Greek literature, modern, literature written in Greek in the modern era, primarily beginning during the period of rebellion against the rule of the Ottoman Empire.

The Rebirth of Greek Literature

Under Turkish rule, Greek literature virtually ceased, except in Crete. In the late 18th cent. two patriots, the poet Rhigas Pheraios (1751-98) and the intellectual Adamantios Koraës (1748-1833), sought to encourage a revival of Greek letters. The revolutionary society Philike Hetairea, founded in 1816, reflected the growing influence in Greece of the French Enlightenment and the rise of European romanticism; both furnished the intellectual framework for the War of Independence (1821-27) and spurred the postwar nationalist revival that awakened a modern Greek literature.

The Language Debate

Literature was hampered, however, by conflict between supporters of the demotic, or popular, literary style, and adherents of a reformed classical style. The Greeks had been completely cut off from the classical tradition by centuries of Turkish occupation and the successful revolution had created such pride in the new nation that there were many champions of a demotic style. Others hoped to restore the classical language which, until the 15th cent., had had an unbroken tradition. Throughout the rest of the 19th cent. and also in the 20th cent., the reformed classical and demotic styles were upheld by uncompromising adherents.

Displaying the impact of Byron's romanticism, the poetry of Alexandros Rangabe (1810-92) offered the finest example of the classical style. Demetrios Vernadakis (1834-1907) and Spyridon Vasiliadis (1845-74) were 19th-century dramatists who wrote romantic plays in classical speech forms. While only recognized as the official language in 1976, demotic Greek won increasing acceptance in all literary genres, particularly in poetry, which flourished above all other forms in modern Greek literature.

The Ionian poets of the middle and late 19th cent. freely used the vernacular. Their leader was Dionysios Solomos (1798-1857), a poet strongly under the influence of German idealism, whose "Ode to Liberty" became the national anthem. Others were Andreas Kalvos (1796-1869), Andreas Lascaratos (1811-1901), the poet Aristotle Valaoritis (1824-79), and the critic Jacob Polylas (1824-96). The Greek-French Jean Psichari (1854-1929) aroused a storm with his satire of the purists, The Voyage (1888), and the publication in 1901 of a demotic translation of the New Testament caused a riot in Athens among university students.

The demotic had the staunch support of such outstanding poets as Kostes Palamas; the classicist Constantine Cavafy (1863-1933); the popular George Drossinis (1859-1951); and the collector of folk poetry, Apostolos Melachrinos. The short stories of Alexandros Papadiamandis (1851-1911) and Argyris Eftaliotis (1849-1923) expressed indigenous themes in the vernacular. Demotic dramatists include the naturalists Ioannis Kambisis (1872-1902) and the psychological dramatist Gregorios Xenopoulos (1867-1951), also an outstanding novelist. In 1927 the poet Angelos Sikelianos and his wife furthered the demotic cause with presentations at Delphi of classic Greek drama in the vernacular.

The Twentieth Century

In general, 20th-century Greek literature reflects the evolution of European modernism in such various forms as French symbolism and surrealism or British-American experiments in narrative technique. Symbolism appears in the work of George Seferis and George Kostiras, surrealism in that of Odysseus Elytis. Recognized as masters of modern Greek letters, Seferis and Elytis each received the Nobel Prize in Literature, in 1963 and 1979, respectively. The poet Maria Polydouri (1902-30) gained renown through her intense, erotic love lyrics. The effort of modern Greek writers to achieve a synthesis of the rich traditions of the Greek heritage is well represented in the work of Nikos Kazantzakis.

Novelists such as Stratis Tsirkas (1911-81), Costas Taktsis (1927-), and Vassilis Vassilikos (1934-) have combined formal innovation with a close analysis of postwar Greek society. Meanwhile, a group of women lyric poets have gained distinction, including Victoria Theodorou (1928-), Angeliki Paulopoulou (1930-), Eleni Fourtouni (1933-), and Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke (1934-). In 1967 the government of King Constantine II was overthrown in a bloodless coup by a group of army colonels; despite strict censorship, antigovernment works still found their way into print. With the fall of the military government in 1974, civil liberties were restored and censorship ceased.


See W. Barnstone, ed., Eighteen Texts: Writings by Contemporary Greek Authors (1972); E. Keeley and P. Bien, ed., Modern Greek Writers (1972); C. A. Trypanis, Greek Poetry from Homer to Sefaris (1981).

Musical genre incorporating diverse styles from Africa, eastern Europe, Asia, South and Central America, the Caribbean, and nonmainstream Western folk sources. The term was first coined largely in response to the sudden increase of recordings in non-English languages that were released in Great Britain and the United States in the 1980s, but by the early 1990s world music had become a bona fide musical genre and counterpoint to the increasingly synthetic sounds of Western pop music. Initially, African popular music and world music were virtually synonymous, and the genre's biggest stars included the Nigerians King Sunny Ade and Fela Anikulapo Kuti and the Senegalese Youssou N'Dour. Moreover, one of its earliest advocates was the Cameroonian-born Frenchman Francis Bebey. By the 21st century world music encompassed everything from Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and the pop-flamenco of the French group the Gipsy Kings to “ambient-global” projects that merged so-called ethnic voice samples with state-of-the-art rhythm programming.

