The 18th Century was an exciting time!
In America we saw the birth of a nation built on the ideas of rugged individualism. Figures like John Adams, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin shaped the future with ideas of freedom and liberty. Religion found refuge in the New Land and the concept of the common man rising above genetic heritage laid the foundations of the thought which would lead the fulfilment of the theory that “all men are created equal.”
These ideas and concepts were ground breaking and representative of a shift in the human psyche throughout the world.
The world of music also experienced a major shift in music.
The 18th Century saw a rise in industry which lead to new technologies and the refining of techniques in craftsmanship. This in turn lead to higher quality in the construction of wind instruments.
Composers of the 18th Century saw the advancement as an opportunity to explore the beautiful sounds of the wind families. This time period saw the rise of Harmoniemusik, a compositional genre of music written for wind instruments.
This genre emerged in Vienna and became influential throughout Europe. Harmiemusik was embraced by the greatest composers of the time. Throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries, we were graced by compositions by Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven. And we were given beautiful works by lesser known composers like Krommer, Hummel, and Dittersdorf. Even Italians, like Salieri, working in Vienna contributed to the genre of Harmoniemusik.
The contributions of these great composers laid the foundation of the artistic development of wind music. Although we see artistic writings for winds dating back to earlier Italian composers, like Corelli, Harmoniemusik elevated the wind section to a higher prominence than ceremonial heraldry and color for the dominant string sections of the orchestra.
These early writings of wind band music lit the torch carried by later composers like Mendelssohn, Sousa, Holst, Vaughan Williams, and Grainger to compose artistic music of the highest level for winds.
To learn about the history of Harmoniemusik and the development of the wind band in greater depth, visit A History of the Wind Band by Dr. Stephen L. Rhodes.