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Re: Bagpipe Commonality
Poster: John Wash <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Some time during the past millenium, David KUIJT said:
> Poster: David KUIJT <email@example.com>
> Bryn Watkins speculates about bagpipes being instruments of war.
> Sorry, it ain't so. Bagpipes are a very common musical instrument,
> shown in illustrations throughout the middle ages, and throughout
> Europe. You can see bagpipes illustrated in the Lutrell psalter,
> in the wedding paintings of Brueghel, and so on. The miller is shown
> playing bagpipes in some of the earliest illustrations of the Canterbury
> Tales. You see bagpipes in Du"rer, and in the playing cards of the
> sixteenth century.
> I'm not sure when bagpipes disappeared from most of Europe except
> Scotland, but it was long after the end of period. Robyyan would know
> better, if he's listening. Regardless, I doubt that bagpipes were
> regarded as solely military instruments until after they had been
> abandoned by civilians, which was out of period.
Finally! A subject about which I know something!
Scottish Highland Bagpipes were co-opted by the British military towards the
end of the 19th century. Before then they were a folk instrument, played
at ceilidhs and other celebrations. It was not uncommon for clans to have a
piper before that time, and highland pipes are very loud (for the deaf
among you who might not have noticed), so I'm sure they were played during
The music and style of playing that you hear now have nothing at all in
common with period and/or pre-1800 piping. Piobaireachd was played faster
with less emphasis on technique (it was improvisational at the time).
Strathspeys were much less exaggeratedly pointed than they are in
competition playing today. Reels were played fairly even or swung,
and while jigs were not dead even they were certainly not 6/8 march-type
tunes. The 6/8 march as we know it today did not exist. Hornpipes
were tunes in 3/2 and not "really cool reels" which is what they seem to
be considered now. 2/4 marches were not played like the piper was
marching with a broken leg. The competition piping today is NOT NOT NOT NOT
authentic highland piping. It's an English bastardization combined
with mainland classical influence. Anyone who tells you otherwise
is plain wrong, and you can tell them I said so (not that my opinions
mean much in the piping community, mind you.)
There is also a strong relationship between traditional piping and
Ga\idhlig. If you speak much Ga\idhlig you realize that a lot of the
movements and timing of traditional tunes mimic the internal rhythms
of (subjective judgement coming up) the world's most beautiful language.
A strong and regular rhythm was essential for playing for step and
ceilidh dances, but you find many songs with pipe tune equivalents
which are in irregular time signatures or have many time changes.
I could go on for hours about this but I won't. If you'd like more
information get some recordings by Allan MacDonald or old Cape Breton
players (CB fiddle is pretty true to the old style of highland music;
Natalie and Buddy MacMaster are easily-accesible examples of this),
Hamish Moore, or Fred Morrison. Alternately, if you see me at an
event, ask me to play you the different styles so you can hear what I'm
As far as other types of Scottish/English/Irish pipes are concerned,
they share almost no common musical traits with highland pipes and
modern competition highland piping.
And that's the way I played it.
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