OT: 6 January 1934 – A.K. Cameron “Piobaireachd”

The Oban Times, 6 January, 1934


 Cohagan, Montana, U. S. A., 21 December, 1933

Sir,–Allow me to inform your correspondent, Mr. Malcolm MacInnes, regarding his letter of 18th August, that there has been no development in the construction of Piobaireachd tunes since Padruig Mor and Padruig Og’s time. After their time the construction of pibroch tunes of merit became a lost art outside the family circle. Iain Odhar, Donald Mor, Padruig Mor, and Padruig Og were the greatest composers and it was during their time that one of these reached the zenith, perhaps it was Padruig Mor?

Every piper they taught started out on his own, and altered many of their tunes, hence “The Piob” tune “The Lament for the Great Music.” Charles MacArthur and Alexander Bruce were the only pipers that played the pibroch as they were taught by the MacCrimmons. We must remember that the same petty jealousies among pipers to-day existed in their time, and due to this we inherited over 300 jigsaw puzzles instead of pibroch tunes.

Regarding the “Lament for the Children,” Charles MacArthur had a different setting–not in any book. If Mr. MacInnes will compare the “Salute at the Birth of Rory Mor,” with this tune, he will see that it is a contrapuntal duplicate, that is, the notes are raised or lowered by thirds and fifths, and so on. This method formed new phrases, hence the “Salute.”

The “Red Hand” is a contrapuntal duplicate of “MacGregor’s Salute,” composed by Padruig Og. Some time afterwards Padruig Og said he could compose a tune along the same line as his father’s, and yet be different, hence the “Red Hand.” The “Red Hand” is a jigsaw puzzle in A. Mackay’s book, and cannot be compared to Padruig Og’s method.

Regarding “MacCrimmons Lament,” tradition says the words were tacked onto the notes of second variation and not to the notes of the theme. Anyway, the theme is not as composed in any book. Perhaps that is why your correspondent cannot get the words to hitch with the notes. This method was also used in “Macintosh’s Lament,” composed by Iain Odhar, i.e., words hitched onto the notes of first variation instead of to theme notes.

The original metre is 8, 8. in Sheantaireachd notation. The “High A note” does not exist in the original notation for this tune. It is my judgment that pibroch will never be popular until the phrases in “Macintosh’s Lament,” and in many other tunes, are rearranged, and the original tunes restored. Moreover, superfluous phrases and variations should be omitted. The omitted note in the beats should be restored so as to preserve the true rhythm of beats and phrases, as well as the rhythm of every tune.

When we compare the notation in the Lorn MS., in D. MacDonald’s MS., and in A. Mackay’s MS. with the notation of the MacCrimmons, we can easily see that their version of the tunes is nothing more than a mutilated form of the original tunes, i.e., phrases arranged in a different manner and new phrases added on, metre altered, new variations tacked on, and the original variations altered. In fact, MacCrimmons method was omitted, and that of Mackay and others preserved. To-day MacCrimmon and Mackay’s methods are omitted, due to the fact that we have a scientific form of pibroch that is neither rhythmical nor musical.

I am, etc.,

A.K. Cameron