The rope drum was considered “the radio of the battlefield” during the American Revolution, primarily because of its ability to project commands and signals. The drum and its fife counterpart were frequently paired as part of drills, exercises, marches, and parades that contributed to an esprit de corps and a sense of purpose and belonging within the newly formed colonial militia during its fight for independence.
This solo is an amalgamation of several calls and signals that were first codified by United States Army Inspector General Baron von Steuben. The title of the solo is taken from a chapter in his 18th-century text. For further research, see “Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States” by von Steuben as well as “American Music during the War for Independence” by Simon Anderson, and “Military Music of the American Revolution” by Raoul Camus.
The dynamic is forte throughout, there are no accents, and the tempo should be maintained consistently at approximately 100 bpm. Take care to open the sound of the double-stroke rolls along with the flams and drags. The 7-stroke rolls should start on the left hand and the rest of the sticking should be generally alternated.
Although these calls and signals were intended for a military rope drum, the solo is presented here in the manner of a “concert” rudimental solo appropriate for recital performance. Interspersed within the solo are the following calls and signals, which served the purpose of outdoor communication:
“The Drummers Call” summoned the drummers to announce special messages and assemble the other drummers on parade. Except for the drum used by the orderly drummer on duty at the guardhouse, all drums were piled in front of the adjutant officer’s tent. In order to gather the musicians prior to the beating of any call, “The Drummers Call” would have been played.
“The General” was beat to warn the army that they were to move that day, and a chain of events was instituted upon its sounding: rise, dress, strike the tents, and prepare for the march. “The General” sometimes replaced “Reveille,” especially on days there was a march, and came as early as two or three o’clock in the morning.
“The March” was used as a signal to advance from as early as the 16th century through the 19th century; however, the definition of “march” was broadened throughout that time to include a signal for a unit to begin moving in a particular direction. It was not implied the drumbeat was to continue for the whole period of the march, as the men would be on the road for the greater part of a day.
Dr. Jeff Calissi is an associate professor of music at Eastern Connecticut State University, where he directs the Eastern Percussion Studio, teaches courses in music theory, ear-training, and sight-singing, and performs in the faculty percussion duo Confluence. He has performed and presented at the conferences of the College Music Society, the Percussive Arts Society, the Eastern Trombone Workshop, the International Tuba and Euphonium Conference, the National Conference on Percussion Pedagogy, and at the Center for Mallet Percussion Research. His compositions and arrangements are available from C. Alan Publications and Garden State Publications, and his writings and research can be found in Percussive Notes and Rhythm! Scene. Jeff received a Bachelor of Music in Music Education from Radford University and both Master of Music andDoctor of Musical Arts degrees in Performance from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he was inducted into Pi Kappa Lambda national music honor society. For more information, visit www.jeffcalissi.com.