Excerpts from the notes of a lecture delivered as part of the University of Florida musicology series by V A Austin

REASONS for the lack of attention to this topic:

1. The first, most important, and recurring challenge in looking at this topic is its breadth. Town bands existed in England, Austria, Germany, Italy, and a few places in France. There is recent information suggesting they were also found in Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. A common terminology is challenging.

2. The challenge of general to specific. Yes, there were some commonalities between bands throughout Europe and England. On the other hand, there are tremendous complexities which do not do justice to Town Bands by generalization. Instead of a single broad history, the approach to studying this type of music should be as specific regional or local perspectives, under the broader umbrella of 'town bands'. A broad approach to 'town band music of Europe inclusive of 7 centuries', represents the real danger of creating and transmitting a caricature of town bands.

3. Resources. The primary resources are civic in nature. Local and regional music histories were not compiled until the 18th century, when town bands had already been dismantled. Little narrative exists about the waites, somewhat more about stadtpfeiffers. A reasearcher must look very hard to present more than a mere enumeration of isolated data.

4. Lack of musical artifacts. Little was written BY the waites. Most music was borrowed from other sources, and little, if any, was written down (in England - there are more sources for Stadtpfeifer).

5. The hierarchy of musicology

6. 'Band' stigma.

7. Non-art music.

8. Waites music relates to the 'average' person. Difficulty of a "vision" or "mental image" of what it was like to be an average person. Most of what we read about the period comes from the educated and/or the aristocracy. Life of the average town dweller is seldom examined.

It is a logical assumption that the nature of their public duties meant that Town musicians represented the primary musical instrumental exposure which an average person received throughout the course of life in an English town. This fact is the crux of a paradox, however, for town bands, their music and duties, the people playing in them, are scarcely represented by the modern musicology world. Current information about is scarce. Any researcher looking for information about the  English Waites, or, indeed, any European town band music, will be sorely disappointed. The 'Waites' entry in Groves covers a single page, the entry on the German Stadtpfeifer about the same...

... Town musicians were found in Europe as early as the 12th century, and the players were frequently referred to as 'pipers'. An incident involving one town piper made its way into the legends of the world when, in 1284, a man called a 'piper' led 130 children out of the German town of Hameln. The children were never seen again. The event so traumatized the people of Hameln that they never recorded details of the even, but referred to it constantly in their town records, which began to be dated by the number of years since the disappearance of the children. Numerous theories exist to explain the disappearance of the children, and two German Ph.D.s have been awarded to researchers of the event. Theories include the murder or accidental death of the 130 children, their resettlement in another country, and even, more recently, with simply no supporting facts, their abduction by aliens. Of course, what I really want to know is, 'what sort of pipe was the pied piper playing?'

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