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Screamers were mostly composed in a 60-year period (1895–1955). Circuses were in need of music that would stir the audience into a frenzy, as four-footed animals galloped across the ring. Because march music was a prominent part of American music at that time, and because it carried such a quick tempo, it was this that ringleaders demanded.
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Circus marches are faster than a normal military march, often 130 to 150 beats/minute.
Although screamers tend to follow the march form, many times they are abbreviated, and additions, such as a quick cornet call introduction to a new melody, are included. A typical screamer lasts a minute to three and a half minutes.
Screamers are a very demanding type of music, due to their extremely fast and advanced rhythms, especially the low-brass parts. Double and even triple tonguing is often required in order to play these rhythms. The trio in "The Melody Shop" is a good example of this.
Many screamers have two prominent melodies playing at once. Although this is not unusual in a march, screamers tend to go further with this. The low-brass section can be playing a long, stately melody, while the woodwinds can be moving along with a phrase of 16th notes, or vice versa.
Due to the circumstances in which screamers are played, dynamics tend to stay at a level forte. Unlike some military marches, piano is rarely used.
The most prominent composer of circus marches is Karl L. King, most notably with his march "Barnum & Bailey's Favorite". Other screamer composers include Fred Jewell and Henry Fillmore. John Philip Sousa wrote "On Parade" and a few others, but his writing in the circus march style is not renowned.
- The ABA March by Edwin Franko Goldman
- Americans We by Henry Fillmore
- Barnum and Bailey's Favorite by Karl L. King
- Bennett's Triumphal by Melvin H. Ribble
- The Big Cage by Karl L. King
- The Billboard March by John N. Klohr
- Bombasto by Orion R. Farrar
- Bones Trombone by Henry Fillmore
- Bravura by Charles E. Duble
- Bugles and Drums by Edwin Franko Goldman
- The Circus Bee by Henry Fillmore
- Circus Days by Karl L. King
- Circus Echoes by Arthur W. Hughes
- Circus King by Charles E. Duble
- Coat of Arms by George Kenny
- Floto's Triumph by Fred Jewell
- His Honor by Henry Fillmore
- Invictus by Karl L. King
- Klaxon by Henry Fillmore
- The Melody Shop by Karl L. King
- Onward and Upward by Edwin Franko Goldman
- Robinson's Grand Entree by Karl L. King
- Rolling Thunder by Henry Fillmore
- Sells-Floto Triumphal by Karl L. King
- The Squealer by Will Huff
- The Screamer by Frederick Jewell
- Smilin' Jack by Robert S. Keller
- Them Basses by Getty H. Huffine
Popular marches composed for standard march tempo but frequently performed as screamers
- Entrance of the Gladiators (also known as Thunder and Blazes when played as a screamer) by Julius Fučík
- Liner notes to Front & Center, a Collection of American Marches, U.S. Air Force Band