OT: 24 August 1929 – Malcolm MacInnes “Noting in Pibroch”

The Oban Times, 24 August, 1929

Noting of Pibroch

 Ostaig, Skye, 10 August, 1929

Sir,–It ought to be remembered that the question how certain pipers actually play is very different from the question how they think they ought to play. If Mr. Seton Gordon’s proposal had been to ascertain the latter, it would have been useful; but seeing that it is the former, he has been completely answered by Pipe-Major Gray.

Mr. Gray could even have added that the hearer, if competent in regard to ear, could tell at least as well as the player what notes are actually played.

The distinction I have made is very important, because I know a few who write the full CgdgeA for the C toorla, but play CgdeA or CdgeA or CgdaeA (the last being the case that makes the redundant A, but not redundant, as it takes the place of the omitted second g of the grip). There is the very fortunate fatality about this beat that the finger movements are identical for all, and that what is lost at one point in the beat is gained at another. There is nothing to enable the eye to tell the sounds by looking at the fingers.

The question of the redundant A is not worth discussing no piper has ever played as the old books have noted–the full gdg grip and the two A’s. But they have played and do play two A’s without redundancy or addition to the musical quantity, because they omit one of the g’s of the grip. I always took this to be due to faulty fingering, but Joseph MacDonalds “Compleat Theory” writes the grip everywhere with but one g (gd), and Mr. Somerled MacDonald considers this book the best ever written. My own opinion is quite the reverse. Moreover, it combines cases of excessive gracing and cases of total lack of essential gracing in such a way that I suspect it is the work of more than one person; and I do not accept it as genuine till I see the manuscript. Joseph’s ignorance about Gaelic is colossal.

I think the only matter of importance is how judges ought to view the various ways of playing the movements in question in actual practice.–I am, etc.,

Malcolm MacInnes