B.S.O. and, at the time he wrote his books, was Supervisor of Bands and Orchestras in the Boston Public School System.

Though the books of both men contained some of the essential rudiments–flams, ruffs, and short rolls– Bower and Gardner wrote primarily to train percussionists for symphony orchestra, Vaudeville and theatre orchestra snare, timpani and mallet playing.

2. The word ‘Rudiments’ first appears in print on page 3 of A New Useful and Complete System of Drum Beating by Charles Stewart Ashworth, published in Boston, Massachusetts in 1812.  A complete list of exercises or rudiments shown in each book will be attached to the end of Part II. (Also, see my article, A Brief Note on Drum Rudiments posted on this blog.)

3.  In his Imperial Method for the Drum (1899), Harry A. Bower included three very simple line drawings intended to show the right and left hand grip and the proper angle for setting a concert snare drum. In his System for Drums, Bells, Xylophone and Timpani (1911), Bower used photographs to more clearly show the hand, arm and playing positions for the snare drum.

4.  Grosse, Military Antiquities, 1801, in Henry George Farmer: The Rise and Development of Military Music, 1912-1970. These seven signals (commands) do, however, suggest a rather sophisticated drum technique, as each signal would have been distinctly different, one from the other, in order to impress itself upon men engaged or about to be engaged in the stress and distractions of battle. When encamped, a 16th c. army may well have used additional signals such as Reveille, Assembly and Tattoo, which, in one form or another, were common camp duty signals of the 18th and 19th c.  It may reasonably be assumed that drummers of the 16th c. had a required repertoire of ten or more distinctive drum beats.

5. Thoinot Arbeau: Orchesography, Dover Publcations, New York., soft cover. Orchesography is in the form of a dialogue between its author and his student Capriol, The first chapter explains the correlation between drum beats and moving soldiers together in time, calculating distance and time of travel. Arbeau illustrates how seventy-six variations of five consecutive minims can be created by gradually substituting crochets and quavers for the first four minims.

6. This right, left correlation persists today, even in some non-military snare drum solos. The right hand, commonly the strongest, plays the first beat of each measure, thus helping to clarify a beat’s tempo and form.  Historically, left handedness was considered to be evil, unnatural or simply undesirable. Even today, some left handed young people are forced to use their right hand, particularly for writing. Left handed drummers have always been required to begin with, or change to, a right hand grip in order to conform to either the uniform appearance of a military drum line, or with drum methods and solos based on a right hand lead. The matched grip, so prevalent today, has not entirely done away with left handed issues, as the music military drummers play is written, intentionally or not, from a right hand perspective.

7. Besides emphasizing martial prowess, many of the postures are balletic; befitting the age of  Chivalry which empathized grace, refinement, honour and noble gestures.

1627-Torneo, military drill.

8. James Blades and Jeremy Montague: Early Percussion Instruments from the Middle Ages to the Baroque, (page  11),Oxford University Press, 1976.

9. Understanding the precise function of bar lines during the 16th c, is problematic.  They were not always employed, and when used, seem to have served different purposes depending on the composer. In the 15th century, vertical lines were used to divide the staff into sections. These lines did not initially divide the music into measures of equal length as most music then featured fewer regular rhythmic patterns then in later periods. The use of regular measures became commonplace by the end of the 17th century.  In Orchesography, Arbeau does not use bar lines in his drum beats, perhaps because of their short, uniform length, but he does use them occasionally and always in his melodic examples.

10. For example: Paradiddle, ratamacue, ruff and flam.

11. See Maurice Byrne: The English March and Early Drum Notation, Mr. Byrne spent a good deal of his life comparing and analyzing the English March as it appears in the four known copies of the Charles I Warrant, with the notation in the Fisher and Douce manuscripts and their subsequent reflections in The Young Drummer’s Assistant and Samuel Potter (1815, see part II).

Mr. Byrne’s paper is fascinating, informative and a joy to read. However, if one thinks a final solution to the enigma of the English March awaits, a sentence in Byrne’s second paragraph will give pause.  “All of these notations are incomplete,* but by analyzing their basic rhythm it is possible to interpret the significance of the pause sign which they use so that the march can be written down in modern notation”. Dr. Harrison Pawley of Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, told me he knew without doubt how this English March was played, but did not volunteer his solution.   (*emphasis mine)

12. This appears to be the Pong or Poing stroke of the late 18th century. (See my posting What Was a Poing Stroke?)

13. I am grateful to Graeme Thew, Principal Percussionist, Grenadier Guards Band, for providing me with copies in readable script of the Thomas Fisher and Douce manuscripts.

14. I am indebted to the eminent Swiss percussionist Fritz Hauser for his translation of Tagwatch and other texts from Trommeln Und Pfeifen In Basel, CD 181996 BREO,  a three Compact Disc history of Swiss drumming.

15.  In a phone conversation Ms Cifaldi told me she had found very faint watermarks on some of the pages of Clark’s book. These watermarks belong to a printer in Boston who operated between the years 1800 and 1810. Even so I have decided to place this manuscript in the 18 c. because Clark, though perhaps writing his book at a later date, had been a drummer in the War for Independence  (1775–83) and had himself dated the book.

Benjamin Clark’s Drum Book 1797, Containing 36 Drum Beatings from the year 1797 and 46 Fife Tunes from the same time period With appropriate historical notes provided by the editors. Drum Beatings rendered into modern notation by Bob Castillo, Fife Tunes collected and transcribed by Susan Cifaldi, copyright 1989 Susan L. Cifaldi. This book may be purchased from Mr. Leo Brennan:> Price, $15.00 plus postage.

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Posted by on June 26, 2010 in Articles, Fifes & Drums