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Old 12-07-2017, 02:25 PM   #11
Robin73
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Default Re: Condensed Echo Beats

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Originally Posted by CalumII View Post
This is mediaeval music that has by several strange quirks of fate survived into the present day. It is strange and alien to modern ears and it takes time to get used to, just as many other world musics from outside the Western tradition do.
But I wonder if it was really as alien and strange as it is now believed to be? If you listen to several of the recordings of discussions between Peter Cooke and George Moss a very interesting picture reveals itself, to my mind.

It is a picture of a music which is essentially very simple. George Moss claims that all sorts of corruptions have taken place which make no sense musically. For example, the treatment of the E cadence, which he claims is vastly overused and very often completely breaks the rhythm of a tune. Or the fact that if the Urlar and the variations are in a different time signature then something has gone wrong (with some exceptions like 4/4 to 6/8 being OK in some cases, but never 3 beats mixed with 2 or 4).

I feel very strongly drawn to GM's view to the point that I've basically chosen to adopt him as my teacher from beyond the grave. If you look at what has happened in light music with the 3/4 anacrusis issue and the incredible attachment to a clearly mistaken orthodoxy, then it doesn't seem unlikely that something similar could have happened in Pibroch. In fact, the issue is related as in many tunes the E "cadences" make more sense written before the bar line if they are needed at all, and it seems this point alone is likely to have caused a great deal of confusion for future manuscript users.

This isn't like Bulgarian music or Indian for example, where they have complex rhythmic cycles of 11 or 13 beats etc. To me it is a simple music in "stretchable" 3 or 4 time for the Urlar, with reasonably formulaic variations. It's charm for me lies in it's simplicity and the fact that it is played on such an incredible instrument. I intend to spend my Pibroch journey exploring and hopefully sharing this simple beauty. I accept that other people may prefer a different style to the one I am working to create.

I do strongly recommend that anyone interested in this approach listen to the tracks on this cd many of which are available here, in tandem with this remarkable document which has laid the foundation of my personal understanding of this fascinating art form.
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Old 12-07-2017, 05:29 PM   #12
CalumII
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Default Re: Condensed Echo Beats

The thing for me is that actually I see little difference between the George Moss tapes, and Allan MacDonald's interpretations, and the "mainstream" of piobaireachd tradition. The differences are small and relatively systematic.

If you take, for example, George Moss's Lament for Mary MacLeod, and compare it to Jack Taylor playing a couple of months ago, I find the similarities far more striking than the differences.
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Old 12-08-2017, 01:44 AM   #13
moderntraditional
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Default Re: Condensed Echo Beats

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Originally Posted by CalumII View Post
The thing for me is that actually I see little difference between the George Moss tapes, and Allan MacDonald's interpretations, and the "mainstream" of piobaireachd tradition. The differences are small and relatively systematic.

If you take, for example, George Moss's Lament for Mary MacLeod, and compare it to Jack Taylor playing a couple of months ago, I find the similarities far more striking than the differences.
On the other hand, compare this version by Allan MacDonald:

Glengarry's March - Allan MacDonald, 1998

to this version by Bruce Gandy:

Glengarry's March - Bruce Gandy, 2015

You might say, quite reasonably, that they are very similar, with primary difference being tempo. But, honestly: that's a difference that is very distinct.

The thing I'm learning as I explore the primary source manuscripts isn't that there is some horrible "corruption" that has somehow destroyed the music in the last 100 years or so. It is simply that there was much more variability in ways of interpretation, and that variability is not really taught today. (Some would call it "natural selection" of stylistic development, the dominant form of which exists today because it is the "better" form. I find such an argument intellectually lazy.]

I also believe that even when we come to understand and appreciate those differences, even classify them broadly as MacKay / MacDonald / MacGregor / Campbell, there is still a general failure (if you want( to call it that) to draw from the Gaelic song tradition behind all of them. Even after we have been told by some of the great modern teachers to "sing the tune" or "find the song in the music", it is generally taken metaphorically, when in many cases it could (and possibly should) be take quite literally.

