Singlings & Doublings in military drum calls

Yesterday I stumbled across this in an 1812 book of drum beatings:

Singlings of Troop or Assembly (p. 6)
Doublings of the Troop (p. 7)
Singlings and Doublings of the Tattoo (p. 8)
Doublings of Troop (p. 31)

The Troop and Tattoo are military signals, notifying soldiers what to do. The evidence for pibrochs being used as military calls (Reveille, Troop, Retreat, Tattoo and General) is found here.

Ashworth 1812 cover

A New, Useful and Complete System of Drum Beating – Including the Reveille, Troop, Retreat, Officer’s Calls, Signals, Salutes and the whole of the Camp Duty as practiced at Head Quarters, Washington City; intended particularly for the United States Army and Navy by Charles Stewart Ashworth, Leader of the Marine Band of music, Washington City. To which are added Tunes for the Fife adapted to the Drum. Boston, Published for the Author 1812 by G. Graupner

A couple of months ago, I noticed another thing  that may throw light on where the pibroch terms “Single” and “Double” come from. The choreographic terms simple and double are abbreviated to S and D in notations of court dances from around 1500. These abbreviations and the alternation of measures (choreographic units) of different length immediately bring to mind Colin Campbell’s Instrumental Book:

Basse danse. The principal court dance during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. It reached a height of cultivation during the 15th century and disappeared after the middle of the 16th century. The musical practice that grew up around it served as a proving ground for many early instrumental techniques such as improvisations over a ground, variations and the forming of suite-like combinations.

… the dance was performed by couples and employed only five different step-units: R (révérence); b (branle); s (simple, usually found in pairs); d (double) and r (reprise or des marche). These five steps were combined into codified patterns called mesures. Several mesures made up a complete dance, some dances being of six mesures (a total of 62 step-units, as in Le doulz espoir). A typical choreographical structure involved alternation of one mesure with another of different length.

Daniel Heartz and Patricia Rader, ‘Basse danse’. Grove Music Online. Oxford University Press (accessed November 2015)


6 thoughts on “Singlings & Doublings in military drum calls

  1. A gem of scholarly compilation as well as a fascinating overview of what pipers played and did back then – especially the detail about 12 pipers marching around St. Andrews Square in Edinburgh playing ‘Clanranald’s March’.

  2. I am glad to see Barnaby that your visits to my papers is having a useful effect. I would though add a couple of words of caution. The American military following the family dispute of 1775-1783 based their new republican army structure on the British army as it was in that era, with later US-specific tweaks. On the other hand, by 1812 in the British army there had been considerable changed as a result of the 1793 – 1815 spat with our continental neighbors. So if those drum calls can be shown to hold true for the British forces circa 1775, Colin Campbell who served in the military around then may well have been borrowing the nomenclature.

    ‘1820, when the publication of Donald MacDonald’s Book started to stabilize the names’? Well, in the later period when they introduced the competition for previous winners of the prize pipe the reduction by old MacRa in his submitted list of a well known tune to ‘Flaming mad’ might be an excessive contradictory example, but the rest of the submitted and chosen tune lists from post 1820 I have seen and which so excited Roddy might change your view.

    However, 1820 is as good a line to draw as any so to join in the spirit here are some more. The first is for 31 July 1810 (I did say I should have more after your last visit, but you know the peculiarities of my filing systems). This and the following 3 are of particular interest for titles now missing, or never given one in the first place. All the spellings as given in the ‘Plan’ so includes the variants.

    Failte a Phrionsa /The Prince’s Salute
    Sliabh an t’Shiorra /Battle of Sheriff-muir
    Cumha Duic Hamilton /The Duke of Hamilton’s Lament
    Glas Mheur / A Favourite Piece
    Spaidstireachd Bharra /M’Niel of Barra’s March
    Fhuar mi Pog do Laimh an Righ /I got a Kifs of the King’s Hand
    Failte Mheanairich /Sir James Menzie’s Salute
    Failte Bhoisdail / M’Donald of Boisdale’s Salute
    Cumha Mhic Chruimean /M’Rimmin’s Lament
    Crunneach nan Camfhroineach /The Cameron’s Gathering
    Piobreach Ur /A New Piobrach
    Cumha Mhic Chruinean / M’Rimmon’s Lament
    Ghlas Mheur /A Favourite Piece

    The tunes submitted by the two Campbells in 1816. Please cross check with the copies I sent you as the reading of the hand is being done through the bottom of a glass at speed.

    John Campbell from Nether Lorne
    /Sutherlands Gathering
    / Mackay’s Lament
    Craigealachie /GrantsGathering
    /Battle of Fontney
    Spaiderachd Dhonuil Gruamach /Grim Donald’s Sweetheart
    Spaiderachd Bhara / Macneill of Barra’s Salute

    Donald Campbell from Breadalbane
    Pionbrachd Dhomul Dhuibh /[Macgregers March -crossed through and replaced with
    Lochals march]
    Failte Phricngcer / Princes welcome
    Moladh Maire /maclachlains march
    Cogadh na Sith /Peace or war
    Ruag Ghlinne Freorr /Chace of Glenfroug
    Spaeaderach Dhonuil Gruamich /Grim Donalds Sweetheart

    John Campbell 1819, the year he won the prize pipe.
    Spaiderachdd Dhond Gruamnich /Grim Donald’s Sweetheart
    Failte a Phrinja /The Princes’ Salute
    Failte Bhoisdail / Boisdale’s Salute
    An Ribein Ghorm /Blue Ribbon
    Ruaig Ghlinne Frein /The Persuit of Glenfroim
    Cian a Drochaid Bhig /The Cameron’s Gathering.

