The Oban Times, 20 December, 1913
15 December, 1913
Sir,–With reference to the lecture given by Mr. J. P. Grant, yr., a report of which appeared in last week’s issue of your paper, I fear it is vain to uphold the bagpipe as a musical instrument. If it is to be maintained at all, it must undergo a transformation from its present barbaric form.
Although we agree with Mr. Grant as to the prevalence of the pipes throughout Europe, India, Asia, and Africa, it becomes nonetheless ostensible that the pipes, if anything, fall short in importance as a musical instrument, even to a German accordion; and if brought in comparison to our classical instruments, viz., piano, organ, violin, etc., etc., the pipes must be thrown aside as a crude and barbaric instrument, which, no doubt, pleased a crude and barbaric people, but which now must give way under the pressure of a higher civilisation.
Mr. Grant states that the Pathans, Burmese, Chinese and Somalis, play the chanter alone, without the bag. This, I think, demonstrates more taste and a higher sensitiveness as to correctness than that which we have in our European parts, where the bag and drones are in use. The Eastern peoples do not make any pretense as to harmony by the use of an unmodulated drones. On this point, however, the common bagpipe is elaborately designed, but fails miserably as to correctness.
The lecturer pointed out that the pipe was not to be found among the Welsh in any form. In this connection let us bear in mind that the Welsh are a truly musical race.
At the same time I think that great credit is due to pipers. It requires great patience to acquire skill in fingering. It is the task, I believe, of a great number of years, and I would fain offer my sympathy, because the results, at best, cannot please a real musician. I have heard of a master-piper who, on being asked how long a pupil should take to learn, replied: “Bheir thu da bliadh n’ deug air feadan na’m beir u air piob mhoir.”
Could his time not be better employed learning a proper musical instrument?–I am, etc.,