War Music

Tuesday, 22.04.2014 - Saturday, 31.10.2015, Museum Ground Floor

In the First World War, music was heard on the battlefield, in concert halls, in the camps and in churches. Music reflected and affected all the emotions of war — pride and jingoism, sorrow and consolation – with everything from requiems to rousing choruses. Marking the First World War centenary, this new exhibition takes a broad look at the relationship between music and war against the background of radical musical change. Original instruments, images and manuscripts are all featured.

For many, music provided a source of hope, sanity and pleasure amidst the horrors of war. This special exhibition displays a host of popular and perhaps familiar songs, printed with bold graphic covers featuring heroic and sentimental images. These were catchy tunes, designed to inspire loyalty and patriotism.

‘War Music’ explores the reality of the battlefield, which often told a different story. See a wind-up trench gramophone, a tenor horn camouflaged with black paint to stop it glinting at the enemy, a burnt-out harmonica and soldiers’ song-books.

The unparalleled outpouring of poetry which the First World War provoked is also examined, as many verses were set to music by the foremost composers of the day.

Finally, the displays follow the Royal Academy of Music’s own story during the war: we learn about the exchange of German pianos for English ones, and discover how students and alumni fared once they’d enlisted and left London far behind.

A lively and moving programme of musical events accompanies the exhibition.