OT: 5 June 1926 – Malcolm MacInnes “Styles of Pipe Tunes”

The Oban Times, 5 June, 1926

Styles of Pipe Tunes

 Johannesburg, South Africa, 20 March, 1926

 Sir,–The following are mere opinions: they are stated as facts for brevity.

Repeats ought to have a difference for emphasis. But repeats must be clearly repeats, and must follow the part repeated long enough to establish it. It is not right to change AA¹A¹G: A¹AAB: into AA¹EA¹: CAAC in the repeat, as is done by Logan in the second part of “When Charlie comes,” or into AA¹AA¹: G¹AEC, as is done by Ross who goes still further into the unpermissible in the third part of the Cameronian Rant when he changes DGEB; DGBG¹: DGBG: DDBA¹ into DGGG: DGBG: DGGG: DGBG in the repeat. This is right off the lines of the music of the pipes. It would be as legitimate to play for the second part of Lady Loudoun the second part once and the third part once.

Gray’s new pibrochs from old manuscripts put me to very hard thinking. Annapool is in structure so like the Children that my first conclusion was that someone at some time in history had been trying his hand at a new tune, and took the children as his model. But Annapool appears in Gesto’s Chanting Syllables. But, again, Gesto is different from Gray, though Gray might be an attempt by someone to translate Gesto. Gray has been very careful as regards the Gaelic in his tune names; he sometimes even gilds the lily –when he makes a possessive case (‘taoibh’) for ‘taobh’.

The adding of flourishes in the finishing of pibroch grounds has one very unfortunate result–the throwing of many players out of time, as they slow down, just as if a reader who reads a difficult word, should stop to spell it. Mr. Grant’s mistake as to the noting of the toorla beats may be due to something like this. This beat consists of three pieces, the first very marked and long, the secondary short, and the third short, like the word “cumbersome.” The old-style of noting is excellent for impressing on beginners thoroughness of fingering; but it cannot be played in musical rhythm. It would require four syllables to represent it. That the correct number is three is proved by the necessity of musical rhythm, the playing of the pipers, and the syllables of Gesto and the bards (for example ‘Sfhada mar so tha sinn).

I would very much like to go into the fine points of the toothsome beats and phrases of the new books; but it is impracticable Ross has a very telling stroke in the repeat of the last part of Angus Campbell–AA ¹EA¹: CECA: ABCA: etc.; but I think it could be improved further. The E in the first be is heavy and slow, and might be replaced by high G or a grip. The second beat is excellent, but the CA is spoiled by the closeness of the same notes in the same position in the be following. There is a lot to be said for the old beat CCEA–dropping from the high A on the double C. Of course Ross’s last two parts of Macallister should change places.–I am, etc.,

Malcolm MacInnes