    Reminds me of a discussion with Roddy over the tune Kindease, a translation of which he was trying to pin down. So I had started looking in the contemporary manuscripts and made one possible suggestion regarding a translation which he ran past a Gaelic scholar of our acquaintance who effectively said ‘no way could that spelling be connected to what would be required in Gaelic for the suggested meaning.’ ‘Ok’, I replied when told, ‘how does he want it spelt, since I have assembled just about ever permutation you could think of and there certainly must be a suitable one in there.’ As we started it, it is one which I will pursue to completion for the background to Kindease here.

  3. This is very interesting Barnaby, well spotted.

    Do you have anything to say about technical reasons why these terms might have transferred, i.e. do you see any technical or stylistic feature of the drum singlings & doublings that parallel the pipe singling and doublings?

    I would also be interested to know the heritage of these drum styles or systems, can they be traced back to 16th or 17th century trumpet and kettledrum practice?

  4. Following from my previous reply, making the tune lists of the early competitions more widely known is a worthwhile exercise as it throws up some interesting points. For example, in the list of John Campbell’s tunes submitted for the 1816 competition is a tune that is no longer extant, ‘Battle of Fontney’ [recta Fontenoy]. Possibly was in that missing 3rd volume.

    If the collection of tunes associated with the events of 1745-46 are separated out, it in fact means that between the Battle of Fontenoy in 1745 to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 there are no piobaireachd connected to or commemorating any of the various intervening military engagements involving the highland regiments during that whole period. Even the Battle of Waterloo was composed by someone who was not in the battle (being the work of John MacKay, the father of Angus, whose military service comprised travelling periodically from Raasay to Portree for Drills as he was in the Skye Company of the Inverness-shire militia).

    The ‘Battle of Fontenoy’ however was presumably a composition by someone in the Black Watch in what was the regiment’s first real engagement. In turn, bringing up the Black Watch also links back to considering the source of those ‘Irish tunes’ in the Campbell Canntaireachd. For seven years from 1749 until moving to America in 1756 the 42nd was stationed in Ireland. Not that they were alone, as the two Battalions of the Royal Scots or 1st of Foot also went to Ireland the same year, and the 2nd Bt also went to America in 1756. The 1st Bt remained in Ireland a further 4 years until 1760.

    On the 42nd returning from America in 1767, it was back to Ireland this time for eight years until problems across the big pond in 1775 had them heading back across once more. So, in a combined total of some 15 years spent in Ireland it is difficult to believe there were no musical exchanges in both directions. In fact, it is possible to demonstrate considerable social interaction. Firstly, the married soldiers would have had their wives and children with them.

    It is interesting to go through the military pension records of soldiers from the Napoleonic period which clearly demonstrate how many second generation soldiers there were. A considerable number of men whose names were definitely ‘highland’ and who served in highland regiments are described as ‘born in Ireland’. And these are simply the men who survived to draw a pension. For direct evidence of musical interaction, at least from the regimental view, among a few which come to mind are the instruction in a regimental order book that the Colonel orders the officers when walking out into town in the evenings to stop taking the duty piper with them.

    While it just possible they intended to listen to piobaireachd while drinking in the local tavern it is more likely they wanted to impress the local ladies by providing dance music. That certainly was the case in another example where the commanding officer of a Highland Regiment serving in Ireland received a formal thank you from the local community for allowing them to borrow a piper for a local wedding.

    The Highland Regiments based in Ireland over the 18th Century for considerable periods of time did become a part of their local communities, and that meant pitching in to help when needed. A classic case being when the harvest in Cork was at risk due to weather, making the harvesting very late. An entire battalion of Highlanders stationed in the area pitched in, and when the Colonel’s wife heard she also volunteered the 8 members of the band of music who were with her. What the musicians thought of the idea is unrecorded, but in fact they were not actually required.

  5. Hey everyone,

    I know this is a somewhat older post, but I just stumbled upon it and thought I could offer some help.

    I work at Old Fort Niagara as a historical interpreter, specifically portraying a French (c. 1750) drummer, British (c. 1770) drummer, and American (c. 1812) drummer, as well as privately re-enact the American Civil War as a drummer. As part of my job, I also do a lot of research on the interpretation and performance of these duty calls.

    To answer some questions that were posed:

    Ashworth was himself a British drummer who came to American and published one of the first US army-oriented drum manuals in 1812. Overall, not a bunch changes from Ashworth (1812) to Rumrille (1817) to Klinehanse (1854) to the Civil War era manuals. As to whether Ashworth reflects British practices? Very much so. His beatings are largely identical (with a few sticking changes and minor things) to a manual called “The Young Drummer’s Assistant” c. 1780, a British manual. This manual is also nearly identical to Potter’s “The Art of Beating the Drum” (1815), which was written in response to all the changes occurring in the Napoleonic British army.

