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Old 02-06-2010, 01:18 AM   #1
David
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Default Piobaireachd/Light Music Connections

As have many, I see some light tunes with melodies derived from piobaireachd. The two which come to mind are

The Sound of the Waves Against the Castle fo Duntroon
(reel Duntroon)

Black Donald's March
(6/8 march Pibroch Donald Duibh)

Might this at least suggest something about piobaireachd tempo; that (what we think of as) a slow source-tune inspired an up-tempo tune?

Are there any well-known or obscure Highland slow airs obviously connected to piobiareachd?

It is sometimes said that at least a few piobaireachd melodies derive from simpler, older slow airs. I have been hearing this idea for years, and obviously the idea is hardly new or unusual. But it would be difficult to research without a goodly attested body of slow airs from the early dawn of piobaireachd--itself a difficult era to deal with. Yet it would tell us so much...

Does anyone else see that a number of grounds can be striped of cadences and played as slow airs with a bit of minor modification? I am not actually suggesting this or not, just noting something of the underlying root of this distinctive music. I was reading from Donaldson's book Pipers, where he suggests that without the butchery of the early Piobaireachd Society piobaireachd might not be viewed today as an obscure, esoteric music form which requires at least some listener initiation to appreciate and to understand fully--not to get in to the much-hashed anti-PS discussion, but staying with the actual music of piobaireachd!

I am always drawn back to Lament for the Children, which is not an obscure melody at all, and tends to have great appeal to the completely "uninitiated." Yet it is hands-down considered as a classic--and classy-- bit of Ceol Mor as ever there was. And it can be notated pretty much as accurately as any other type of music. One could see it as a Slow Air Grandé in the ground and even up to and including variation II.

Last edited by David; 02-06-2010 at 01:23 AM. Reason: schpellink error
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Old 02-06-2010, 05:02 AM   #2
Jan B.
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Default Re: Piobaireachd/Light Music Connections

There are other Tunes inspired by Piobd. or vice versa (who knows?) for Example "Carles wi the breeks".

I think that many S/A inspiered Piobd. and vice versa. But I don't think that you can get a hint for tempo if you know if it was a piobd. or S/A.

But at least you can get a bit mor fluid out of a piobd. if you manipulate/ommit cadences in some Piobds. But I think that the character is still different from a S/A.

This are my own thoughts after a few lessons with my teacher who studied under Allan MacDonald. There are no sources for that.
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Old 02-06-2010, 05:28 AM   #3
Randy McIntosh
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Default Re: Piobaireachd/Light Music Connections

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jan B. View Post
or S/A.
What is S/A?
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Old 02-06-2010, 06:38 AM   #4
Andrew Payzant
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Default Re: Piobaireachd/Light Music Connections

Quote:
Originally Posted by David View Post
As have many, I see some light tunes with melodies derived from piobaireachd. The two which come to mind are

Black Donald's March
(6/8 march Pibroch Donald Duibh)
David,

I have always assumed this was the case - and I vaguely recall one or more of my instructors stating or implying that this was so.

But, from the Commentary on page 112 of the Piob Soc's recent publication of Donald MacDonald's Collection of Piobaireachd Volume 1 (1820), edited by R.D. Cannon and K Sanger:

"Like the previous tune [Lord Bradalbane's March] this one existed in popular forms including a Gaelic song and a 6/8 march."

As I read that sentence, it is not entirely clear (to me at least) that either the song or the march necessarily derived from the piobaireachd, but rather that all three forms had been around for some time. Or maybe I am reading more into it than the editors intended?

FYI - three different fiddle settings are also mentioned dating from the 18th century, the earliest from 1740 (with the title Lord Forbes' March).

MacDonald's notes to the tunes describe it as Black Donald Balloch of the Isles march to the first battle at Inverlochy in 1427. One might imagine that over the following four centuries (i.e., to 1820) the tune evolved into these 3 (or 4) related forms. Was the piobaireachd version the original, or did it too evolve out of some "common ancestor"?

BTW, this book is a real gem, and Cannon and Sanger provide a wealth of historical and other information.

