OT: 6 September 1937 – Malcolm MacInnes “Piobaireachd Society’s Publications”

The Oban Times, 6 September, 1937

Piobaireachd Society’s Publications

22 October, 1937

Sir,–I trust you will continue the favour of your space for the consideration of this fascinating subject.

In the last volume there is an old style of the “Massacre of Glencoe,” published for the first time. Though some prefer the other style, this is a good melody and a consistent tune; but my present object is the question of origin. I am steadily moving to the conclusion that all piobaireachd–ceol mor–is not the ancient or the earliest music of the pipe but the newest and most recent, the form having been invented and elaborated by geniuses among the pipers, and in many cases, if not in all cases, the basis being a lullaby or a drinking or a waulking song.

In a previous letter I stated that “Breadalbane” and the “Park” are the song, “Wives of the Glen,” with the air disguised in the Park by altering the relative lengths of the notes. I saw so little resemblance between the song and the Massacre that I thought they were not the same though Angus MacKay call the Massacre the “Wives of the Glen.” I now see that I was wrong; and the point is, I think, most interesting. The Massacre will do for a third part to the Wives, considered as a March.

Here are the first lines of the three parts, four beats in each line:–

A A A: F E D: B G, B: D B G,
F E F: A’ F D: E D E: E D B
E E E: C A B: A A A: C B

The third line is the real meaning of the first two bars of the Massacre, which has pulled out each beat into two.

Of course the most important point in this is the question how the composers played–what they really did compose–how far they intended to depart from the rhythm of their original melody. The noting, we know, was quite unfinished, notes being unbarred and untimed. There were different ways of noting the same thing. MacDonald’s noter, for example, always wrote the above E E E with the first E and the last E long, and the middle E short, and Mackay’s with the first short.

It is interesting to see a composer beaten, and we have a case here in the second last bar the ground which to and with a good C, but which cannot have it because that would mean the end of the bar F E C–the phrase required at the beginning of the next.

The Piobaireachd Society ought to invite pipers to suggest timing for the variation of the ground of “Glengarry’s March,” which has fine possibilities. I suggest:–

G, B B: B E: A B B:B E
G, B B: B E A: A’ G: E E
G, E G,: G’: B D: A A
G, B B: B E A: A’ G: E E
G, B B: B E: A B B: B E
G, B G,: B D: A A
G, B B: B E A: A’ G: E E
B D G,: G: B D: A A

Apostrophe mark denotes “high”;comma “low.”

I have noticed what I consider the extreme limit of the encroachment of the merely introductory E in the recent playing of the ground of this tune by one of our leading pipers. He beats the introductory E and makes the first G a merely passing note, and also the other Gs and As; and he gets the first prizes with it from the recognised authorities.

I am, etc.,

Malcolm MacInnes