    It might make you feel better to know that the “Singlings” and “Doublings” are also an enigma in the Fife and Drum world, but one we’re making some good progress on.

    The Troop, which is the duty call involved with mounting the guard, seems to also have overlap with field maneuvers (in fact, most daily duty calls have a corresponding field maneuver, which is a helpful feature about them). My research suggests that the terms Singlings and Doublings might originate from terminology describing field maneuvers beginning at least with Thomas Fisher’s ‘Warlike Directions’. To keep it simple, Doublings seems to imply a looser formation, whereas Singlings a tighter formation. There’s better evidence to also suggest that something called “A Short Troop” is simply a Singlings of the Troop, which is played whenever the men are to march in close-order, with their arms advanced (or tucked down into the body, rather than up on the shoulder).

    Though it doesn’t appear to be a rule, there is a tendency for Singlings to be 3/8, or 6/8, or sometimes a 3/4 that ought to be played as if cut (so it’s a 3/8). Doublings tend to be 2/4 or 6/8, and may have some association with a quickstep (that might be a later adaptation, c. 1780s or early 1800s).

    There’s one other duty call that uses this terminology – The Tattoo, which told the soldiers to get in their barracks and prepare for lights out. If everything I just said above is correct, it’s not clear how the Singlings and Doublings of the Tattoo earned their names!

    The original Tattoo (both Singlings and Doublings) was written in 3/4, probably meant to be played more like a 6/8. When performing the Tattoo, the music would play a series of tunes (whatever they wanted). At the end of each line (about 8 bars), they played the 1-bar Singlings; this continues until the tunes ends, at which point they play the Doublings. After the Doublings, they play another tune as described above.

    Considering the complexity of The Troop and the long evolving history of its tradition, there’s a lot more I could say on it, if anyone has any particular questions or lines of inquiry.

    I personally would really like to know if there is any correlation in the pipe music between time signature and Singlings/Doublings. As I mentioned, one tendency I’ve noticed is the 3/8-Singlings / 2/4-Doublings and I’m curious if we can build a stronger case for that “rule” via the older pipe music. I’d be grateful for anyone who has information / research relating to this topic.

  6. Dear John,
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge! This is fascinating. I would love to understand more deeply how “Singlings” and “Doublings” were used in daily duty calls and, venturing into more speculative territory, in the field manoeuvres that you suspect are the origin of the two duty calls that these terms were associated with by the late 18th century: the Troop and Tattoo. Could you share in any more detail the fully-fleshed-out performance routines of Singlings and Doublings, and the different messages that they signalled to soldiers? Are there any YouTube videos you would recommend?

    It is tempting to imagine that the Singlings and Doublings in pibroch had some sort of signalling function. If so (and it’s a big IF) then the function may have nothing to do with British military practice in the 18th century. It is, however, surely worth investigating Thomas Fisher’s “Warlike directions” of 1642, which describes practice in the Netherlands under the Prince of Orange ( Thank you for alerting me to this!

    You write that “Doublings seem to imply a looser formation, whereas Singlings a tighter formation.” Could you point us to the passage(s) that led you to form this view? In Fisher’s “Instructions”, the word Doubling(s) occurs 33 times but the word Singling(s) does not appear once, according to the digitised text available via the link above. It is the same story in the pibroch sources. Although “Doubling” is abundant in 18th-century sources, “Singling” does not leave a significant mark until 1838 (Angus MacKay’s book). Perhaps its introduction to pibroch was prompted by the widespread military usage attested in books like this:

    I look forward to reading Fisher’s 1642 “Introduction” properly. The introduction looks most promising:

    Inſtructions for yong Souldiers, agreeable to that diſcipline which is now practiſed within the Netherlands, under the command of the Prince of Orange.

    I Will firſt begin with the ſeverall beates of the Drum, becauſe every ſouldier is bound of neceſſity to learne to know and obſerve them▪ for when the Commanders voyce cannot be heard vnto the whole company, the Drum denounceth and expreſſeth the ſame. The gathering of the company unto their colours: when to Troope, March, Charge, Retreat; and ſuch like. The beats or ſounds which are to be learned, are theſe that follow.

    Inſtructions for the Drum. A gathering. A Troope. A March. A Battalia. A Charge. A Retreat. A Reliefe. A Battery. A Call for proclamation.

    The gathering is the firſt which is to bring the company together to their Colors, or place appointed by the ſuperiour Commander

    A Troope.
    A troope is, that when the company is come to the place appointed, the Commander intending to keepe them cloſe in their order, which is three foot, the readier with advanced Pikes to troope up to the Court of guard, or place appointed for watch. Likewiſe to charge the enemy, or receive a charge, and is as the voyce of the Commander to all, to advance their Pikes, & ſhoulder their muskets, if they be at any other poſture.

    … Now followeth the motions of Facing, Doubling, Countermarching, Wheeling, and ſuch like, in a groſe body or Battalia.

    … Obſervations in all ſorts of doublings 42

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