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Defining the city “trumpeter”: German civic identity and the employment of brass instrumentalists, c.1500

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  • Communication
  • Economics
  • History
  • Musicology
  • Political Science


This article examines the employment of brass instrumentalists in German cities around 1500, as a reflection of the political circumstances of the epoch, where rivalry between the distinct components of the social hierarchy encouraged the assertion of power and status through musical patronage. Archival records and contemporary chronicles provide invaluable insights into the performances of civic brass instrumentalists, whether in the provision of signals (by the city watchmen or those who played alongside the cities’ troops) or for the entertainment of the citizens and their guests (within the civic instrumental ensembles the Stadtpfeifer (‘town pipers’)). Although the use of ambiguous nomenclature in contemporary records can hinder a definitive understanding of the instruments used by these musicians, the musicians’ different duties within the city walls can often be inferred. Important insights can thereby be gained into the extent of the patronage of these civic brass instrumentalists, their roles within everyday city life, and their resultant contribution to the communication of civic strength to the populace and their guests.

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