OT: 10 August 1929 – John Grant “Mach in Piobaireachd”

The Oban Times, 10 August, 1929 

Mach in Piobaireachd 

  27 Comely Bank Street, Edinburgh, July 26, 1929  

Sir,–I would like to point out that strictly speaking the Mach movement is applicable to the Crunluath movement only. From oral tradition and in old MS. and old printed collections of piobaireachd Toarluath had a Doubling and Trebling of its variation. In recent years the Trebling was registered as A-Mach, which is in reality an error. The word itself means in English “out.” In Crunluath, therefore the Mach is only found on the notes “B,” “C,” and “D.”  

 The late Mr. John MacLennan, Edinburgh, thought at one time that he had found out something new in piobaireachd and printed in a book the Crunluath movement on low “A” as Mach, but no explanation was given when his error was pointed out.  

 The relation of the word “Mach” and its origin, so far as the Crunluath is concerned, is that the note E is played on B, C and D open, which is out of keeping with the correct chanter scale. In other words, the chanter is open on B, C and D, while E is being sounded in each case. Thus we have the real origin of the word, which the “out of place movement” suggested and hence the reason for the “Mach” movement being played optionally to-day. This unwritten law comes down from “the days of other years” as Ossian himself has said.  

 “Expressions in Pipe Music” 

  One still sees in bagpipe tutors and even in France at the present day such expressions for movements on the chanters as “cuttings,” “beats,” and “grips.” Even to the intelligent beginner these expressions convey nothing at all in the way of instructions.

 Before one could “cut” anything one would require to use a knife; one could “beat” a carpet with a stick, and the piper “grips” the chanter while he plays every note upon it. This proves that such expressions are old, obsolete and useless so far as piping is concerned, and should be done away with.  One also hears of a round movement in piobaireachd. A pedestrian may go round a corner and understand what he has done, but to recognise a round movement in pipe music of any kind beats the most intelligent persons I know.  

 The present bagpipe tutors which we possess are ancient, obsolete and useless. There is not one single bagpipe tutor in existence that conveys to the pupil in the King’s English what a piper is actually to do with his fingers on the chanter in order to produce notes, grace notes and movements in pipe music absolutely correct.  

 What is urgently wanted is a tutor that will enable the intelligent beginner who lives away in the Outer Islands and Highlands, yea, even in the wilds of Africa or the plains of India, to become a fair performer on the Great Highland Bagpipe, the beloved instrument of his forefathers, if he perchance be himself a Highlander.–I am, etc.,  

 John Grant