This page will be updated as changes to the site take place. Its intention is to help users orient themselves not only to the growth of the site and the motives and inspirations leading to its current state, but also to provide a roadmap outlining the future directions we hope the site will take.
A Bit of History
The first phase of effort making the pibroch sources available online dealt with them individually. Many sites have done a remarkable service in offering downloadable and/or viewable facsimiles of what had previously been treasures hidden away in distant libraries and archives. What we wanted to do was take this drive toward availability a step further.
By presenting PDFs of tunes on a source-by-source basis, there arose a lack of connectivity which made it difficult, if not impossible, to locate all early settings of the same tune. We designed Altpibroch.com to make it easier for the researcher, the hobbyist and the performer to explore this ocean of material – currently 851 PDFs – with higher levels of pleasure and reward. We did this by offering two primary architectural paradigms: Source pages and Tune pages.
Our Source pages come in two varieties. If the source is by a piper and contains mostly pibroch, then we include everything. These Source pages contain two lists. Firstly, the entire contents are listed in the order in which they appear in the source. Then the tunes are listed in alphabetical order, using the titles given in that source (with a preference for English titles). If the source is by a non-piper and contains mostly other types of music, then we are selective: we only include material relevant to pibroch interpretation, in a single list in the order in which it appears in the source.
Piobaireachd Society numbers, introduced in 2003 by Roderick Cannon, are used throughout this site because tune titles were extremely variable. Even a brief excursion through the material reveals this inconvenient fact. The PS number serves as the definitive, reliable reference; however, we recognize that a name is more memorable than a number, so in PDF filenames we supplement the PS number with an edited English title, which is also unique. These are taken from Barnaby Brown’s Data underpinning ‘A map of the pibroch landscape, 1760-1841’, a spreadsheet which is updated from time to time to keep it in sync with this website.
The Tune pages on this site currently number 313. Roderick Cannon’s 2003 catalogue was revised and some similar tunes were merged for consistency; as a result, 11 PS numbers have been deleted (details are in the spreadsheet above). Under the heading Primary Sources, we list all known pre-1855 musical notation relating to the tune. This list identifies the source, the tune’s location in the source, and its title(s) in that source. By making these settings more accessible, we hope to stimulate enthusiasm for the re-introduction of musical variety, combatting the musical monotony of recent years through rediscovery of the creative spirit this musical culture had before it was written down.
After the initial setup of Source and Tune pages, it became clear that much more was needed. We are now entering a “Phase Two” of the site, one only made possible thanks to the work of William Donaldson, Steve Scaife, Jim McGillivray, Ross Anderson, Roderick Cannon, Robert Wallace, Jack Taylor and the staff at the National Library of Scotland.
In this phase we are adding many new materials. On the Sources pages, we are providing a bit of historical background regarding the origins and re-discoveries of the collections. On the Tunes pages, we are providing entries of Roderick Cannon’s Gaelic Dictionary of the titles (where applicable), links to William Donaldson’s excellent Set Tunes series (where extent). We are also slowly gathering links to archival recordings, as well as any historical notes. Additionally, we intend to provide a discussion of musical structure and theory.
Making the sources universally accessible has been a collective effort — like the tunes themselves, the handiwork of many individuals, to whom we are extremely grateful!
So, what are our current plans for the future? We are still ponder the finer points, but so far they consist of things such as:
- Making available color high-resolution images of all Musical Materials sources.
- Identifying an institutional host to continue the work begun by Roderick Cannon, and carried forward by Geoff Hore, on Bibliography of Bagpipe Music
- Historical Materials site – a long-term development project that would encompass archival documents and records, including estate records, legal documents, the earliest-surviving accounts of the events commemorated in the tunes,
- Expanding the scope of Musical Materials to include pages of original pibrochs composed after 1855, including cooperation with contemporary composers to facilitate sales of their works.
J David Hester, PhD