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History, Tradition, Heritage As related to the subjects of piping, drumming and pipe bands.

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Old 06-05-2015, 05:40 PM   #1
GordonLawrie
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Default USA Bagpipe Tradition

In another thread I put forwards the conjecture that there appears to be emerging a reasonably distinctive USA bagpipe tradition.

The attributes of this would appear to be:-

1. Embracing the GHB as an instrument - but not necessarily embracing the norms of Scottish Bagpipe music.

2. A broad repertoire combining music from a variety of sources including; hymn tunes; popular "Celtic" tunes including songs, folk tunes adapted to suit the range of the pipes and tunes loosely associated with "Celtic" themes.

3. Many players who have started their involvement with music on other instruments

What does everyone think (especially those of you in the US)? Is there a US specific tradition developing?

Here's a link to the previous thread:-

http://forums.bobdunsire.com/forums/...=159334&page=5
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Old 06-05-2015, 06:02 PM   #2
John McCain
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Default Re: USA Bagpipe Tradition

4. Defining the Great Highland Bagpipe as an Irish instrument

5. Boatloads of police and fire department bands
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Old 06-05-2015, 06:28 PM   #3
Rojellio
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Default Re: USA Bagpipe Tradition

I dont know that I would blame anything on the USA.

1. Embracing the GHB as an instrument - but not necessarily embracing the norms of Scottish Bagpipe music.

OR.. The opposite of all that. Embracing the GHB as a costume accessory, not setting it up right, or tuning it, and not necessarily embracing the norms of Scottish Bagpipe Music. BUT to untrained observers, and sometimes participants.. it seems to be done the "correct Scottish way".

ALSO, a NARROW Repertoire, with a couple of patriotic Tunes thrown in.

There are different ways of describing such bands. "Charlie Tuna", "Appearance First" or "Tribute Bands". Likely though.. this idiosyncrasy is not limited to the USA, India, Pakistan, or the South Pacific. There might even be some Street Bands like that in Scotland.

4. Defining the Great Highland Bagpipe as an Irish instrument I am not sure I would say Irish Pipe Bands are defining anything. More or less, Irish Pipe Bands started out as "Tribute Bands" and some still are, and there is nothing wrong about that. . It just seems weird to some because they were tributing the Irish Regiments, instead of The Scots Guards, or the other Scottish Regiments.

SOME Irish Pipe Bands are started by Pipers & Drummers who had their fill of non-musical nonsense, politics and so forth in local "regular" Pipe Bands, and are simply marketing themselves as distinctly different.
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Old 06-05-2015, 06:46 PM   #4
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Default Re: USA Bagpipe Tradition

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rojellio View Post
and there is nothing wrong about that. .
Not criticizing - just an observation
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Old 06-05-2015, 10:31 PM   #5
David
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Default Re: USA Bagpipe Tradition

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rojellio View Post
I dont know that I would blame anything on the USA.

1. Embracing the GHB as an instrument - but not necessarily embracing the norms of Scottish Bagpipe music.

OR.. The opposite of all that. Embracing the GHB as a costume accessory, not setting it up right, or tuning it, and not necessarily embracing the norms of Scottish Bagpipe Music. BUT to untrained observers, and sometimes participants.. it seems to be done the "correct Scottish way".

ALSO, a NARROW Repertoire, with a couple of patriotic Tunes thrown in.

There are different ways of describing such bands. "Charlie Tuna", "Appearance First" or "Tribute Bands". Likely though.. this idiosyncrasy is not limited to the USA, India, Pakistan, or the South Pacific. There might even be some Street Bands like that in Scotland.

4. Defining the Great Highland Bagpipe as an Irish instrument I am not sure I would say Irish Pipe Bands are defining anything. More or less, Irish Pipe Bands started out as "Tribute Bands" and some still are, and there is nothing wrong about that. . It just seems weird to some because they were tributing the Irish Regiments, instead of The Scots Guards, or the other Scottish Regiments.

SOME Irish Pipe Bands are started by Pipers & Drummers who had their fill of non-musical nonsense, politics and so forth in local "regular" Pipe Bands, and are simply marketing themselves as distinctly different.
I think you have made some good observations here. Top-level piping is squarely in the mould of Scotland, and Canada. But I did hear lots of street bands that were unturned and unmusical. I think the problem is being attracted to the whole milieu as a costume drama, a set piece, a Heilan diorama. Initial attraction not being the bagpipe as a musical instrument. In university I was in a couple of street bands, and recruitment was not based on musical possibilities, but on willingness to participate. My experience in Scotland was that parade bands equivolents were typically much better tuned and musical. Often one or two experienced and properly trained pipers in the band--maybe not competitive, but with musical standards and real piping knowledge. Distance to serious piping culture centres may be critical.

But a distinct musical or stylistic piping divergence, no. Social context, yes. Good pipers the world over tend to be aware of musical piping standards in Scotland, Canada, etc. The TWO WORLDS OF PIPING have little crossover. I have heard musical non-competitive bands which take reeding and technique and expression seriously, though, and this is a good enough environment for young talent, and deserves praise. I would not ever disparage those bands. But no tuning and no technique, love of film themes and rock tunes, and easily bored by tight fingering and strong traditional melodies, that's a complex story beyond 5 minute commentary.

God bless those police and fire bands, and their remembrance of fallen comrades and soldiers. That is untouchable. Yet also lots of need to add much better teaching and reed craft. I understand many want to recruit primarily from serving department members. great intention, but it has its price musically. Yet these police and fire bands are indeed a very big part of the American piping scene on the street.