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Style of U.S. popular music sung and performed primarily by African American musicians, having its roots in gospel music and rhythm and blues. The term was first used in the 1960s to describe music that combined rhythm and blues, gospel, jazz, and rock music and that was characterized by intensity of feeling and earthiness. In its earliest stages, soul music was found most commonly in the South, but many of the young singers who were to popularize it migrated to cities in the North. The founding of Motown in Detroit, Mich., and Stax-Volt in Memphis, Tenn., did much to encourage the style. Its most popular performers include James Brown, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, and Aretha Franklin.

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or rock and roll

Musical style that arose in the U.S. in the mid-1950s and became the dominant form of popular music in the world. Though rock has used a wide variety of instruments, its basic elements are one or several vocalists, heavily amplified electric guitars (including bass, rhythm, and lead), and drums. It began as a simple style, relying on heavy, dance-oriented rhythms, uncomplicated melodies and harmonies, and lyrics sympathetic to its teenage audience's concerns—young love, the stresses of adolescence, and automobiles. Its roots lay principally in rhythm and blues (R&B) and country music. Both R&B and country existed outside the mainstream of popular music in the early 1950s, when the Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed (1921–65) and others began programming R&B, which until then had been played only to black audiences. Freed's success gave currency to the term rock and roll. The highly rhythmic, sensual music of Chuck Berry, Bill Haley and the Comets, and particularly Elvis Presley in 1955–56 struck a responsive chord in the newly affluent postwar teenagers. In the 1960s several influences combined to lift rock out of what had already declined into a bland and mechanical format. In England, where rock's development had been slow, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were found to have retained the freshness of its very early years and achieved enormous success in the U.S., where a new generation had grown up unaware of the musical influences of the new stars. At the same time, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, the Byrds, and others were blending the traditional ballads and verse forms of folk music with rock, and musicians began to explore social and political themes. Performers such as the Grateful Dead, Jim Morrison of the Doors, and Frank Zappa of the Mothers of Invention combined imaginative lyrics with instrumental virtuosity, typically featuring lengthy solo improvisation. Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix won large followings with their exotic elaborations on R&B. The 1970s saw the rise of singer-songwriters such as Paul Simon, Neil Young, Elton John, David Bowie, and Bruce Springsteen, and rock assimilated other forms to produce jazz-rock, heavy metal, and punk rock. In the 1980s the disco-influenced rock of Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Prince was balanced by the post-punk “new wave” music of performers such as Laurie Anderson, Talking Heads (led by David Byrne), and the Eurythmics—all of whom illustrated their songs with music videos. By the 1990s rock music had incorporated grunge, rap, techno, and other forms.

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Popular entertainment that featured successive acts by singers, comedians, dancers, and actors. The form derived from the taproom concerts given in city taverns in England in the 18th–19th centuries. To meet the demand for entertainment for the working class, tavern owners often annexed nearby buildings as music halls, where drinking and smoking were permitted. The originator of the English music hall as such was Charles Morton, who built Morton's Canterbury Hall (1852) and Oxford Hall (1861) in London. Leading performers included Lillie Langtry, Harry Lauder (1870–1950), and Gracie Fields. Music halls evolved into larger, more respectable variety theatres, such as London's Hippodrome and the Coliseum. Variety acts combined music, comedy acts, and one-act plays and featured celebrities such as Sarah Bernhardt and Herbert Tree. Seealso vaudeville.

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German music box, with disk in playing position, from Leipzig, c. 1900

Mechanical musical instrument in which projecting pins on a revolving brass cylinder or disk, encoding a piece of music, pluck tuned steel tongues. It was probably invented circa 1780 in Switzerland. With its modular cylinders or disks, it was a popular domestic instrument until displaced by the player piano and phonograph.

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Art concerned with combining vocal or instrumental sounds for beauty of form or emotional expression, usually according to cultural standards of rhythm, melody, and, in most Western music, harmony. Music most often implies sounds with distinct pitches that are arranged into melodies and organized into patterns of rhythm and metre. The melody will usually be in a certain key or mode, and in Western music it will often suggest harmony that may be made explicit as accompanying chords or counterpoint. Music is an art that, in one guise or another, permeates every human society. It is used for such varied social purposes as ritual, worship, coordination of movement, communication, and entertainment.

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klezmer music(Yiddish; “vessel of song”)

Traditional music played by professional musicians (klezmorim) in the Jewish ghettos of eastern Europe, especially for weddings and other ceremonies. The klezmer tradition has its roots in medieval Europe. By the 19th century its style was well-developed, influenced not only by the liturgical music of the synagogue (which allows only unaccompanied singing), but also that of the local non-Jewish cultures. It is primarily lively dance music. Klezmer ensembles have varied considerably; in the U.S., where a klezmer revival began in the 1980s, a typical band consists of four to six musicians playing some combination of violin, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, tuba, accordion, double bass, and percussion.

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Music composed to accompany a play. The practice dates back to ritualistic Greek drama, and it is thus connected to the use of music in other kinds of ritual. Sometimes limited to the role of introduction or interlude (setting a mood or a historical period, for example), it may also accompany spoken dialogue (see melodrama). Film and television music is sometimes considered incidental music.

