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Old 12-08-2017, 12:44 AM   #13
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Join Date: Dec 2014
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Posts: 228
Default Re: Condensed Echo Beats

Originally Posted by CalumII View Post
The thing for me is that actually I see little difference between the George Moss tapes, and Allan MacDonald's interpretations, and the "mainstream" of piobaireachd tradition. The differences are small and relatively systematic.

If you take, for example, George Moss's Lament for Mary MacLeod, and compare it to Jack Taylor playing a couple of months ago, I find the similarities far more striking than the differences.
On the other hand, compare this version by Allan MacDonald:

Glengarry's March - Allan MacDonald, 1998

to this version by Bruce Gandy:

Glengarry's March - Bruce Gandy, 2015

You might say, quite reasonably, that they are very similar, with primary difference being tempo. But, honestly: that's a difference that is very distinct.

The thing I'm learning as I explore the primary source manuscripts isn't that there is some horrible "corruption" that has somehow destroyed the music in the last 100 years or so. It is simply that there was much more variability in ways of interpretation, and that variability is not really taught today. (Some would call it "natural selection" of stylistic development, the dominant form of which exists today because it is the "better" form. I find such an argument intellectually lazy.]

I also believe that even when we come to understand and appreciate those differences, even classify them broadly as MacKay / MacDonald / MacGregor / Campbell, there is still a general failure (if you want( to call it that) to draw from the Gaelic song tradition behind all of them. Even after we have been told by some of the great modern teachers to "sing the tune" or "find the song in the music", it is generally taken metaphorically, when in many cases it could (and possibly should) be take quite literally.

In the case of "echo beats" (Let's call them what they were originally called, "crahinins"), many of the tunes in which we see them were laments, and we know and can hear the Gaelic singers "keening". Crahinins were simply the instrumental translation of that vocal tradition:

Vocal Evidence of Keening

In both cases, they are very stylized musical adaptations of wailing and mourning. As musicians, when we understand THAT, then it really doesn't matter HOW the echo beats are written - we understand what they ARE and, as musicians, shape them in our performances accordingly: we INTERPRET them.
J David Hester
Alt Pibroch Club
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