The Alt Pibroch Club is a safe space for the exploration of new interpretations of pibroch performance.
Pibroch performance has changed considerably over the last 200 years. Reasons include the rise of competitions, introduced to rescue ‘ancient’ piping from extinction in 1781, and the transition from an oral culture to one bound to notation. Whereas the early sources of pibroch demonstrate vivacity, modern performances can be remarkably boring in their consistency. In 2013, William Donaldson explained why:
Ceol mor is predominantly heard in competition, and it is asking a lot for people to risk months of practice, their travel and accommodation expenses – very substantial if they have come several thousand miles to attend an event – and their carefully-nurtured reputation as successful competitors – by playing in a style which, however correct, may be rejected by conservative benches out of hand … In terms of available information there has been a revolution; but its effects are yet to be seen.
This studio is a place which makes the available information easier to access and to process. It 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 negative climate of fear and safety which has made 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?
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.