About

The Alt Pibroch Club has four goals:

  1. To make authoritative material relevant to pibroch interpretation easier to find and easier to handle, prioritising written evidence pre-1841 and audio evidence pre-1980. (This site)
  2. To provide a safe space which nurtures experimentation and the confidence to play (and to reward) something different, encouraging pluralism in mainstream Highland piping culture. (learning.altpibroch.com)
  3. To provide access to a definitive database of all published books on bagpipe music. (bibliography.altpibroch.com)
  4. To provide access to archival material from libraries and private collections. (Coming site)

It is a collaboration between J David Hester, PhD, and Barnaby Brown. Since the early 1990s, insights into pibroch’s source material and a deeper appreciation of its cultural context have prompted artists like William Donaldson, Allan MacDonald, Barnaby Brown and Peter McCalister to breathe new life into an old art form. At the Piobaireachd Society Conference in March 2013, the Secretary of the Music Committee, Alan Forbes, said:

We don’t see much evidence of people adopting different styles and settings, but we would like to encourage that further.

In an interview in Piping Today (August 2013), Peter McCalister said:

I think I can pull some stuff from the music, using other versions of the tunes, that maybe other pipers won’t have got around to. I need to do that little extra bit… I mean study the music and try to put a little shine on it from that process… the moment I pick up a chanter and look at some of these versions, I can feel my blood tingling, I can see something extra in it.

The Alt Pibroch Club exists to support learners and teachers, exchanging knowledge and counteracting the often disincentivizing climate of standardized expression and performance which has tended to make listening to pibroch a predictable rather than an exciting experience. How does notation from 1760 or 1820 relate to what great pipers actually played? What separated mastery from mediocrity in this music’s heyday?

It is our hope that by learning from the ancients, we may help to enrich pibroch’s contemporary scene, inspiring new levels of diversity and musical understanding to the benefit of both practitioners and audiences.

Membership is not required. All materials can be downloaded, reviewed, perused without the encumbrance of registration. If you wish to post your own material (audio files, PDFs, links to YouTube, etc.), simply register (free of charge). You will be notified when we process your request. Please help us to build an atmosphere of generosity and active learning, kindling new courage to tackle the unfamiliar.

A few housekeeping notes:

We have gathered as many extent sources as we can find (we keep finding new ones, so check back in). We publish the material in two ways:  under Sources (where the collection of pibroch materials by a single source can be viewed) and under Tunes (where each pibroch tune can be found, with every extant pre-1840 score or canntaireachd is collected).

Every Tune page will list the Piobaireachd Society Number and the standardized tune title.

You may visit the Explore by Tune page, where every tune and every title associated with it is listed in Piobarieachd Society number order.  The best thing to do when arriving on this page is to use your browser’s Find function (cmd-F for Macs, ctrl-F on Windows) and do a search.  Simple and brilliant.

You may also search for tunes in the Search field on the sidebar. You will be taken to all the different places the search parameter entries can be found.

When you visit a Source page, the tunes there are listed in alphabetical order according the name of the tune given in the Index of the collection itself.   They are also listed in PS Number order. Again, these titles may not match the standardized tune title, nor the Piobairechd Society Book contents.  Organic history is messy that way.

All PDFs may be downloaded for free.  Naming convention has been used, as follows:

PSNumber-Collection_TuneNumber-Standardized_Name

For example: 161-Dow_20-Duntroons_Warning.pdf

In this way, you are assured of its identification and citation.  You will frequently notice that the name actually given in the manuscript or score itself will be different from the file name.  We have taken great pains to standardize our content, so that there is no doubt that the tune score you are viewing is, in fact, the tune score you mean to view, even if the title isn’t familiar to you.

We know this can seem daunting and confusing.  Our goal is to bring order out of the chaos of pre-1840 manuscripts by providing standard citations for the material.  Once you learn it, you will be glad you did.

Welcome to the Alt Pibroch Club!

-J David Hester, PhD
Barnaby Brown