The roots of military music may be traced back to ancient times when various drums, bugles, horns, etc. were used to amplify human voice, cheer up one’s own warriors and intimidate the enemy. These instruments fulfilled signalling function and were considered to be a means of fighting, not musical instruments. This is mentioned, for example, in the so-called military code of Jan Žižka from 1423.
The proper coming into existence of military music dates back to the Thirty Years' War period. The previous intensive blowing of horns and playing drums acquired a new function – to rhythmically coordinate the organised and uniform movement of masses.
In 17th century there has been a certain systemisation of military musicians. By means of a directive by the Court Military Council promulgated in 1777, the musical service in the army was to be controlled in greater detail. More moderate clothing was prescribed and conditions for recruiting and educating young musicians were determined.
In 1822 "New Provisions Concerning Regimental Music” were published which, besides other things, stipulated the existence of 10 oboe players, professional musicians, and 24 drum players consistently trained in music in one regiment.
Since the date of its foundation, Olomouc has basically been an important fortified military city; the history of military music in our region has therefore deep roots and long tradition.
In the first decades of the 19th century the musicians in the Austrian Army were acknowledged to have military qualifications and, in terms of music, were left with considerable freedom. The military orchestras of the Austrian-Hungarian Army (with prevalence of Czech musicians) had a very high quality.
The important development of military music and military wind orchestras is connected to the technical development in the area of wind instruments at the beginning of the 19th century. Fluegelhorns, cornets, bugles of different tuning, tenors, baritones and helicons (tubas) appeared. The quality of performances by military orchestras increased in proportion to the quality of musical instruments.
Four functions of military music started to be distinguished: utility, ceremonial, artistic and entertaining.
The acting of military wind orchestras in public strongly influenced also the establishment of popular wind orchestras as well as the overall development of wind music.
Following the foundation of the independent Czechoslovak Republic in 1918, garrison orchestras and later on regimental orchestras were established with the former musicians and band leaders of the Austrian-Hungarian Army, mostly of the Czech origin.
The establishment of military orchestras required that an organisational centre be created; thus the Musical Orchestra Inspectorate came into existence, headed by the Musical Orchestra Inspector.
The problem of the education of new generations of military musicians was solved by means of establishing a two-year Military School of Music in Prague in 1923.
Another problem was the issue of a uniform instrument tuning, which was the result of the activity of Czech military musicians in different countries, from which they brought instruments of different tuning. Uniform instrument use and identical tuning thereof, which allowed for full development of the activity of military orchestras, was achieved as late as 1929. The military orchestras were successful also on the international scale, e.g. the Czechoslovak Military Music at the contest of military orchestras in Paris in 1933.
During the twenty years of activity, the Czechoslovak military orchestras fulfilled their mission very well. They were of great importance especially in the border regions, where they fostered the cultural life of our border guards.
Following the occupation of our country by the German fascists in 1938, the Czechoslovak Army and its military orchestras were disbanded. The Military School of Music was cancelled.
During the occupation, 12 battalion orchestras of 40 musicians each were established within the framework of the so-called government army; the activity of these orchestras was meritorious since they spread Czech music. They were subject to the command of Václav Tomeš, Supreme Military Orchestra Leader.
The military orchestras were founded also during the formation of the Czechoslovak Army abroad.
Following the liberation of Czechoslovakia in 1945, the Czechoslovak Army and military music were restored. The Inspectorate of Military Orchestras, headed by Major Jan Uhlíř, Principal Orchestra Leader, was re-established and the Military School of Music, under the command of Captain Jindřich Praveček, was restored. Sixteen military orchestras with 42 musicians each and the Castle Guard Orchestra of utmost quality were set up.
The modern history of the Olomouc military music dates back to 1945 under the heading of the Infantry Regiment Orchestra. The conductor’s stand was held successively by very important figures, such as Josef Potužník, Dr. Robert Šálek, Karol Mikuláštík, Adolf Hamerský, Karel Pitra, Jindřich Zbožínek and Otto Vymětal. (More information about the modern history see CHRONICLE).
Following February 1948 our army entered the period of rapid completion and transformation into an army of different type. It can be stated that the improvement of material means provided to soldiers together with the improvement of the cultural and artistic activity within the army contributed to the development of the military musical service and high-quality performance by the military orchestras.
The Army of the Czech Republic is currently being reorganised and professionalized, which is having a strong impact also on the military music. The Olomouc Garrison Orchestra remains one of the few army music bodies which may continue fulfilling their mission, follow the rich tradition and be an honour to Czech music in our country and abroad.