Andrew
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Old 02-06-2010, 06:51 AM   #5
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Default Re: Piobaireachd/Light Music Connections

S/A = Slow Air
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Old 02-06-2010, 08:24 AM   #6
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Default Re: Piobaireachd/Light Music Connections

Logic dictates that influence can go in both directions, and "there and back" as well over time. I am curious if the cadences weren't in part a human voice modulation hinted at (but not imitated) on the pipes. My teacher very much thought this, but did not approach the matter systematically.

I have heard a few piobaireachd sung by older Highland folk. Not the modern singing of a tune, but tunes which are in the musical culture more as singing tunes than pipe tunes.

Did anyone of the few survivors of old Highland culture recorded ever appear to be singing what might be variations? We know the old Gaelic airs were widely and spontaneously sung at one time, though the connection to more formal piobaireach settings is unclear to me. Now of course I am not wondering if anyone sang crunluath variations exactly as in piobaireachd. But cross-over is so obvious in traditional music culture, and that includes Scotland. Multi-octave instruments like fiddles, and later accordians, borrowing many pipe tunes.

My piping teacher always taught by singing, though she used the practice chanter as well, and I wonder what we might learn from voice in expressng piobaireachd. Which, after all, we play with the "singing" part of the instruments--and even though we take pains to correct junior pipers who call tunes "songs."

Given comments here and there about the stiff, overly formal teaching of piobaireachd at one time, I can see more and more possibilities for expressing the music by looking at the other music which existed (and exists) around Ceol Mor. GS McLennan, arguably one of the most musical of pipers in composition and in what we here about his playing, remained at odds with the piob establishment of his day--specifically on the issue of unmusical settings. I understand he was never recorded--what a shame.

Anyone here seen and spent time with GS McLennan's settings or his own piob compositions? Some purests might suggest that he was too much of a light music virtuoso, and not enough of a piobaireachd player, but not all piping historians would agree.

In all these queries, I am looking for the musical "context" of the form, the musical world within which it evolved. The old certitude that a MacCrimmon or any other of the old Master pipers would not stoop to play light music has no evidence that I have ever seen presented, though some individual pipers may have been Ceol Mor only. And not all influences are conscious or cultivated.

Last edited by David; 02-06-2010 at 08:28 AM.
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Old 02-10-2010, 07:56 AM   #7
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Default Re: Piobaireachd/Light Music Connections

Back "in the day" the piper was an elite musician, near the top of the social order. To me it makes more sense that the piper composed his own tunes (or tunes by other pipers), and from there they made their way into the larger population than the other way around. At least in the general case. But since there exists no record of what pipers actually played any earlier than the mid 1700's, there's really no way to know.

Donaldson's arguments can be pretty appealing, but consider the example of Cape Breton, as put forth in Barry Shear's book. Plenty of top pipers went to Cape Breton, but piobaireachd died out there. There's really no way to know if we're for better or worse given the actions of certain men in the past, but where we are right now doesn't seem like such a bad place.
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Old 02-10-2010, 10:24 AM   #8
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Default Re: Piobaireachd/Light Music Connections

Bob, I'd guess it went in both directions. Even though we don't have much historical record to go on, there are analogues. Just look at composers like Beethoven, Dvorak, Bartok (and loads of others) who incorporated folk tunes into some of their greatest works. I'm sure that prominent pipers did the same, where the music could be suited to the pipes.
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Old 02-10-2010, 01:54 PM   #9
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Default Re: Piobaireachd/Light Music Connections

Well, classical music composers from other musical traditions have frequently based their compositions upon folk music common in their various cultures. Why should Piobaireachd be any different?
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Old 02-10-2010, 02:24 PM   #10
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Default Re: Piobaireachd/Light Music Connections

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tripp View Post
Bob, I'd guess it went in both directions. Even though we don't have much historical record to go on, there are analogues. Just look at composers like Beethoven, Dvorak, Bartok (and loads of others) who incorporated folk tunes into some of their greatest works. I'm sure that prominent pipers did the same, where the music could be suited to the pipes.
Could be.

But the examples you cite are all of the Romantic period (or later), which placed value on folk art, etc.. What about composers in the Baroque?

Going back to a period of time prior to our pipers, we find the Bards and harpers placing great value on creating, not so much on adapting.
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