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Music Discuss specific tunes, the writing of tunes, other questions, concerns, etc. related specifically to the music or music books.

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Old 11-21-2020, 04:04 PM   #1
briguy
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Default Help me understand Piobaireachd

Piobaireachd.
Fun to say, not easy to understand.
I've listened to it, a few times now - and I just don't really understand it.
I know what it is, but am having a hard time appreciating it.

Was thinking that if you all had some chosen youtube links or songs on spotify that say "Oh, this is a GREAT example." or "This is the best Piobaireachd."

Help me appreciate it.
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Old 11-21-2020, 05:57 PM   #2
pancelticpiper
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Default Re: Help me understand Piobaireachd

I think it helps to realise that Ceol Mor isn't an isolated unique style, but a very old, and very widespread, music format.

Traditional music traditions with strikingly similar structure exist in Africa and India and I'm sure in many other places.

And European "art music" too: music following the same format was very popular in Baroque music.

The structure/format is "theme and variation". First a theme is presented, then a number of variations on that theme follow.

Typical in Ceol Mor is for the theme to be more or less like a slow song-air, and for the variations to gradually increase in complexity as well as speed.

Whereas in some Baroque Italian etc pieces the variations can be a mix of slow, fast, and medium tempi as you go along.

As far as appreciating it goes, there's no magic bullet. I think the appreciation comes from listening to a lot of it, and also from playing it.

As you probably noticed, Ceol Mor themes (the Urlar) can sound meandering and random, or they can sound melodic and tuneful. I think the latter are more accessible to people not used to listening to Ceol Mor.

I think a good example of a "hummable" tuneful Urlar, and also tuneful variations, is Lament For Captain MacDougall. I went around with that tune stuck in my head for months.
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Last edited by pancelticpiper; 11-21-2020 at 06:03 PM.
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Old 11-21-2020, 08:26 PM   #3
EquusRacer
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Default Re: Help me understand Piobaireachd

I think that pancelticpiper covered it extremely well. I would echo what he said about "theme and variation", appreciating the technical skill in the increasing complex embellishments.

I cannot really add much to what he said, for I also agree with perhaps favoring the more melodic pieces. That said, I would only add that it sometimes helps if there is a story with the piece (e.g., Lament for the Children; Battle of the Birds). Perhaps that would add one other element in understanding it.

Good on you, however, for wanting to understand piobaireachd, regardless of what conclusion you end up having. It may not be your "thing"; or it may open up a whole other world.
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Old 11-21-2020, 08:35 PM   #4
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Default Re: Help me understand Piobaireachd

In some ceol mor the musical notion of the ground is conveyed throughout the variations, and a good player will express that pattern in the variations. I think we all agree that PM Donald MacLeod is a good player, and this explanation by him, and playing on the practice chanter does a very nice version of one of my favorites, The King's Taxes.

See if you also think that the variations do a good job of following the ground (or urlar) through the tune.

This tune is far more melodic than others, which listeners sometimes describe as sounding like a series of practice exercises. Wringing out all of the expression within a player makes the listening much more enjoyable to the audience.

I also have to say that when I play piobaireachd, I feel very selfish, like I am playing it for me, alone. Light music always feels more performative, as if I am playing for the audience. The things I learn about expression and control of piobaireachd are very helpful with my light music.

I hope you enjoy this one.

https://youtu.be/riBFLTaOhxc
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Old 11-21-2020, 09:32 PM   #5
Patrick McLaurin
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Default Re: Help me understand Piobaireachd

Quote:
Originally Posted by briguy View Post
Help me appreciate it.
Wait, you're saying you *want* to be bored to death? On purpose?



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Old 11-21-2020, 09:46 PM   #6
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Default Re: Help me understand Piobaireachd

Listening to a lot of it help. It's an acquired taste. ;-)


I'm sure it's a very personal thing and different ones will resonate with different people. For me this modern piobaireachd by Donald MacLeod really drew me in:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNmXJFPy-f8


The piano and cello accompaniment along with the harmony on pipes brought out the chord structure that opened up the piece for me. It's one of my absolute favourites now. YMMV.... ;-)
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Old 11-22-2020, 08:38 AM   #7
CalumII
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Default Re: Help me understand Piobaireachd

Quote:
Originally Posted by briguy View Post
I've listened to it, a few times now - and I just don't really understand it.

That's a pretty typical reaction. The music comes from a culture that has long vanished, and it's impossible now to hear it in the context it was made. It's as strange to our ears as any particular culture from around the world. For example, you wouldn't necessarily expect to have a deep appreciation for Yayue or Gagaku music without learning about the instrumentation, cultural context, evolution, and so forth.



For a piper, I think the simplest route to an appreciation of the music is to play it. I reckon you have to learn perhaps half a dozen tunes before you start to see the patterns and common elements between tunes, and you start to hear the music as a genre rather than a series of abstract notes in multiple variations.
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Old 11-22-2020, 09:19 AM   #8
Texas Gael
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Default Re: Help me understand Piobaireachd

Ṕobaireachd is best understood by realizing that the Ground of the piece establishes the themal notes, which are then developed in the variations by adding increasingly complex fingering to the themal notes. You are basically listening for the themal notes throughout. Ṕobaireachd arose in a culture before the advent of mass media, where the audience took time to listen to the theme of the tune, there was no “I need this asap or I’m done”. For modern audiences the opposite is true. You are dealing with a highly developed musicianship.

Cheers -

Wes
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Old 11-22-2020, 01:35 PM   #9
Mac an t-Sealgair
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Default Re: Help me understand Piobaireachd

Quote:
Originally Posted by CalumII View Post
That's a pretty typical reaction. The music comes from a culture that has long vanished, and it's impossible now to hear it in the context it was made.

I reckon you have to learn perhaps half a dozen tunes before you start to see the patterns and common elements between tunes, and you start to hear the music as a genre rather than a series of abstract notes in multiple variations.
I agree, however, without digressing too much there are well documented reasons for the product we have now. And I'd hazard that what we have now is from a victorian culture only a hundred or so years ago. The Macpherson paradigm still holding strong.

There are some beautiful pieces of music though, even in the current form. But, to most it is a yawn fest. As Callum says, you really need to have a stab at playing it to really appreciate it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Texas Gael View Post
Ṕobaireachd is best understood by realizing that the Ground of the piece establishes the themal notes, which are then developed in the variations by adding increasingly complex fingering to the themal notes. You are basically listening for the themal notes throughout.
Exactamundo.

2 of my favourites in the competition style:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bf8U...&index=5&t=13s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zeMK...aqpE0&index=13

And 2, in what could be argued is a more authentic style. More closely related to gaelic song:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCRb...iaqpE0&index=8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbvC...iaqpE0&index=7

They are all have their merits.
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Old 11-22-2020, 03:57 PM   #10
Kevin
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Default Re: Help me understand Piobaireachd

Piobaireachd is not my thing, but I have grown to appreciate it and the skill of pipers who do it well. For me, it helps to imagine something like one of the following when listening:

1. I'm napping in the sun on a beach, it's calm at first, then the wind picks up, it builds into a late afternoon storm, which then blows over and the calm returns.

2. I'm floating down a lazy river in a canoe, the current quickens and the canoe gets swept into gorge. In the gorge the rapids get bigger and bigger and then the river suddenly flows out of the gorge into a lazy valley again.

Hope this helps,
Kevin
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