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A fanfare (or flourish) is a short musical flourish that is typically played by trumpets or other brass instruments, often accompanied by percussion (Tarr 2001), a "brief improvised introduction to an instrumental performance" (Griffiths 2004). By extension, the word may also designate a short, prominent passage for brass instruments in an orchestral composition. In French usage, fanfare also may refer to a hunting signal (given either on "starting" a stag, or after the kill when the hounds are given their share of the animal), and in both France and Italy was the name given in the 19th century to a military or civilian brass band (Tarr 2001). In French, this usage continues to the present, and distinguishes the all-brass band from bands of mixed brass and woodwind, which is called Harmonie (Kennedy 2006).


The word has been traced to a 15th-century Spanish root, fanfa ("vaunting"). Though the word may be onomatopoeic, it is also possible that it is derived from the Arabic word anfár ("trumpets"). The word is first found in 1546 in French, and in English in 1605, but it was not until the 19th century that it acquired its present meaning of a brief ceremonial flourish for brass (Tarr 2001). Indeed, an alternative term for the fanfare is "flourish", as in the "Ruffles and Flourishes" played by military bands in the US to announce the arrival of the President, a general, or other high-ranking dignitary (Randel 2003).


Fanfares have been imitated in art music as early as the 14th century. Examples in opera include a fanfare for the governor's arrival in Beethoven's Fidelio, act 2. In the 20th century, well-known composed fanfares include Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man (1942), for brass and percussion, and Igor Stravinsky's Fanfare for a New Theatre (1964), for two trumpets (Baines and Bellingham 2002; Randel 2003).


  • Baines, Anthony, and Jane Bellingham. 2002. "Fanfare". The Oxford Companion to Music, edited by Alison Latham. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-866212-9.
  • Griffiths, Paul. 2004. The Penguin Companion to Classical Music. London and New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 9780141909769 (electronic book).
  • Kennedy, Michael. 2006. "Fanfare". The Oxford Dictionary of Music, second edition, revised. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-861459-3.
  • Randel, Don Michael. 2003. "Fanfare". The Harvard Dictionary of Music, fourth edition. Harvard University Press Reference Library 16. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-01163-2.
  • Tarr, Edward H. 2001. "Fanfare". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.

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