OT: 11 October 1930 – A.K. Cameron “Piobaireachd Notation”

The Oban Times, 11 October, 1930

Piobaireachd Notation

 Broadus, Montana, U.S.A., 16 September, 1930

Sir,–I would like to ask your correspondents, Mr. MacDonald and “Kintail,” a few pertinent questions. Can they tell me how many fundamental notes must be in the Tri-luadh or Taorluadh in order for it to represent symbolically what it does? Can they produce one genuine old MS in Sheantaireachd notation or in staff notation in which the Tri-luadh movement in Pibroch tunes is written as the Piobaireachd Society and Lieut. MacLennan wrote it? Why do they ignore the vowel equivalent of “three” notes for Tri-luadh in MacCrimmon and Campbell of Lorn Sheantaireachd? Why was the Lorn Sheantaireachd translated in such a way as to be consistent with modern theory instead of being consistent with tthe original MS? In all this a ruse by which the wool is pulled over the eyes of those who are not in a position to acquire the means which reveal the truth and sift the result of false theories from genuine music? Why was the Taorluadh and Crunluadh in the Lorn MS singled out for mutilation and then mutilated?

Why do they ignore D. MacDonald’s, Angus MacKay’s, and W. Ross’s (Queen’s Piper) notation of three notes in Tri-luadh? There must be a reason for ignoring the notation of his men, and we are surely entitled to an impartial explanation that will reveal to us the defects–if any exist–in their notation. The only reason given so far is that the middle A was written for the piano, but it has been pointed out that this note has been written in ancient MS long before the first piano crossed the English Channel; therefore we cannot consider it.

Mr. MacDonald stated: “You cannot have a cutting and a striking group in the same scale–as Mackay has done in his scale of ‘Taorluadh’.” This is a new one on me! MacCrimmon gave us Hun-hin-hin (low G A A) and Hin-drin-in (A A A) in his Taorluadh scale. Three cuts are used to render the first group, and a cut, a strike, and another cut are used to render the second group, and I challenge Mr. MacDonald or anyone else to render MacCrimmons Taorluadh scale in a different manner. What about striking groups at the end of measures in the Taorluadh Fosgailte? What about the Taorluadh scale in the “Pretty Dirk” and similar tunes? What about the scale of GAB.DE in tunes?

As Mr. MacDonald stated that those who include the middle A Tri-luadh movement are playing a Mach movement instead of a pure Tri-luadh, I would like to know if he considers Hin-drin-in (A A A) a Tri-luadh beat in a Mach movement, and a Mach beat in a Tri-luadh movement; or is it both in either of these movements? Again, is it possible that Patrick Mòr MacCrimmon did not understand Hin-drin-in as Mr. MacDonald understands it? It is not “Hin-drin-in”! Who, may I ask, taught your correspondent to accent the second note in Taorluadh Mach beats? In MacCrimmon’s day there was no difference in the accent of Tri-luadh and Tri-luadh Mach beats, nor in the number of “main” notes in their construction. The only difference was in the position of pitch of these notes.

In the Tri-luadh movement the themal note in each beat is accented, and two fundamental notes are added to it. In the Tri-luadh Mach movement the first themal note in each beat is accented, and two more themal notes of the same pitch are added to it. Their proper time is 6/8–aa threes! “Tempus perfectus.” Your correspondents will find it so in the Pibroch tune “War or Peace,” and should they attempt to perform the modern Taorluadh of “two” notes they should find that is rhythm is 2/4 in a 6/8 time tune. They should also find that they will have to play the Taorluadh beat Ho-dra-ha (BDD) in 6/8 time rhythm. Nevertheless, modern pipers and judges of pipe music are perfectly satisfied with hearing 2/4 time rhythm mixed in with 6/8 time rhythm in this tune and many other tunes as well. MacCrimmon music had none of the flaws and defects here outlined.

As the following letter by Mr. W. MacKenzie might be of some assistance to those who are seeking the truth regarding this matter, I take the liberty of including here.–I am, etc.,

A.K. Cameron

Old Pipers’ Music–Bagpipe Music

19th May 1928

I am pleased to see that someone at last is taking up the cudgel on behalf of bagpipe music. I quite agree with Mr. Grant that pipe playing today is not to be compared with the playing 40 years ago–to say nothing of 100 years ago.

It may be of interest to pipers to know that I have in my possession unpublished music of Donald MacKay, who was then Piper to the Prince of Wales, and a nephew of Angus. I have also M.S. music of Donald Cameron and his two sons–Colin and Alexander: also some of John Bain Mackenzie’s. These are all written in exactly the same way as played by those great pipers.–

William MacKenzie

Late Piper to Mackintosh of Moy Hall