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Form of black American music derived from Pentecostal church worship services and from spiritual and blues singing. Recordings of Pentecostal preachers' sermons were immensely popular among African Americans in the 1920s. Taking the scriptural direction “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord” (Psalm 150), Pentecostal churches welcomed timbrels, pianos, banjos, guitars, other stringed instruments, and even brass into their services. Choirs often featured the extremes of female vocal range in antiphonal counterpoint with the preacher's sermon. Other forms of gospel music have included the singing and acoustic guitar playing of itinerant street preachers; individual secular performers; and harmonizing male quartets, whose acts included dance routines and stylized costumes. Gospel music's principal composers and practitioners included Thomas A. Dorsey, who coined the term; the Rev. C.A. Tindley (1851–1933); the blind wandering preacher Rev. Gary Davis (1896–1972); Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915–73), whose performances took gospel into nightclubs and theatres in the 1930s; and Mahalia Jackson. Gospel music was a significant influence on rhythm and blues and soul music, which have in turn strongly influenced contemporary gospel music.

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Music held to be typical of a nation or ethnic group, known to all segments of its society, and preserved usually by oral tradition. Knowledge of the history and development of folk music is largely conjectural. Musical notation of folk songs and descriptions of folk music culture are occasionally encountered in historical records, but these tend to reflect primarily the literate classes' indifference or even hostility. As Christianity expanded in medieval Europe, attempts were made to suppress folk music because of its association with heathen rites and customs, and uncultivated singing styles were denigrated. During the Renaissance, new humanistic attitudes encouraged acceptance of folk music as a genre of rustic antique song, and composers made extensive use of the music; folk tunes were often used as raw material for motets and masses, and Protestant hymns borrowed from folk music. In the 17th century folk music gradually receded from the consciousness of the literate classes, but in the late 18th century it again became important to art music. In the 19th century, folk songs came to be considered a “national treasure,” on a par with cultivated poetry and song. National and regional collections were published, and the music became a means of promoting nationalistic ideologies. Since the 1890s, folk music has been collected and preserved by mechanical recordings. Publications and recordings have promoted wide interest, making possible the revival of folk music where traditional folk life and folklore are moribund. After World War II, archives of field recordings were developed throughout the world. While research has usually dealt with “authentic” (i.e., older) material not heavily influenced by urban popular music and the mass media, the influence of singer-songwriters such as Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan expanded the genre to include original music that largely retains the form and simplicity of traditional compositions.

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Any music involving electronic processing (e.g., recording and editing on tape) and whose reproduction involves the use of loudspeakers. In the late 1940s, magnetic tape began to be used, especially in France, to modify natural sounds (playing them backward, at different speeds, etc.), creating the genre known as musique concrète. By the early 1950s, composers in Germany and the U.S. were employing assembled conglomerations of oscillators, filters, and other equipment to produce entirely new sounds. The development of voltage-controlled oscillators and filters led, in the 1950s, to the first synthesizers, which effectively standardized the assemblages and made them more flexible. No longer relying on tape editing, electronic music could now be created in real time. Since their advent in the late 1970s, personal computers have been used to control the synthesizers. Digital sampling—composing with music and sounds electronically extracted from other recordings—has largely replaced the use of oscillators as a sound source.

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or country and western

Musical style that originated among whites in rural areas of the southern and western U.S. The term country and western music was adopted by the music industry in 1949 to replace the derogatory hillbilly music. Its roots lie in the music of the European settlers of the Appalachians and other areas. In the early 1920s the genre began to be commercially recorded; Fiddlin' John Carson recorded its first hit. Radio programs such as Nashville's Grand Ole Opry and Chicago's National Barn Dance fueled its growth, and growing numbers of musicians, such as the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, began performing on radio and in recording studios. With the migration of Southern whites to industrial cities in the 1930s and '40s, country music was exposed to new influences, such as blues and gospel music. Its nostalgic bias, with its lyrics about poverty, heartbreak, and homesickness, held special appeal during a time of great population shifts. In the 1930s “singing cowboy” film stars, such as Gene Autry, altered country lyrics to produce a synthetic “western” music. Other variants include western swing (see Bob Wills) and honky-tonk (see Ernest Tubb and Hank Williams). In the 1940s there was an effort to return to country's root values (see bluegrass), but commercialization proved a stronger influence, and in the 1950s and '60s country music became a huge commercial enterprise. Popular singers often recorded songs in a Nashville style, while many country music recordings employed lush orchestral backgrounds. Country music has become increasingly acceptable to urban audiences, retaining its vitality with diverse performers such as Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Dolly Parton, Randy Travis, Garth Brooks, Emmylou Harris, and Lyle Lovett. Despite the influence of other styles, it has retained an unmistakable character as one of the few truly indigenous American musical styles.

