OT: 11 September 1926 – Malcolm MacInnes “Movements in Piping”

The Oban Times, 11 September, 1926

Movements in Piping

Drumfearn, Skye, 20 August, 1926

Sir,–Mr. A.K. Cameron has written a very long letter asserting that the old-style of noting toorla, etc., is correct; but he brings forward not one argument. He says that a study of the old books prove his case; but he does not show how. This also applies to his reference to the chanting syllables. These in the toorla, for example, show three syllables–in Gesto, ‘hoderit’; the playing of the old noting would require four. Where words are known to me for the movements, the case is the same, e.g., “Tearlach Stiubhart” in “Thainig mo Righ,” “’S fhada mar so,” and many songs on the air of the “Prince’s Salute.”

All the bards known to me that have written to the airs of pibroch tunes have syllables for the new style only. All the pibroch players heard by me–and I have heard them all since Malcolm Macpherson’s father, except the Camerons–played syllable notes for the new style only. When one thinks of the extreme difficulty of noting correctly even a folksong, surely it is absurd to place against the pipers and the bards a certain method of noting a complex sequence of notes, most of which do not count in the time.

I do not believe that MacDonald, Mackay or Ross played as is noted in their books. The loss of a syllable note in such a well marked movement as toorla or croola in [is?] an impossibility; and Mr. Cameron need not be afraid that a steady dropping of notes is going to reduce the ancient music to silence. The fact is that the noting is not correct and yet, for example, the E of a “cadence” at the beginning of a bar should be put into the time of the bar preceding. What does Mr. Cameron mean by “chords” in pipe tunes? There can be none.–I am, etc.,

Malcolm MacInnes