OT: 24 August 1929 – J.C. “Pipe Music Terminology”



The Oban Times, 24 August, 1929

Pipe Music Terminology

 14 August, 1929

Sir,–your reviewer of Joseph McDonald’s “Complete Theory of the Scots Highland Bagpipe” on 27th August, 1927, asks:

“Whether (in the case of Riludh and Iuludh) ‘Ri’ is not a misprint for Iu (?)”

I should say not, but that Ri is simply Crith, a shake; being feminine, A’ Crith is “the” shake. Many speakers very lightly aspirate C, and Joseph MacDonald may not have known Gaelic grammar or may have heard pipers call the word Crith ludh, ” ‘Ri lu”; hence the simple explanation.

As regards Iuludh; these are two separate syllables, Iul-ludh being derived from Crith Cheól, Crith Chiuil; again the aspirate is dropped vernacularly or from ignorance, hence from Crith Cheol ludh we have Iuil ludh. Crith is of course pronounced in phonetic English as Cree.

I used to hear the pipers of the Gordons in the later “Eighties” call what is spelled Crunluadh “Crooluch,” which is very near the original pure Gaelic Crith ludh, and lately one of your correspondents has been upgraded for calling or spelling Croola, which again for those who know know Gaelic is a very respectable every -day pipers’ pronunciation.

Thus a special pipers meaning has to be imparted into what is Gaelic is simply a “Musical ‘shake’ or Trill.” From not knowing their own language, Ri ludh and Tul ludh appear as different definite entities to the uninformed. Practically, however, this is of no practical importance as long as the notes of the movement are known to the person using the expressions.

Similarly, Crith ludh and Crithean ludh are mixed up with Cruinne, “roundness,” and Crún, nearly the same word a crown. D. MacDonald calls his Creanluidh “round,” quick and yielding. Modern writers call their taorluadh or “grip” or taobh ludh, at least as far as the first part is concerned, the “round” movement.

With or without the Joseph MacDonald’s redundant A (opening the 7th note) the “round” taorluadh part combines with the “round” part (second part) of the now Crunluadh, and we have the complete D. MacDonald “round” (Cruinne) movement. Joseph McDonald’s Crunluadh is similarly “Iuludh” (taorluadh) and Creanluadh together. Iuludh as an imperfect term has already been discussed. Joseph McDonald’s description makes for clearness in learning if the extra A is glided. But that’s the rule!

I fancy “Cruinne” may have also meant an “end” movement, or was taken as such and actually expresses this; c.f., Latha na cruinne. As regards “Fosgailte” meaning “open”; D. MacDonald gives his with “open” notes, but, curiously, we find in modern writers an “open” fosgailte and the “closed” fosgailte, a curious and ignorant contradiction!

The “A Mach” seems to practically have had originally a similar meaning to “fosgailte,” as “open” fingering is used in both, and the D. McDonald’s “Clia luidh” seems to be the modern A Mach in principle.

The old pipers do not seem to have been at all squeamish about playing “open” notes which shows that chanter fingering was originally “open,” as with other wood or metal wind instruments. Tinker pipers often played naturally the open-scale. The present fingering is for greater convenience in doing the “grips,” etc. Another question is as to whether the chanter should be made with the notes correct for open scale all the way up, or correct only for the present system of fingering. The open style in the Fosgailte gives a peculiar bleating effect.

If Mr. Seton Gordon’s “committee” sits for the discussion of “movements,” I trust they may find time to take the opinion of a good Gaelic scholar was also a piper or pipe player as to a natural Gaelic nomenclature for the “movements,” the names of tunes and the several parts of the Piob Mhala.–I am, etc.

J. C.

© Copyright Pipe Major John Grant - Designed for Dr. Alan Armstrong