In the case of "echo beats" (Let's call them what they were originally called, "crahinins"), many of the tunes in which we see them were laments, and we know and can hear the Gaelic singers "keening". Crahinins were simply the instrumental translation of that vocal tradition:

Vocal Evidence of Keening

In both cases, they are very stylized musical adaptations of wailing and mourning. As musicians, when we understand THAT, then it really doesn't matter HOW the echo beats are written - we understand what they ARE and, as musicians, shape them in our performances accordingly: we INTERPRET them.
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Old 12-08-2017, 03:22 PM   #14
CalumII
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Default Re: Condensed Echo Beats

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there is still a general failure (if you want( to call it that) to draw from the Gaelic song tradition behind all of them.
Which gives rise to the obvious question: what reason do you have to suppose the Gaelic song tradition is more "accurate", for want of a better word, than the piobaireachd tradition? How do we know the song tradition has not been shaped by the pernicious influence of the wireless and the music hall?
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Old 12-09-2017, 04:04 PM   #15
Robin73
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Default Re: Condensed Echo Beats

I've just bought a CD by Barrie Orme, who claims to play in a style which is part of a direct oral lineage from the old players of Skye.

Apparently his recordings met with some criticism from "the orthodoxy." My initial impression is that his playing sounds fantastic. He plays relatively fast, and he gives those echo beats some significant duration, much like George Moss, which to my ears gives them more meaning and balance compared to their shorter relatives.

More specifically, he gives the initial low A following the E more duration than is common in other styles, so that even if it is followed by a birl, it counts as a note in itself, so that the the overall effect is of two notes rather than one. This is what I mean by "more balance" since shortening that first A often leaves the phrases feeling prematurely cut off, for me.

One happy customer!

Last edited by Robin73; 12-09-2017 at 04:15 PM.
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Old 12-10-2017, 02:33 AM   #16
Neill Mulvie
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Default Re: Condensed Echo Beats

Here is a clip for amusement as well as to make a point: https://youtu.be/O-2fDuZ-Qe8 and here's a second for the same purpose https://youtu.be/1i0K4dQd80M (this has some risqué language).

These two accents arise in places maybe 60 miles apart. These differences in accent exist throughout Scotland and were even more marked 100 to 200 years ago. Communication and mobility are much greater now and so to some extant the differences are becoming less marked.

There is a cognate concept in ecology to explain speciation which it seems to me applies to Piobaireachd. So why do some of people argue that there is only one way to play piobaireachd? Is it not likely that there were strong regional variations in piobaireachd style and that it is not possible to say which is the original style. The proponents of the "I was taught in the one true way" approach seem to me to do more damage to the art than good.

In addition to regional differences at a point in time styles will have changed over time. These changes contribute to the enjoyment of this art form. As Ed Neigh once said there is more to piobaireachd than playing history and mimicking one's teacher. To describe the development of the music over time as corruption seems to me to be extravagantly silly.

Of course it is a shame that the older differnces in approach to playing have disappeared over time. But then if the tunes are learnt as many pipers do by playing along with a CD illustrating a style from one school of playing it is not surprising that there is little variability. Most of the instructional/exemplary CDs of Piobaireachd are of John MacDonald's pupils or his pupils pupils - Jimmy MacIntosh, Donald MacLeod, William MacDonald, Andrew Wright, Bob Brown and Bob Nicol all of whom were/are superb players but that's not the point.
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Old 12-10-2017, 04:13 AM   #17
Robin73
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Default Re: Condensed Echo Beats

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Is it not likely that there were strong regional variations in piobaireachd style and that it is not possible to say which is the original style. The proponents of the "I was taught in the one true way" approach seem to me to do more damage to the art than good.
I like this point, and basically agree. But I think there is more to be said. People tend to polarize their positions, and in this case the two extremes seem to be "it's all just healthy variation" vs "the one true path."

I once wrote in an introduction to accompanying Irish traditional music "there is no one correct chord sequence for a given tune, but many incorrect ones." I think the same principle applies here. We have seen that genuine errors can become orthodoxy, and in this context the combination of strong loyalty to the teacher's style and the strange mix of an oral and written tradition mean that actual errors can definitely creep in.

Of course the definition of an "error" is ultimately subjective, or at least un-provable, but that is is why I consider the the recordings of George Moss to be so hugely valuable, as his knowledge and experience seem to span a transition between an older, more traditionally Gaelic approach and a new approach which had a lot to do with Army piping and standardization for competition.

There is a sincerity in his voice and a balance, where he tries to honour the new way but repeatedly states, almost reluctantly, that various aspects of the new style are simply wrong - things like grounds not agreeing with the variations rhythmically, or the rhythm being broken by misplaced cadences etc. These are examples of things which it is possible to simply "get wrong," rather than things which are just variations in interpretation.

So my main point is that I actually believe George Moss when he talks of errors in the new style.

Another perhaps equally important point is that the condensed echo beats just don't sound convincing to me. They sound harsh and musically aggressive. The way George Moss and Barrie Orme play them sounds a whole lot better to me.

Last edited by Robin73; 12-10-2017 at 04:28 AM.
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