Last edited by David; 06-05-2015 at 10:48 PM.
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Old 06-06-2015, 03:59 AM   #6
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Default Re: USA Bagpipe Tradition

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rojellio View Post
I dont know that I would blame anything on the USA.

......There might even be some Street Bands like that in Scotland.
Just to be clear all - I'm not making judgements here. There are certainly street bands in Scotland who are more enthusiastic than accomplished but that's half the fun of making music ;-)

My only slight concern is that audiences confuse the costumery with the real thing but I suspect that in general audiences don't really care.

My approach to piping is the same as my approach to living in general.

1. Do your own thing.
2. Respect your neighbour and help out when things go wrong - you don't need to agree all the time though.
3. Keep it legal
4. Colour creed, religion, bedroom behaviour ? I don't care. All are welcome as long as 1,2 and 3 are followed.
5. For goodness sake at least tune your drones......

Last edited by GordonLawrie; 06-06-2015 at 04:04 AM. Reason: Lack of numeracy
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Old 06-06-2015, 04:59 AM   #7
Klondike Waldo
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Default Re: USA Bagpipe Tradition

There are some pipers who explore and adapt aspects of other piping traditions- Lowland/Border, Galician, Breton, whatever into their GHB playing, but I don't think that's uniquely American. The US is fairly large and diverse, so such a thing as "American Bagpipe Culture" generally may not exist.
One major difference with piping in The UK, Canda or Ireland is that the military here has not had any tradition of establishing pipe bands ( with a couple of exceptions, including a short-Lived USMC Pipe Band).
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Old 06-06-2015, 11:48 AM   #8
Rojellio
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Default Re: USA Bagpipe Tradition

Quote:
Originally Posted by GordonLawrie View Post
My only slight concern is that audiences confuse the costumery with the real thing but I suspect that in general audiences don't really care.

5. For goodness sake at least tune your drones......
There are Micro-Scenes and Bands where the Credo is that the General Public {'Unwashed Heathens'} do not know any better... so its all good. There is some truth to that, but not as much as some would like. The gen. public might not know that doublings were crushed, Toarluaths were short of E grace notes, the music was a bit too round, or which Tune was played or not... but when it comes to Tuning, and Tone, and general Musicianship.. there are people who can tell good, from not so good, and bad. People who have heard Music before. Those people have a pretty good idea if it was good or not. IF there is a Tradition Unique to the USA.. unfortunately it might be that one.

I think that some of the less than ideal Band Piping, coming from Military "Tribute Bands" (world wide) comes from misuse of the Scots Guard Book. Partly (or worst case.. mostly) it gets used as a "Coffee Table Book" with pictures of what a Band looks like. IF there were a few pictures clearly depicting Drones showing Hemp Line, Instrument maintenance sessions, Tape, moving tape, and a walk around with meter drone tuning... well.. the Bands who need to see that sort of thing would be scrambling to figure out what they are doing, so they can do it just like the Guards. And yes, I was rather hoping SG III had a few extra pictures, and maybe descriptions of whats going on in the pictures.

As for "Tribute Bands"... its not just the Regiments being tributed.. Many Bands are what I would call SFU, SLOT, FMM, Vale etc tributes... so its not necessarily a bad thing to be called a "Tribute Band".
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Old 06-08-2015, 01:37 PM   #9
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Default Re: USA Bagpipe Tradition

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rojellio View Post
There are Micro-Scenes and Bands where the Credo is that the General Public {'Unwashed Heathens'} do not know any better... so its all good. There is some truth to that, but not as much as some would like. The gen. public might not know that doublings were crushed, Toarluaths were short of E grace notes, the music was a bit too round, or which Tune was played or not...[I] but when it comes to Tuning, and Tone, and general Musicianship.. there are people who can tell good, from not so good, and bad. People who have heard Music before
This is a topic that interests me greatly. Whenever I hear a pipe band or solo piper perform (including our own) I first ask the people I am with how they thought it sounded and then ask whether they heard certain deficiencies.

I've found that non-musicians without a lot of bagpipe exposure simply do not evaluate the instrument as an instrument. Whatever they hear, they label it bagpipes and move on. They DO NOT LIKE a crowing high A, and will "thumbs down" any performance that has a crowing A, regardless of any other merits. After that, they will generally rank performances according to tune selection, with a strong preference for 4/4s played at a moderately upbeat tempo. When pressed, they do notice tone and tuning when there is an extreme difference (e.g. grade 4 to grade 1 pipe band).

As non-musicians gain casual bagpipe exposure they learn to differentiate solo performances by tuning and tempo stability, but generally not technique or expression (of course there are non-piping bagpipe enthusiasts who develop as keen an ear as any bagpiper). Band performances generally continue to be judged solely on tune selection and visually noticeable factors (e.g. clean starts).

Non-piping musicians can appreciate many aspects of tuning and expression. They fall into two categories - those who hear a bad performance and think they simply don't like bagpipes (essentially similar to non-musicians above not treating the performance as a musical one), and those who can effectively perceive the deficiencies and figure the performer just isn't very good. I think the difference is simply whether the listener has actually ever heard any good piping; they tend to 'remember' the performance better than non-musicians.

I have not run into any non-piper who can tell anything but the most egregious technical errors.
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Old 06-08-2015, 01:55 PM   #10
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Default Re: USA Bagpipe Tradition

Quote:
Originally Posted by GordonLawrie View Post
My approach to piping is the same as my approach to living in general.

1. Do your own thing.
2. Respect your neighbour and help out when things go wrong - you don't need to agree all the time though.
3. Keep it legal
......
Couldn't make it by number three when the 1980s rolled around.
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