Alt Pibroch Club

This studio is a place which makes information on pibroch, in particular the remarkable variety of musicality as reflected in the pre-1840 collections, now available to an international audience of performers and researchers.  This information, formerly only found in personal and library archives or in printed volumes, is now freely available on the site, and includes all extant pre-1840 scores and canntaireachd for easy viewing and downloading.

It is a collaboration between J David Hester, PhD, and Barnaby Brown.  Our intention to provide as much material and information on these old pieces as can be found and digitized. We intend to include:

  • Manuscript facsimiles
  • Gaelic titles and their translation
  • Historical notes
  • Music theory and commentary
  • Reference recordings

It is our goal to provide a space which nurtures experimentation and the confidence to play (and to reward) something different. Since the early 1990s, insights into pibroch’s source material and a deeper appreciation of its cultural context have prompted artists like 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 be able to create an incentive for new performance styles and expression informed by a much greater depth and breadth of tradition than is typically understood or experienced by today’s students of pibroch.

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.

-J David Hester, PhD
Barnaby Brownr