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Music composed for small instrumental ensembles and performed without a conductor. Traditionally intended for performance in a room or reception hall, often solely for the performers' own pleasure, chamber music is now often heard in concert halls. It began with the 16th-century instrumental consort, and long continued to be associated with aristocratic households. The duo sonata (usually for violin and continuo) and trio sonata appeared in early 17th-century Italy. The string quartet arose in the 1750s and remains the best-known chamber genre and ensemble. The serenade, nocturne, and divertimento were Classical genres for varying instrumental forces, often intended to accompany meals and other activities. Standard ensembles include the string trio (violin, viola, cello), string quintet (two violins, two violas, cello), and piano trio (piano, violin, cello). The chamber orchestra, usually with fewer than 25 musicians, is often used for 18th-century music and usually requires a conductor. Seealso sonata.

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(from Latin, alea: “dice game”) Any 20th-century music, particularly that of the 1950s and '60s, the composition or performance of which incorporates elements of chance. In aleatory music aspects such as the ordering of a piece's sections, its rhythms, and even its pitches are decided at the moment of performance. When not purely improvising, players follow lists of arbitrary rules or interpreted “graphic” notation that merely suggest the sounds. Charles Ives and Henry Cowell had used such techniques, but John Cage became the principal figure in aleatory; other aleatory composers include Earle Brown (1926–2002), Morton Feldman (1926–87), and Pierre Boulez.

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Conservatory of music in Philadelphia, Pa., U.S. It was founded in 1924 by Mary Louise Curtis Bok (1876–1970), wife of the editor Edward Bok, and named for her father, the inventor Charles Gordon Curtis. Her endowment was adequate to assure scholarships for gifted students throughout the world. Many eminent musicians have served on its faculty, including Wanda Landowska, Bohuslav Martinů, and Rudolf Serkin. Graduates include Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, and Gian Carlo Menotti.

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Athletic competition related to gymnastics and dance in which participants, individually or in groups, perform exercise routines with the aid of hand apparatuses such as ropes, hoops, balls, clubs, and ribbons. In scoring points, artistry counts more than acrobatics. The sport dates from the 18th century. Though some gymnasts participated at the Olympic Games from 1948 to 1956, not until 1984 did it become an official Olympic competitive event.

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Theatrical dance that developed in the U.S. and Europe in the 20th century as a reaction to traditional ballet. Precursors included Loie Fuller and Isadora Duncan. Formal teaching of modern dance began with the establishment of the Denishawn schools by Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn in 1915. Many of their students, principally Doris Humphrey and Martha Graham, further contributed to modern dance's definition as a technique based on principles of fall and recovery (Humphrey) and of contraction and release (Graham). Movement often stressed the expression of emotional intensity and contemporary subjects rather than focusing on the formal, classical, and often narrative aspects of ballet. Later developments included a revolt in the 1950s against Graham's expressionism, led by Merce Cunningham, whose choreography included ballet technique and the element of chance. Seealso Agnes de Mille; Hanya Holm; José Limón; Alwin Nikolais; Anna Sokolow; Paul Taylor; Twyla Tharp.

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Museum in New York City, the world's most comprehensive collection of U.S. and European art from the late 19th century to the present. It was founded in 1929 by a group of private collectors. The original building on 53rd St. opened in 1939; a later addition and sculpture garden were designed by Philip Johnson (1953). A condominium tower and western wing, doubling the exhibition space, were completed in 1984. Its collections of Cubist, Surrealist, and Abstract Expressionist paintings are extensive; other holdings include sculpture, graphic arts, industrial design, architecture, photography, and film. Through its permanent collections, exhibitions, and many publications, it exerts a strong influence on public taste and artistic production.

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A drum and bugle corps or drum corps is a musical marching unit (similar to a marching band) consisting of brass instruments, percussion instruments, and color guard. The activity originated in the United States and Canada, but has spread to parts of Europe and Asia. Typically operating as independent non-profit organizations, drum corps perform on-field competitions, parades, festivals and other civic functions. The prime age for participation is 14–22, but the activity extends throughout age groups younger and older.

Competitive corps participate in summer touring circuits. Competitions occur on football fields and are judged based upon general effect, visual performance, and musical performance. Every year, each drum corps prepares a single new show, approximately 8–12 minutes in length, and carefully refines this throughout the entire summer tour. This focus on a singular show takes advantage of the large amount of time needed to hone and refine a modern drum corps program, with a momentum that continues to build up toward the last performance of the season. Musical repertoires can vary widely among various groups, including symphonic, jazz, big band, contemporary, rock, wind band, vocal, Broadway, Latin music and many other genres. Highly competitive corps regularly dedicate 8–10 weeks on tour, practicing and performing their program full-time. Less competitive corps have less demanding schedules, allowing members to participate and still have a little free time outside drum corps. Some corps are not competitive at all, serving as education for youths, as alumni corps for adults, or for other traditional civic functions.


Drum and bugle corps stems from a rich American military history, separate from other marching musical activities. Beginning after World War I through the 1970s, corps and competitions were often sponsored by the VFW and the American Legion. Owing to these groups' roots, corps were traditionally militaristic. By the late 1960s, many corps wanted more creative freedom and better financial compensation than was offered by the sponsors. Some felt the prize-money structures, based on competitive placement, were not fairly compensating all corps for their appearances. Additionally, some felt the current judging rules were stifling musical and theatrical possibilities. At the peak of American drum corps participation (with perhaps a thousand active corps nationwide), several corps decided to band together and form their own organizations, which ultimately led to the formation of Drum Corps Associates in 1965 and Drum Corps International in 1972. By this time, many corps had already lost their church or community sponsors.

