Teach Yourself Bagpipes by Lindsay Davidson - Piobaireachdbringing quality 'piping instruction to you for free
This is a huge topic and no longer belongs to the realm of beginner 'piping.
It is also an immensely satisfying topic and after entering the wrld of piobaireachd for real, many see a whole new realm of 'piping.
Piobaireachd (also pibroch), also known as ceol mor ('the great music'), is often called the classical music of the 'pipes, and it is without doubt a genre which places the great highland bagpipe in a different world to the rest of the world's bagpipe traditions. This form is unique in the bagpipe world to the Scottish tradition.
What is it?
A theme and variations in the Baroque fashion.
The theme is called the 'Ground' and the variations are stylised. The variations take the essential underlying structure of the ground and subject this structure to systematic actions. These variations have names. They are often given twice each, the second of which has an additional change in the same general direction the the first. These are called Singlings and Doublings.
The ground is made up of a series of musical motifs, which can be thought about and worked with as rhetorical figures.Traditionally, ceol mor is notated using a system of words called canntaireachd. Historically, there are two systems, one of which is in common use today. Canntaireachd influences timing and understanding of phrasing.
How does it function musically?
How do we listen to it?
How do we understand its interpretation?
There are two broad definitions to consider here - 'expressionist' and 'classical'. These are not tradition terms, but terms being used here by the writer.
Classical means we aim to create an interpretation according to a school of thought and tradition and concentrate on highlighting musical rhetorics at play. We impose an interpretation on the environment.
Expressionist means we react to the playing circumstances more than classical interpretation and we thus have greater irregularity of pace and pulse and phrase crafting.
Keeping these points in mind, then listen as above and generate interpretations according to the ideas above.
What are the specific challenges?
Why do we have piobaireachd?
As with other piece of pipe music, important occasions in the history of a Clan or other group were marked by composing a piece of ceol mor. This is why we have Laments, Salutes, Battle tunes and other incidental tales. As time has gone by and social context has changed, we have expanded what might be commemorated by a composition and who, and linked the musical content more exactly to the meta-musical layer (the title and the story). In historical music, the titles may not always match the content, so care should be taken.
This is a massive field and people become students of piobaireachd for their whole lives. It is a matter that rouses great passions, and thus controversy. Sensitivity to other viewpoints is advised, and a pinch of salt is recommended. A good guiding principle is to check the internal musical arguments presented whenever someone presents a position that seems a bit dogmatic.
There are movements for historical performance style and for further embedding the competition style. New compositions are appearing.
Books the serious student of ceol mor will want in due course:
Understanding ceol mor was a significant part of the writer's doctoral research in the field of music.
'Expressionist' and 'classical' are the writer's viewpoints and proposals.
This section is making progress...June 2021.
As this is a large project, please add to your favourites and keep coming back.