Civil War bands, indispensable to both Union and Confederate troops, were employed by officers to keep morale high during times of rest and relaxation, and to instill regional pride during times of battle. I engage in an inquiry into the functions of the Civil War band in order to highlight the nature of music as it offers at one moment the emotional integration of camaraderie and at another moment the impetus to spur soldiers to combat. As a means of investigating such cases, I start with the poem “Union Camp Music,” included in my recent book of poems, Cyclorama, and conclude with a discussion of the receptive functions activated by both poetry and music in the listeners of each art form. Both poetry and music depend upon bodily reactions, the former relying more upon a referentiality inherent to meaning, the latter upon a nonreferentiality that can turn intention obscure. Both art forms, nonetheless, retain as a primary effect, the performer-to-listener synchrony that derives from somatic response.
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