For the corps that remained, longer travel times were necessary to attend the shrinking numbers of contests, further adding to the financial and time demands on the organizations and their individual members. At the same time, costs for the increasingly complex field shows mounted, and creative and instructional demands rose, leading many competitive corps to falter and become inactive. By the late 1990s, only a fraction of the corps that existed in the 60s and 70s remained, although several new corps, some of which have become very successful, did start up along the way.

Also, non-competitive classic-style corps (often and sometimes inaccurately known as "alumni corps") saw a renaissance beginning in the mid-1980s, and they continue to organize in the 21st Century; members often remain vigilant about the traditions and virtues of the drum corps activity before the advent of more modern influences.

Freed from the traditional and more-restrictive judging rules of the late 1960s, corps began making innovative changes such as the use of multi-valve horns, wide-ranging tempos, intricate asymmetric drill formations, elaborate guard costumes and props, and the use of stationary orchestral percussion instruments. A common criticism of drum corps is that it has become too similar to marching band, although in truth the two activities have evolved together over the years. The most apparent difference between the activities is the fact that corps use only bell-front brass instrumentation. The competitive season for corps is in the summer rather than fall, with audition and initial ensemble rehearsals actually beginning as early as late October of the previous year. The top-tier competitive drum corps programs are often far more complex and more professional than marching bands, as members in full-time touring corps have no distractions outside of corps during the season and membership is achieved only through highly competitive auditions.

Musical program


A typical show usually revolves around one genre of music, or sometimes melds separate genres together. Modern corps programs have become increasingly conceptual and programmatic, with overarching show themes rather than loosely-related musical selections. Often, especially within classical selections, a single composer's material is featured. Corps have performed virtually every genre of music that can be fit for on-field adaptation, including jazz, new age, classical, and rock music. It is becoming increasingly common to hear corps performing original music, composed specifically for the corps by their musical staff or consultants.

Structurally, shows typically share a few common components: an "opener", a piece designed to grab the audience's attention, a percussion solo or "features" laden throughout the show, a ballad (featuring the hornline and pit percussion), and a "closer", which is often the climax of the performance. Depending on the length of each piece, there may be additional pieces interjected to showcase various musical concepts and elements of the corps. The goal is to have a well-balanced program with a wide variety of dynamics, tempos, and feels to showcase the corps' abilities.



One of the defining musical elements of drum corps is the exclusive use of bell-front brass instrumentation. Throughout the years, the horns used in drum corps have evolved from true, valveless bugles to modern multi-valved brass instruments. These changes have effectively eliminated bugles from the activity, since the current three-valve approved instruments are more akin to band instruments than true bugles. Competitive drum and bugle corps have not used true bugles for several decades. Traditionally, corps use three-valve vertical-piston horns in the key of G, but horns in other keys are also allowed. From highest pitched to lowest they are: sopranos (trumpets), mellophones, baritones and euphoniums, and contra-basses.

All these instruments can appear in any key, with G, Bb, and F being by far the most common; the name of the activity is not dependent on the key of the instruments. Sopranos are essentially trumpets, but tend to have a narrower bell flare and larger bore than the trumpets used in other venues, a characteristic found in most of these horns but most obviously in the soprano. Although many corps have recently started using Bb trumpets instead of sopranos, most purchase trumpets that are specifically designed for outdoor use and resemble sopranos in shape and sound. Mellophones are only one of many midrange or alto-voice horns that have been experimented with, but they have become the most widely used because of their consistent playability and tone quality compared to the alternatives, which include marching French horns, alto horns, and flugelhorns. A contra-bass is essentially a tuba configured so that it can be carried over the shoulder with the bell facing forward.

Until 1999, American drum and bugle corps hornlines were required to be pitched in the key of G. That year, the DCI rules congress passed a proposal to allow any key of bell-front brass instruments on the field (no Trombones-no valves, no French Horns-not bell front, and no Sousaphones-not really a bell-front instrument)(Open Class opted for a two-year moratorium on the proposal. Corps could first use instruments in other keys in 2000). DCA followed suit in 2004. This allows music to be arranged truer to its original form and gives corps access to more affordable and higher-quality horns, along with a much wider resale market for used instruments. Hornlines now are most commonly pitched in Bb, with mellophones usually pitched in F.


The percussion section consists of two distinct but equally important divisions: the front ensemble or "pit" and the drumline or "battery" ensemble.

Front ensemble members perform on orchestral percussion instruments, including marimbas, xylophones, vibraphones, glockenspiel, timpani, various types of drums, cymbals, gongs and many other auxiliary percussion instruments. As the physical nature of these instruments requires them to be stationary, the pit is typically stationed at the 50 yard of the front sideline, closest to the audience. Full-sized corps feature between 8-12 members in their front ensembles. Many corps now make use electronic amplification so that delicate percussive instruments can be heard in the stadium setting. However, amplification has also been used for the more controversial purposes of talking, singing, and "drumspeak" (beat boxing). Prior to 1982, corps did not have a "pit". Some corps (Phantom Regiment and Blue Devils among them) placed a single tympanist on the 50 yard line just inside the sideline. This performer was on the field. Since 1982, there has been a pit in front of the field, and the days of marching keyboard instruments and tympani have disappeared.

