OT: 23 November 1929 – J.D.R. Watt “Noting in Piobaireachd”

The Oban Times, 23 November, 1929

Noting of Piobaireachd

East London, South Africa

Sir,–In these days of scientific attainment the so-called redundant A note might be easily demonstrated by which I might suggest as a “smoke test,” which would be visible even to a deaf person, viz.,–A slow motion picture upon a bioscope screen would certainly show a puff or jet of smoke during the finger movements upon the chanter of the “beats” under discussion. The manipulation of the finger and their rising and falling upon the air vents or note holes would certainly prove once for all whether there was an escape of smoke (and sound) at the A whole from the contained column of air in the chanter tube. There are those who like myself believe in the action of this A note; moreover it is contained in the canntaireachd vocable used also a proof in itself of its being used in this pipe “beat.” A sensitive player or performer on the chanter can feel the air jets emitted from his chanter note–holes or events likened, as an old player once described, to the breaking of bubbles in milk (anyone who has seen and heard the latter knows what I mean by this description).

Pipers while playing may be playing this A note and yet be unaware of the fact and actually unconscious of the fact, and their senses are not keen to perceive the fact. Others may make their mind up beforehand, and assert that they do “not” finger this A note, yet listeners to their own performance will assert that it “is” played and heard in a certain measure more or less. It is in effect part of the “beat” or movement. I think we have all observed a little jet of white steam emitted from the working parts of the steam engine, and I would in similitude liken the redundant A to that same. Every vocable in MacCrimmon’s Sheantaireachd is played and heard; pipers should study this. In it is carried the charm and rhythm of the tune. Study also the tunes handed down to us and recorded; get into its atmosphere and think of it, and subconsciously the piper will then gradually use and compose in same. It is stated over and over again that such latter is a lost art. It’s reiteration would have us think so! Why? What is “Hin dir in” the modern player from composing? Nothing but one of study. What is Hirin in Manson’s book? It is low A preceded by high cutting grace note low A ditto low G ditto.–I am, etc.,

J.D.R. Watt

P. S.–Your steam is, of course, invisible.