OT: 15 March 1930 – Somerled MacDonald “Joseph MacDonald and Pibroch Notation”



The Oban Times, 15 March, 1930

Joseph MacDonald and Pibroch Notation

 Inverness, 26 February, 1930

Sir,–I venture to make a few corrections in regard to your correspondent “Grip’s” commun-ication. I certainly say that the modern school are supported by Joseph and have nothing to do with the redundant A in Taorluadh when it is played as a running. Of the three oldest writers, viz., Joseph MacDonald, Donald MacDonald and Angus MacKay, Joseph is the only one that does not give us a Taorluadh (“Iuludh”) with the superfluous A. I have not formed the opinion that “Iuludh” is a running “Taobhludh” without the middle A. “Iuludh” has a middle A, but it is not superfluous because the A is cut. I have formed the opinion that “Iuludh” was played in Joseph’s day by the West Coast pipers exactly as given in the 11th table.

“Iuludh” is, as Mr. MacInnes said, “rhythmically correct,” but is not accepted by the modern players. I agree with Mr. MacInnis when he says that quite a number of pipers actually play “Iuludh” but they do so only because they have failed to play “Taorludh.” Others again play the “Taorludh” with the superfluous A. This is what is called a clumsy “Taorludh” and means that the piper has failed to bring in his is E finger smartly enough.

“Iuludh” is certainly not such a strong beat as our “Taorludh.” I explained what the argument used to be about these two beats, and I hold that in the old days there were two schools–one playing “Iuludh” and the other “Taorludh.”

Your correspondent evidently considers the three words “Riludh,” “Iuludh” and “Tudhludh” all to mean the same beat, viz., the “Taorludh” with the redundant A. “Iuludh” is not a misprint for “Tudhludh.” “Tudhludh” has reference to a totally different beat. “Iuludh” is mentioned 15 times in the book as against once of “Tudhludh.” Where Joseph mentions “Riludh agus Creanludh” as forming the last part of a very “grand species of variation” he means what he says, and he does not mean “Iuludh (or “Tudhludh”) agus Creanludh”; he means what we now call “Crunluadh-a-mach.”

I said that “Riludh” was a ground beat and is always a “Mach” beat, no matter how it was accentuated. It is a three-syllable beat, made up of two cuts and the strike. Joseph did not understand “Iuludh” to be a three-syllable beat–both the illustration and the wording show this very clearly.

Your correspondent also says that the 8th cutting is GAGDGAEADA, otherwise the “Taorludh” with the redundant A–this is not so. The beat or cutting as it appears in the “Treatise” is GAGDAGAEADA, 11 notes in all. Now this group is quite playable, but it does not conform to the description which says (alluding to “Na Le Leicinin”):–

It is closed in the following manner which is beautiful and grand, thus it frequently ends, etc..
These two dividing notes before the two principal of each bar, etc.

I am of opinion that the holes are here misplaced and that the third column of dots should come after the second full A, in which case the cutting would read GAGDAGEADA, and this answers the description perfectly as all its notes are cutting notes and it has two dividing notes before the “two principal” of each bar.

The beat is also used as an ending to doubling of “Siubhal” and must therefore have been used in the ground as well. It is, of course, capable of being played scaleways either open or closed. It is not the same beat as the 9th cutting, which is not only different in illustration but also in the description. In the first group (the A) the illustrated fingering certainly suggests GD only where we might expect to find GDG, but in the second and third we find GDG, and they suggest the notes of “Riludh” or “Taorludh–a-mach.” There is, of course, an extra full note as in the 8th cutting.

In those variation beats of “Taorludh” which precede the running “Taorludh” proper we vary the accentuation and time according to the piobroch played, and we generally cut the first or theme note a little shorter and make the last one a little longer than we do in the running “Taorludh.” These beats are not a “Taorludh” proper, but a variation of “Tripling” or “Na Le Leichinin” and it is quite possible that, accentuation being different, the notes themselves would also be different. Therefore I say that in some cases there is nothing against the “Taorludh” with the redundant A being used here. That, however, does not account for the extra note at the end. The 4 table has reference to the ground, and the full GDG grip is intended.

The general prelude quoted is well known to modern players and is badly mistresses in the first bar; the second bar is correct. The notes following the characteristic group DED contain the notes which make up “Iuludh,” but these notes are meant to be played scaleways, the timing of them depending upon the taste of the performer. The group FDED is also played scaleways. Donald MacDonald has these notes the same, or nearly the same, and the style of how they should be played is better shown. Joseph’s version is somewhat more elaborate than that usually played to-day.

I agree that there is the clearest possible evidence as to the existence of the middle A in “Iuludh,” and that it is not a redundant or a superfluous A.– I am, etc.,

Somerled MacDonald

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