OT: 2 July 1910 – Loch Duich “The Piobaireachd”

The Oban Times, 2 July, 1910

The Piobaireachd

22 June, 1910

Sir,–Again I beg the favour of a small space in the columns of your valuable paper. “Loch Sloy” is much mistaken if he imagines that I attack the Piobaireachd Society. I never thought of it. He evidently thinks also that because the aims of the Society are so excellent that their methods and results should not be criticised, or their mistakes pointed out. I rather think that the criticism they have had at different times has done some little good, for there is no doubt that this year’s book–as a whole–is a decided improvement of its predecessors, and by the time we have a few more issues, with the same proportionate improvement annually, we should have something really good from them. I quite agree with “Loch Sloy” when he says that composers should lay down the law regarding their own work. Certainly they should! Who has a better right? At the same time I think it is due to the players that the composers are conversant with the law they lay down.

I thoroughly understand with Dr. Bannatyne says regarding a tune written in minims at a given speed, and the same tune written in crotchets at the same given speed. Viewed in that way there is no difference, and neither is there in a tune written in crotchets at a given speed and the same tune written in quavers at the same given speed. That surely is quite understood but it is not the question in point.

I maintain that in piobaireachd, as in church music, the minim is far more representative than the crotchet, and as I have already said, it makes the interpretation of the music much clearer, especially when the beat consists of three or more notes. Of course it is also understood that as piobaireachd is played the player knows no beats, and recognizes none. For some obscure reason, he does not step to piobaireachd, and is quite regardless of accent and rhythm. I think that Doctor will admit that with the piobaireachd as it is generally written a metronome mark would be out of the question.

Regarding the crunluath, I think Mr. MacLennan is quite right in the way he writes it. It is written just as the best-taught pipers of my ken play it. Traditions and old MSS. are very nice for whatever they may be, but I have found in most cases that the former are misleading and conflicting, while the latter usually show a greater number of discrepancies than one can conscientiously overlook. I do not think anyone has heard a crunluath played in anything but one movement, viz., The note A for instance, the usual series of grace notes, and completing the movement on E.

But if my memory serves me faithfully, I think Mr. MacLennan has previously given very sufficient and satisfactory reasons for all his departures from the orthodox.–I am, etc.,

Loch Duich