OT: 2 November 1929 – Grip “Joseph MacDonald and Pibroch Notation – Part II”

The Oban Times, 2 November, 1929

Joseph MacDonald and Pibroch Notation

Part II.

As regards his method of writing the Iuludh beat with GD between the initial notes and the middle A, I have already suggested that he means GDG in all cases when he writes GD only. This is beyond question in the case of his “Exercise” on the 4th Table. Apart from this reference, however, let us consider whether the grace notes GD are playable, “in time,” in a three syllable beat, the last two syllables being A. I much doubt if they are! A low G beat by itself, or a D cut by itself (as in Toabhludh Fosgailte) would, of course, not interfere with the three syllables. The combination of the G and the D, however, most clearly points to the omission in his writing of the second G, for the “liquid” grip to A is easily playable by a really good piper “in time” provided he plays it in a “liquid” manner, not making the second low G heavy! This “liquid” grip is one of the most common features in pipe music, and what is it? Is not the D cut clearly to divide the low G in two portions? The D cut cannot exist in combination with the low G beat unless to divide it in two halves. This “liquid” grip needs a “big” note after it, and the big note must be higher than the G (otherwise there is no “grip”). That note can only be A in the Iuludh beat as clearly shown by Joseph.

Even the modern school contend the notes GDG are in the beat, and because they do not or cannot, play the notes as a grip quickly enough, leaving the middle A as a “syllable,” they contend it cannot be played “in time,” so they make the second low G “heavy” as a syllable and omit the A! In this fashion the GDG is not a grip. Some confusion seems to arise by the use of the expression “heavy Toarludh,” where the GDG grip to A is used as in Riludh. Mr. MacDonald also uses the expression “liquid,” which is a much better word if I may say so. I should feel disposed to call the modern school’s Toabhludh “heavy” as there is no real grip, whereas the real grip to A is “liquid” and not “heavy.” The group of grace notes gdge is impossible in pipe music, one of the notes must be a “big” one. Were the E the big note gdgE we find a clear grip, but nobody claims the E as a big. Therefore the second G must be the big one– gdGe. This is certainly the case in beats to low G, but with beats to A why play the second syllable as in the beat to low G, and thus spoil the expressive difference between them?

If the modern school is correct in claiming the second G as the middle “syllable” of the beat (against the A clearly shown throughout the “Theory”), the same G must be found in Creanludh also, and one might ask what is the difference to the modern school in, say, the Creanludh beat from B when said to be played to A and when said to be played to low G, following Siubhal, say, BA and BG? Surely no difference–gBgdGeafaE, gBgdGeafaE? (Taobhludh presumably gBgdGeA and gBgdGeG!). Surely there is some justification for the claim that there should be a clear and expressive difference such as Taobhludh–gBgdgAeA, gBgdGeG and Creanludh–gBgdgAeafaE, gBgdGegfgE? If the modern school in the Creanludh beat to low G double the E on low (and not A), surely that in itself would not be sufficient difference from the beat to A? But do they do so? The late G. S. MacLennan doubled the E through the G’s in case of a beat to low G, I believe, and, in my opinion, lightly. What is the real difference in the modern school’s method of playing Creanludh beats to A and to low G will someone explain?

This brings us to the point that there is remarkable consistency in the beats in Pibroch in all forms–the Closed, Mach and Fosgailte, when the middle note is not cut out. For instance–

The Closed Beats–
Siubhal, say B to A.
Taobhludh, say B to A followed by another A.
Creanludh, say B to A thence to the doubled E.
Creanludh Breabach, say B to A thence to the doubled E, back to A, thence (often) to the B again.

The same beats to low G would be–
Siubhal, B to G.
Taobhludh, B to G followed by another G.
Creanludh, B to G thence to the doubled E.
Creanludh Breabach, B to G thence to the doubled E, back to G, thence (often) to the B again.

The Mach form–(say on B)
Siubhal, B to B.
Taobhludh, B to B followed by another B.
Creanludh, B to B thence to the doubled E.

The Fosgailte form–(say G. B.)
Siubhal, G to B.
Taobhludh, GGG to B.
Creanludh, G to B thence to the doubled E.

To play the closed Taobhludh to A with the middle “syllable” as G is therefore most inconsistent, to say the least of it, Joseph makes it clear absolutely beyond question that the middle A exists in the closed beats, and it is useless attempting to prove otherwise. It is fairly clear that this middle A demands the grip (the quick “liquid” grip not detracting from the A as a “syllable”). Consistency demands that the last G of the GDG group should not be “heavy,” and thus cut out the A as a “syllable” because it cannot be played “in time.” In any case the modern school, in spite of their claim on tradition cannot look to the “Theory” for support in their method of playing these beats!


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