The battery consists of percussionists who march on the field along with the hornline and color guard. They commonly play four types of instruments: the marching snare drum, tenor drums (also known as "quads", or "tenors"), marching cymbals, and marching tonal (pitched from high to low) bass drums. In large DCI-related competing corps, the battery typically consists of 7–10 snare drummers, 4–5 tenor drummers, 4–6 cymbal players, and 5–6 bass drummers. Many corps within the last few years have disposed of their cymbal lines in order to utilize the members for additional instrumentation. The cymbal lines that still exist, however, are known for their signature visual effects, as well as contributing various metallic musical effects. Corps that currently use cymbal lines are the Santa Clara Vanguard and the Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps

Visual program

Color guard

In modern drum corps, the color guard has become a crucial part of each group's visual and thematic program. Standard equipment includes flags, mock rifles, and sabers, but other objects like bare poles, hoops, balls, windsocks, and custom-made props are sometimes used to create visual effects that enhance the show. The primary role of the color guard is to complement the corps' musical program by creating visual interpretations of the music through equipment work and dance. The color guard can also enhance the overall drill design by marching in formations that integrate with the rest of the corps. However, the color guard most often performs as an ensemble that frames the rest of the corps or performs within the drill formations of the corps proper. Like all other sections of the corps, the guard often features solo work.

While the rest of the corps generally wears the same uniform for several consecutive seasons, the guard members more often wear uniforms that are custom-made for each corps' theme for a particular season.

Drill formations

Drill formations have become very sophisticated in modern corps. Traditional blocks, company fronts, and symmetrical formations — while still utilized occasionally for impact — have largely given way to abstract formations and intricate developments aided by the use of computer-assisted drill writing programs. Drill writing is an art form unto itself, and is very carefully crafted to keep instrumental sections together, to put the featured members at the center of attention and visually reinforce musical phrasing, and of course to create the most interesting and innovative shapes and movements possible.

Technical drill structure can be broken down into several categories: linear forms, static forms, shape-driven forms, and movement-centered forms. Forms using lines and curves have long been used to create drill that is simple, yet powerful. The speed of the drill can vary to create a slow and flowing form or a series of quickly spinning bars or changing curves. Variations on follow-the-leader forms are the standard for many asymmetric lines. Shapes and symbols have also been used to great effect by many drum corps, with the most basic being geometric figures such as squares or blocks, triangles, circles, and other regular or irregular figures. The translation and rotation of these figures, especially at speed, creates interesting and exciting drill. A long legacy of exciting and innovating forms highlights this category of drill, such as the "Z-pull" (The Cadets, 1983), moving and disappearing cross formations (Star of Indiana, 1991), "rotating" double helix (The Cavaliers, 1995), the Diamond Cutter, individually spinning boxes within a larger diamond square (Cavaliers, 1999), and inclusion of symbols such as the Maltese Cross for The Crossmen, the signature three-point crown of Carolina Crown, the Fleur-de-lis (the ever-present symbol of the Madison Scouts),or the Sunburst of The Troopers Drum and Bugle Corps (the first curved form on the field), with heartily enthusiastic response from the audience. Forms that center around chaotic and rapid movement are the most difficult to describe in detail, as they can be of indeterminate structure. “Scatter drill” would fall into this category, a seemingly random transition from one form to another so as to keep viewers in suspense until the last possible second.

Standing still might seem the simplest of drill moves, but for a drum corps even "standing still" is usually not completely stationary. This is when choreography for general effect primarily takes place. In what is referred to by various terms such as "park and bark", the corps holds position but members typically add their own leans, small steps, horn movements and pops, and other colorful flourishes. For the longest and loudest chords, the most technically demanding sections of music, and the ending of most shows, corps usually remain stationary to make a dramatic impact.

Marching technique

In order to facilitate such demanding drill, corps must be diligent with their marching techniques. Every corps has its own unique blend of techniques that are used to differentiate themselves from other corps, such as keeping the leg as straight as possible or bending the knee, or keeping toes straight ahead or naturally angled out. Virtually every corps begins each movement (or "steps off") with the left foot (the notable exception being the Cadets who step off with the right foot) and relies on the roll step as the basis of their marching technique. Regardless of minor differences in techniques among corps, the goal of all corps is to achieve fluid, consistent movements that allow for precise musical technique at all tempos, step sizes, and directions. This means marching technique must not affect the rigidity of members' upper torsos, which must face toward the audience at all times for maximum aural projection. Horn players may twist their lower bodies in the direction of the move, but percussionists, due to the nature of their equipment, must keep their entire bodies facing forward at all times. This has led to the invention of the "crab step", where the legs cross over one another to facilitate sideways motion. For both drummers and horn players, turning the whole body in the direction of movement is rare, unless done for visual or musical effect. Being purely visual, guard members are not as bound to facing the front sideline and may be facing any direction at any time as choreography dictates. Marching backward is usually executed by staying on the toes (keeping heels off the ground), though some corps reverse the heel-toe roll step (to be toe-heel) during slow tempos. Guard members, and horn players during a particularly strenuous or fast drill move, often "jazz run", which is similar to jogging with the toe hitting the ground before the heel.

