Station:  History of Military Music
M: These days, it’s not so much an instrument as a symbol: the Schellenbaum, or Turkish crescent. Weighing up to ten kilogrammes or 22 pounds, this instrument is traditionally carried at the head of marching military bands like a standard. This particular one belonged to the German Army's Heeresmusikkorps Sieben that’s the 7th Army Music Corps and was in use until 2007. Typical features of the instrument are the crescent and the dyed horse tails that hang down at the sides hence the English name, Turkish crescent.
F: The Turkish crescent originated in the Ottoman Empire. It was used in Turkish military music, nicknamed “Janissary music” in Europe. Though the Ottomans themselves never used that term – the Janissaries didn’t have much involvement with music.
M: They were more of an elite force, owned no property, had no families and lived for war, and war alone. Their origins go back to the 14th century. Back then, Christian prisoners of war were recruited if they were willing to convert to the Muslim faith. The Janissaries served as the Sultan's bodyguard and occupied the empire’s highest offices.
F: One reason that Ottoman military music spread throughout Europe has to do with the year 1699. That was when the Habsburg Emperor and the Ottoman Empire signed the Treaty of Karlowitz. To celebrate the peace agreement, Turkish diplomats brought a military band with them to Vienna. The band not only featured trumpets, drums and timpani, but also ... Turkish crescents with their bells, which were rhythmically shaken to the beat.
M: In the 18th century, Turkish military music finally spread to all of Europe’s armies. At first, the musicians were frequently "imported", but later, it became customary to have black musicians play the Turkish instruments, often dressed in colourful robes for the performance.
F: For a long time, those military musicians were commonly referred to as "Janissaries" – and the Turkish crescent was known in Germany as “Mohammedsfahne” – Mohammed’s flag. Over time, however, the instrument increasingly took on the role and shape of an imposing military standard.
Foto: © Garnisonsmuseum Ludwigsburg