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LOWLAND AMUSEMENT

One piper's exploration of the music of the Scottish Lowlands, its history and its performance. It's a diary of discovery, not a series of essays. You're invited to make your own contributions using the comments option on most pages.

 

Piping LIve!

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There's been a bit of an interruption in this blog, due entirely to the invitation I received from Hamish Moore to play at the LBPS evening at the Festival Club during Glasgow's Piping Live! week [that leads up to the World Pipe Band Championships]. I've spent the past several weeks working pretty determinedly on several sets of tunes, chosen in an attempt to cover as many of the various tune-forme and rhythms that form the foundation of the Lowland piping repertoire. The plan now is to cover these forms and review how that intensive practice period developed my understnding. Meanwhile, here's the only record I have of that event:

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1 2 3 continued

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An intruiging demonstration of the matter of performing 3-time tunes from the early 18th century was suggested to me by a post on the tradtunes email list; it involves a discussion of the difference between two dance forms, the 'muineira' and the 'Jota'

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footwork

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Since most highland pipers play standing up, the role in their performance played by their feet has been largely restricted to ambulation. The only exception to this has been in Cape Breton where pipers playing for dancing frequently do so sitting down. One advantage of this practice is that it liberates the feet for other roles,and this has become a feature of Cape Breton piping, a feature that has, of late years, been adopted by a number of bellows pipers.
The question arises then, does this technique have anything to do with 18th century Lowland piping? My answer has to be, If you mean did 18th century pipers employ similar footwork then no, it seems to me highly unlikely, and there is no evidence that I know of to the contrary. If your question however is along the lines of ‘does this technique have any relevance to the way we play Lowland music today, then my answer is very firmly, yes.

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Easy as 1 2 3

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The terms 'Jig' and 'Reel' have been part of Scottish pipe music since at least 1760. Pipers are familiar with the time signatures of 6/8 and 9/8, and can be fairly confident about how to interpret them. However, anyone who have looked at 17th century manuscripts, or perhaps at Playford's 'Dancing Master' publications, will be aware that these time signatures do not appear until late in the 17th century, and their use was not common until the 18th.

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The Lowland Mazurka

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Last year I managed to pursude the Music Dept. of Edinburgh Central Library to purchase a copy of the recently published  edition of the Balcarres lute book. This manuscript, for so long unavailable for research, is a treasure house of Scottish music at its turning point at the very end of the 17th century. I was aware of many of the wonders it contains, but I was taken by surprise by two settings of a tune it calls 'Rothes Rant', and which comes nearer than anything I have yet encountered in the Scottish sources to being a mazurka.

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