The season

While performances and competitions only occur during the summer, preparation for the next season starts as soon as the last one ends. Corps activity of some sort goes on year-round. Months in advance of next season's first camp, corps begin assembling their staffs, choosing their musical repertoires, writing drill, etc.


For junior (DCI) corps, the season is a very intense process. Most corps begin having camps on or around Thanksgiving Day weekend and continue having monthly weekend camps throughout the winter. Potential members travel far and wide—literally from around the world—to attend the camps of their favorite corps. Membership in the top corps is highly competitive and is generally determined during the first few camps. By spring, the members have been chosen and camps are held more frequently as the beginning of the summer touring season approaches. Most junior corps require their non-local members to secure temporary housing (often with local members or a vacant dormitory) near the corps' rehearsals facilities around Memorial Day weekend. For most of May and into June (as college and high school classes end), full-day rehearsals are held virtually every day so members can finish learning the music and marching drill of the show. This pre-season "spring training" (also commonly referred to as "everydays" or "alldays") is usually 3–4 weeks long. It is not uncommon for members to rehearse 10–14 hours a day, 6–7 days a week throughout the entire pre-season. In mid to late June, corps leave to begin their summer tours. For senior corps the process is not quite as grueling. Since most members are working adults and have lives outside of drum corps, senior corps rehearse on weekends and occasionally on weekday evenings. Rather than extensive tours, senior corps usually take weekend trips to perform in shows, and make longer trips only to regional championships and finals. Many smaller DCI corps and foreign corps have similar itineraries. Non-competitive corps, such as classic-style corps, alumni corps, or newly aspiring corps might not have a defined season at all. They practice and perform as they deem necessary or possible. Occasionally such corps make exhibition appearances at DCI or DCA shows.


Corps are generally divided and compete in divisions or classes depending on size, age of members, and how much touring the corps wishes to be involved in. These divisions have changed over the years in accordance to shifts in trends and rules.

Until the mid 1990's, Drum corps circuits worldwide generally followed this form:

  • Open Class represented the elite full-sized corps that tour full-time.
  • 'A' Class represented corps with fewer members or a less-demanding tour.
  • Cadet Class represented corps with particularly young members (generally under 14), which served as "feeders" for larger corps.

These divisions were redefined before the 1993 season and again in 2006, and remained in use until 2007:

  • Division I: As many as 135 members
  • Division II: Between 70 and 135 members
  • Division III: Up to 79 members (where many get their first taste of the activity)

There was a "grey area" of 70-79 members where the corps had a choice of competing in either Division II or III.

On September 23rd,2007, Drum Corps International announced the restructuring of the classes, after a vote by the corps of Divisions II/III:

  • World Class: Up to 150 members
  • '''Open Class: Anywhere from 30 to 150 members

Open Class corps usually compete in fewer shows than World Class corps (around 20, compared to 30-35 for Division I corps). Until the late 1990s, corps from different divisions were frequently allowed to compete directly against one another at certain shows, but today, Open Class corps are strictly segregated from World Class competition. Open Class corps have their own World Championship, usually held at the same location as the World Class championships. Prelims are held all day Tuesday, Semifinals Thursday morning, and Grand Finals on Saturday morning.

Top Open Class corps may decide to join World Class for the following season. Due to the rash of corps having to fold for financial reasons in the 1980s and 1990's, DCI has taken a more active role in the matriculation of a unit to World Class status. The corps must prove that it has the financial stability to tour on the World Class circuit, including a strong fund-raising program (such as bingo, carwashes, etc), and that it has a recruitment base capable of producing a competitive corps.

Tour and competition

While on tour, junior corps travel mainly at night after leaving the performance venue. Members sleep on the buses and in sleeping bags on gym floors when the next housing destination is reached. Housing for the entire tour is secured in advance through local schools, churches, or other community facilities. Corps practice their shows for as long as possible each day before getting ready to leave for that night's competition, if scheduled. Not every day is a performance day; many days on tour are spent simply traveling to a distant location or entirely on the practice field.

A full-sized, adequately-funded junior corps will have a fleet of vehicles, including three or more coach buses for members and staff, a truck or van to carry souvenirs that are sold at shows, and two semi trucks, one for show equipment and one that serves as a kitchen on wheels. Most meals for all members and staff are provided by the cook truck, but occasionally corps have scheduled free days where there are no rehearsals or performances and the members are free to see some local sights and procure their own meals.

Competitions are not the only performances that corps partake in while on tour. Most corps also participate in parades and standstill performances throughout the summer to gain further public exposure and to supplement their budget with performance fees. On the Fourth of July weekend, corps often locate themselves in large metro areas so they can participate in more than one parade.

