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Go Back   Bob Dunsire Bagpipe Forums > General Discussion > History, Tradition, Heritage
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History, Tradition, Heritage As related to the subjects of piping, drumming and pipe bands.

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Old 06-29-2015, 01:57 AM   #1
Bish
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Default Anglicisation and the Gaels

In a recent discussion on the close identity of Highland/Gaelic and Lowland/Scots English music, the OP made the point that there is no real distinction between the two.

It is a fact that Gaelic culture has taken on most of the features of English culture. The Irish used to be a migrating people who followed/led their cattle from pasture to pasture. They spoke Irish, dressed Irish, and lived the Gaelic life. Ditto for the Highlanders, their cousins, who were also largely a cattle-centred people, with their own dress, language and customs, albeit with close links to the Lowland based Monarchy and peoples.

Today Ireland speaks English, dresses English, (as does the rest of the world), has an English style Parliament, and the semi-nomadic cattle days are long gone. The countryside with its fields and hedges could be anywhere in the English countryside. Ditto for the Highlands, largely.

There is one significant Gaelic element that has survived, musically, and that is the grace-noting. The rhythmical beats that accompany piping are unique to it, and they are a true heritage from the olden days. Gerald de Barri, writing in the 1200s, said that the Scots excelled the Irish and the Welsh in their grace-noting.

Imagine the pipes without grace notes in their full variety! What a dull and dreich thing it would be.

If here is a uniquely Gaelic element to our music, it is the gracing.
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Old 06-29-2015, 03:37 AM   #2
GordonLawrie
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Default Re: Anglicisation and the Gaels

Hi Bish,

I was the OP.

My point wasn't related to Gaelic. It was related to the concept of "Celtic". I've taken great care not to conflate the two. My sub point is that Gaelic influences are certainly not confined to the Highlands and Islands. That is the situation today - but not so at a point in history (round about the 15th century).

Incidentally - I'm a Gaelic speaker.

Regarding gracenoting - I agree there is a certain Gaelic rooted style to our current conventions.

Last edited by GordonLawrie; 06-29-2015 at 04:17 AM.
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Old 06-29-2015, 03:45 AM   #3
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Default Re: Anglicisation and the Gaels

I thought Gerald de Barri said that the Scots bested the Irish at playing the harp.
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Old 06-29-2015, 04:45 AM   #4
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Default Re: Anglicisation and the Gaels

I thought gracenoting was essential to our GHB music, in order to help emphasize and express the notes and the music as needed. Being as we don't have the ability to get louder and softer while playing as other instruments can. Does that make it celtic/gaelic or is it just part of the idiom?
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Old 06-29-2015, 05:31 AM   #5
GordonLawrie
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Default Re: Anglicisation and the Gaels

My observation was more about the particular style of embellishing as opposed to the concept of using embellishments to articulate the music.

The style we use today has a traceable (but evolving) line back to the first source which systematically noted it (The compleat theory......1760). This came from largely Gaelic sources.

Please note again - a key point I'm trying to put forwards is that equating "Gaelic" with "Celtic" is not useful or accurate. "Gaelic/Celtic" makes no sense except perhaps in a narrow linguistic way (Gaelic is a Q-Celtic language).

Last edited by GordonLawrie; 06-29-2015 at 05:35 AM.
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Old 06-29-2015, 06:30 AM   #6
Bish
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Default Re: Anglicisation and the Gaels

To be clear, I am confining myself to the Gaels.

Gerald de Barri said in 1190: "In the opinion of many, Scotland has not only equalled Ireland, her teacher in music, but has ... surpassed her". His comment about grace notes I am quoting from memory.
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Old 06-29-2015, 09:39 AM   #7
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Default Re: Anglicisation and the Gaels

It comes down to carrying capacity for the settled vs. migrating issue; a rancher or a shepherd needs a lot of land to avoid overgrazing. Given the same amount of land a farmer can feed many times more people than a rancher or shepherd, all else being equal.
Perhaps had we more farmers and fewer ranchers, things might have gone differently in 1659, and we'd have kept more of the rest of our customs. It wasn't by choice that the gael abandoned his language.
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Last edited by Chris Abernethy; 06-29-2015 at 09:43 AM.
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Old 06-30-2015, 02:42 PM   #8
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Default Re: Anglicisation and the Gaels

Gordon, are you one of the Ballaculish Lawries?
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Old 06-30-2015, 03:37 PM   #9
GordonLawrie
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Default Re: Anglicisation and the Gaels

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Dally View Post
Gordon, are you one of the Ballaculish Lawries?
Yes. My grandfather's cousin was P/M William Lawrie (8th Argylls). If you're looking at the "Piping traditions of Argyll" book then my father is one of the brothers to Colin and Gordon (sons of Iain) who are shown on the Lawrie family tree.
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Old 07-07-2015, 06:28 PM   #10
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Default Re: Anglicisation and the Gaels

About grace-notes, it's interesting (at least to me) that a number of folk music traditions feature ensembles of mixed instruments (usually some combination of bagpipes, fiddles, flutes, plectrum instruments, accordions) and in each one I have experience with it's the bagpipe which has the function of playing the most-ornamented version of the melody.

This is true in Bulgarian music, Central French music, and Irish music, to name three.

This being the case, it seems to me the fact that Highland pipes play lots of ornaments has to do not with them being "Celtic", but being bagpipes.

(True that the bagpipes in each of the above-named traditions have their own unique system of ornamentation, but nevertheless in each tradition it's the bagpipes that have the most-ornamented role in the ensemble.)
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