OT: 21 May 1910 – Charles Bannatyne

The Oban Times 21 May, 1910

Piobaireachd Society’s Music

Salsburgh, by Holytown

16 May, 1910

Sir,–There is much truth in what Mr. MacLennan writes regarding this music. The Piobaireachd Society has no set method of writing the music. It is admitted by all that a doubling of any pibroch variation has twice the rate of the singling, and it can surely be written to show this. What I cannot admit is that it is necessary to take the minim as the beat. No note has any absolute value. Let this be shown in figures:–

                                                                                         Semi-        semi-
(1) Minim (beat).     Crotchet.      Quaver.      Quaver.    quaver.
     1 or the whole.          1/2               1/4                1/8            1/16

                                                                                          Demi-      demi-
                                                                     Semi-          semi-       semi-
(2) Crotchet (beat).       Quaver.    quaver.     quaver.   quaver.
                  1.                             1/2              1/4              1/8          1/16 

Why, I ask, should it be impossible to note pibroch as it is played, using the crotchet as the beat? If the tri-lugh and ceithir-luth variations, as written by the Society and others, contains a low A too many, why not cut it out? The variations can be played as written by the Society, but seldom are, as one low A played is opened from the doubling of low G by E grace-note. The ceithir-luth is formed by adding another low A by F grace-note, finally opening E. If a singling written in 4/2 time, or four beats to the bar, has a doubling written in four crotchet beats, what is the difference between the two movements? The superficial observer would at once reply that one is twice faster than the other. So it is if you count four both times. But step, or march it. The 4/2 has four steps in the bar, and if the metronome rate is 80 minims the 4/4 is stepped to at the same metronome rate has only two beats or steps, and accordingly is correctly signatured 2/2. The rate should be struck at the outset for marching, and adhered to throughout.

The foregoing explanations cover all Mr. MacLennan’s contentions, as I understand them. Could the same end not be attained by marking the best-written tunes published by the Piobaireachd Society with a metronome rate, instructions being given that the rate of marching was to remain unchanged to out?

A few years ago I was one of Mr. MacLennan’s critics–not, I maintain, a hostile one. There is a great deal of truth in Mr. MacLennan’s criticisms, and his method of noting pibrochs is worthy of the greatest consideration; but let the crotchet be retained as the beat.–I am, etc.,

Charles Bannatyne, M.B., C.M.