The summer touring schedule is usually divided into two smaller tours. The first tour consists of more local or regional shows and the corps often return to their home bases for easy housing and practice facilities. The first tour ends in mid-July with a regional championship, followed by a few days off where members are free to do as they wish. For many members, this is their only chance all summer to visit home. Corps then reconvene at their home bases and begin the second tour, which usually involves more extensive national touring before culminating at DCI finals.

Competitions are usually held at college or high school football stadiums or similar venues, and are scored by circuit-approved judges. Because there exists an intense competition between corps, the judging system is somewhat complex to allow for precise scoring and avoidance of ties. Most circuits follow the three-caption system of General Effect (GE), Visual, and Music, with GE being the most important factor. This is the scoring system currently used by DCI (others are similar):

Total possible score: 100
General Effect 40 Visual 30 Music 30
Visual 20 Performance 10 Brass 10
Music 20 Ensemble 10 Ensemble 10
Color guard 10 Percussion 10

However, the Drum Corps in England have a different way of scoring for each division, English Drum Corps are mainly the same otherwise.

The timing and organization of contests varies significantly from circuit to circuit. Only large DCI corps typically have the funding and time commitment from members to participate in DCI's touring circuit, where corps spend the majority of the summer traveling around the continent performing at different local and regional contests. In other circuits, and for smaller DCI corps, competitions are usually scheduled to allow corps to travel, perform, and return home within a weekend. For this reason, and to boost audience attendance, large competitions are more frequently scheduled on weekends.

A typical regular-season contest consists of fewer than 10 corps, with corps from one or more classes competing together but scored separately. In North America, DCI and DCA corps occasionally perform at the same shows. DCI also schedules larger contests interspersed throughout the latter half of its season. These are restricted to corps in specific classes and feature many (if not all) of the corps within each class. European circuits, such as DCUK, operate on a "minimum performance and lot" system: appearance at the first two shows of the year is determined by lot, and then the corps must appear in a minimum number of shows before the circuit's championships. In such a system, the championships are often the only time all corps in a class compete together.

Some circuits also organize optional individual and ensemble (I&E) competitions for individuals or groups from corps to showcase members' skills outside of the field performance environment. These are usually held only once or twice per season at championships or a major regional contest. Members practice their routine(s) in their scant free time throughout the season.

Corps organization

Most corps are operated as or by dedicated non-profit organizations; very few are associated with schools or for-profit entities. Some corps are even parts of larger non-profit performance arts organizations, which might also include theater groups, winter guards, winter drumlines, and other various musical or visual activities. In Europe, many are also registered charities, assisting with their fundraising aims.


Despite their non-profit status, a well-run corps is just like a well-run business. It requires many bright and dedicated people to handle the fiscal and operational responsibilities. There are three levels of staff operating a drum corps: Executive, Instructional, and Volunteer. Each plays an essential role in creating a well-run corps.

The executive staff includes the operational and tour director(s) and the board of directors. Often these people are unpaid volunteers. This group is almost always long-standing within successful corps. They create the long-term vision and strategy for the organization, handling the financial, operational, and organizational issues to keep the corps running. The board of directors is composed of alumni and other closely-affiliated people. They hire the executive (operational) director and other related positions directly; in turn, the executive and/or tour director(s) usually hire the instructional staff.

The instructional staff actually puts the show on the field. They create the concept of the show, choose and arrange the music, write the drill, and instruct the members on how to play, march, execute, and exude the image of the corps on the field. The staff consists of brass, percussion, guard, and visual (marching) instructors who are most often alumni of the corps or other corps. A well-funded World Class corps usually has 15-20 full-time instructors. Just as members, they attend winter camps and travel with the corps all summer long.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of any corps. Parents, alumni, friends, and fans make the corps work on a day-to-day basis—driving buses and trucks, caring for the corps' uniforms, cooking meals for the corps and staff, and countless other peripheral duties. Corps on touring circuits particularly rely on volunteers due to the extra necessities which come with the tour: cooking and cleaning, providing mechanical maintenance, health and medical needs—all of which are essential to getting the corps down the road to the next show.

Dues and fundraising

Every corps requires some amount of dues from its members to help defray the cost of operations, or touring should the circuit so require. Dues vary from circuit to circuit and corps to corps, but generally range from the local equivalent of several hundred to about two thousand dollars per member for World Class corps. Most corps provide ways to help offset the cost of membership, often through personal sponsorships that the member must procure. Corps do everything they can to help potential members pay their dues. However, membership dues only pay for a fraction of the total cost of keeping a corps alive. It costs US$100,000–$1,000,000 or more to run a corps for a single season. Uniforms, equipment, and vehicles must be bought and maintained, food and fuel are consumed, and the instructional and creative staff members must be paid (although in some corps a staff post is a voluntary post and does come with pay). Other sources of income are required. Many organizations run bingo halls as a major source of income. Some American corps run a fleet of charter buses, which is a natural extension of the corps' touring needs. All corps solicit sponsorships and endorsements at the corporate level and individual contributions from alumni and fans. To find out how to contribute to a corps, visit the corps website.

British Corps mainly hold their own 'Fun Nights' and Discos. Some hold Pre-Season parties, which members can go to for a small donation.

See also

External links

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