The Oban Times, 13 August, 1910
Playing Of Piobaireachd
London, 6 August, 1910
Sir,–”Loch Sloy” tries to justify the piper are not marching to the piobaireachd, and makes rather a hull when he says “part of the beauty of piobaireachd playing is to watch the performer walking with steps full of meaning,” etc. I used to see many, and can never imagine piobaireachd playing having anything of a spectatorial charm–rather the reverse in most cases. As a matter of fact, far from being a pretty or inspiriting sight it is nothing but an undignified and aimless meandering. I cannot yet see, and “Loch Sloy” has not explained, why piobaireachd is not stepped to. The player walk; why then not do so in time?
I would not question “Loch Sloy’s” taste in music, but if he is at all consistent he ought to be charmed on hearing an orchestra play under a conductor who beats at random, or a band where the bass drummer beats against time. Perhaps he would say this is a vastly different thing; but it is not, if he looks on piobaireachd as music.
“Loch Sloy” does not appear to be acquainted with the discussions of many eminent musicians at various times regarding the executant’s temperament, otherwise I do not think he would have written as he did. Temperament is largely a question of individuality. Individuality cannot be altered; it is part of a person, and is apparent in all he does, and no less in his music. In no one, however, is it strong enough to materially alter the class of the tune. No matter how heroic the temperament of a player, he could never make, say, “The Lament for the Only Son” resemble in fierceness “War or Peace”; nor could the man of dreamy temperament do vice versa. Briefly, the typical Lament can never be mistaken for the Salute or the Battle-tune, no matter what the temperament of the player is. While composers do not write for one particular class, they can hardly avoid writing in one particular style, being mere individuals, and that comes to much of the same thing. Piobaireachd players know at hearing a MacCrimmon from a MacArthur tune, etc., which rather proves that each composer has a style peculiar to himself, which will appeal to some and not others, according to their temperament. This is seen in all authors, sculptors, musicians, and writers.
“Loch Sloy” says: “old MS. is a matter of interpretation, and that he would not like to venture an opinion until he is much older.” I have no idea of the writer’s age, but perhaps he can go back on his memory for, say twenty years. If he can do so, I am sure he must have noticed that from about that time at least, the interpretation of piobaireachd has been very unsettled, and continually on the shift. It does not require a Sherlock Holmes to discover the reason.–I am, etc.,