OT: 13 December 1930 – Somerled MacDonald “Taorludh and Crunludh Movements”

The Oban Times, 13 December, 1930

Taorludh and Crunludh Movements

 Inverness, 28 November, 1930

Sir,–Mr. Grant seems to contend that the real reason why “Taorludh” is not played with an extra A (after the full grip) by the best players in the world is that they cannot do it.

There never was a greater mistake than this, and it is an error very commonly used by the adherents of the superfluous A. There is not the slightest difficulty in performing the GDG grip provided the piper has been properly instructed at the beginning– no more difficulty in fact than in the execution of GDA as in “Iuludh,” but there is difficulty and very great difficulty in bringing in the next grace note, which is E, exactly at the right moment, and this E in order to perform “Taorludh” correctly must be brought in very much smarter than it need be with an A intervening, which gives the player time to bring in the E more especially as the extra (or as I call it superfluous) A seems to have no settled time given to it. Indeed, it cannot possibly have a settled time–no strike can. The time of every striking beat must be at the discretion of the player, which makes the “Taorludh,” as Mr. Grant has it, particularly easy to perform. It is therefore the bringing in of the E in time which is the real difficulty in a proper “Taorludh.”

Surely it stands to reason that it is more difficult to make two cutting grace notes without a pause than it is to make two with a convenient pause intervening. I am speaking of the actual beat itself without the theme note.

“Iuludh,” as given by Joseph MacDonald and as originally taught to me by Alexander McLennan, Inverness (a pupil of John Ban Mackenzie), is a perfectly correct beat, consisting of the same number of notes and system of cutting notes as are “Taorludh.” It is not so strong as “Taorludh,” but is easier to play. That is, it is easier to “get away” with that. The reason why it is easier is that instead of the second low G being performed as in “Taorludh” an A is substituted for the second low G. This leaves the A open, and therefore does not demand the same exactness of execution as in “Taorludh”–the A already being open a little more time can be given before bringing in the E grace note–and this error is not so noticeable as it would be in “Taorludh.” I hold, therefore, that those who use the extra A do so because it is an easy way out of playing a very difficult cutting.

Mr. Grant challenges me to prove that he can play his “Taorludh” in time. No doubt he can play it in his own time, and I presume that whatever time he played he would call correct. I attended the meeting between Mr. Gray and Mr. Grant, and, of course, we all know what happened there. Also Mr. Grant says he was taught by Ranald McKenzie, and Ranald McKenzie said that the middle A should be played in the time of the grace note–that means another syllable.

Every grace note does not mean another syllable, but when a striking note is introduced into a beat it must mean an extra syllable. Ranald McKenzie himself called the beat a double cut, he should have called it two cuts and a strike. Can a double cut be played in the same time as a single one? the actual cutting itself without the theme note. So that if Mr. Grant plays the beat in the time as given by Ranald McKenzie and as written by himself, then he cannot possibly play the beat in the time as it is played by, say, Mr. John MacDonald or Pipe-Major Ross or Mr. Gray. If, on the other hand, he does not played the A in the time given by Ranald McKenzie, but only raises the little finger a hairsbreath before bringing in the E grace note, that it is possible to play the beat very nearly in correct time, in which case the time may deceive the human ear, but the sound will not deceive, and will lack the characteristic hard rattle of a true “Taorludh,” and it is the absence of this rattle which makes the beat so objectionable.

Your correspondent, “Consistent,” of London, puts forward an impossible theory, that the grip GDG should be played quicker than it is at present in order to allow more time for the middle A to tell. Perhaps, Mr. Cameron of America, Mr. Simon Fraser and “Patrick Og” of Manchester would let us have their opinion as to the correct time this middle A should be given.

Mr. Grant and “Consistent” already differ. Mr. Grant says in his book that the doubling of a “Taorludh” should be played in the same time as the singling. I do not agree to that. I say the time must be a little faster, and that is how it is played by the best pipers of to-day, and they play it as it has been handed down to them.

The oldest manuscript of “Piobaireachd” that I have seen with the time to be given to these movements written over them is dated 1806, and is written by Miss MacDonald, of Vallay. It says the time of the doublings is simply given as “a little faster.”–I am, etc.

Somerled MacDonald