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Old 04-10-2018, 11:21 AM   #1
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Default Lament for Duncan MacRae of Kintail - Again

I've been having quite a time trying to make sense of the Lament for Duncan MacRae of Kintail in all it's various embodiments.

All the primary sources show a 4/4 time version with whole crotchets for the first 2 or three notes of each phrase in the first part of the ground. However, most modern interpretations seem to compress the bars of the first part into a kind of 9/8 but then move into 4/4 for the second part. Also the variations seem to be rhythmically ambiguous as to which notes are down-beats and which are anacruses. This is a feature which some claim is part of the mystery and beauty of Piobaireachd, but I'm not much of a fan myself - I prefer to know exactly where I am in a tune, although I can see some value in "Schrodinger's upbeat."

The King of Laois as played by the Cheiftains and in Edward Bunting's book is similar indeed but also differs in significant ways. As far as I can tell the Pibroch version is based on just the first part of the Bunting tune - but this is only 14 bars long.

Somewhere along the way, some extra bars have been composed for the Pibroch version, unless of course the Dance tune is derived from an older Pibroch tune. I'm curious about the missing links here. Allan MacDonald's version of the Pibroch makes a lot of sense in some ways, but is basically just the jig version with the second part of the Pibroch ground (tastefully, IMO) squeezed into 6/8 time. I'm would be interested to know why Allan chose to interpret this piece in 6/8. It raises the question for me of how competent we can consider the transcriptions in the original sources. Did they mean for the tune to be in a fairly square 4/4? Were they able to accurately notate the 6/8 version, or was the 4/4 version their best shot with very partial knowledge of the notation system?Or was the rhythm just too amorphous to capture with any degree of accuracy?

There is also the small detail of whether the "tag" phrase at the end should constitute a 17th bar or be made to fit within a 16 bar structure, as well as how many times the final low A triplets should be played (I believe Angus Mackay has two versions, one of which repeats it, a bit like in the jig).

Finally there is that E cadence at the end of the the ground and variations. I find it quite annoying myself. Maybe it would work once at the very end of the piece, but having it at every section ending is not very pleasing to my ears.

Here's my working copy for the moment:

I'm curious to hear any thoughts about all that. Do you agree, disagree, have some useful or interesting ideas or information about this piece?

Last edited by Robin73; 04-10-2018 at 11:50 AM.
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Old 04-10-2018, 01:57 PM   #2
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Default Re: Lament for Duncan MacRae of Kintail - Again

I would have said a compound rhythm fits better with how I was taught to play it, which was pretty much like this fine example...


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