APC Approach 1: Glengarry’s March – Putting It All Together for Feedback

Okay. The moment we’ve been waiting for.

This is the final results of our journey, performed on the big instrument.

The thing about being a musician is that you always feel there is more to explore, more to learn, more depth to a tune.  That is the same I feel with this one.

It is a shame that many pibroch students, competitors and performers measure performance against a standard – whether the standard is that of the performances on a given day, or that of a recording they heard and want to mimic, or of an instruction they have been given.

Music is a living art.  It is all around us.  Every voice we hear, every sound we encounter, is music.  We cannot not encounter it – we do not have earlids!

Music impacts us deeply.  We are moved by it, excited by it, sometimes bored by it.  It goes directly into the limbic system, short-circuiting the pre-frontal cortex.  It is visceral.

Why would we want to play something in a way that stifles the spirit? In a way where the easy accusation is: “it all sounds the same.”

Yes.  Yes, it quite often does.  Because of the single-style, single-genre, single-text approach we have taken culminating in the 20th century and reverberating today.

We at the Alt Pibroch Club believe there is much life in the music, life that has been routinely stifled by means of context, transmission, self-doubt, fear: whatever.  The primary source materials show a vibrancy and palette of music options that is simply not encountered or performed today.

Well, it can be, should be.

It will be.  Because the evidence is prima facie. And the results are exciting.

In the months ahead, I will continue to produce a series of recordings of the rest of the materials in the Hannay-MacAuslan collection.  I will do the kind of sausage-making posts I did here with Cille Chriost, but with perhaps less detail.  I may draw from my own lessons with Allan or others.  I may simply summarize my findings and decisions and attach a recording.  We’ll see.

But the point of this exercise is to demystify the process of interpretation, so explain the interpretive decisions, and to empower you, as performers, to begin making your own.  You may not like the results: Good for you!  But, I hope you do not reject them on the principle of “that’s not how I was taught” (so what?), “judges won’t understand” (who cares?), “it’s sounds weird” (go out and expose yourself to more performances by people who are on the cutting edge of this morn-traditional revival).  Come up with good, interpretive reasons for your choices.

And share them with us!

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6 Replies to “APC Approach 1: Glengarry’s March – Putting It All Together for Feedback”

  1. Right on, thanks for this. Love to hear it in an even deeper pitch.

  2. Very good. Some thoughts from a non-piper musician:

    It seems a little rushed, all the way through.
    You don’t repeat the sections where there are repeat marks.
    In the urlar, the low G grace note seems heavy, intruding into the melody
    The crunludh movement seems very rushed, the score clearly notates each combination of headnote-crunludh as being four quavers, so the movement is three times as long as the headnote, but you play it in even time so the movement and the headnote have equal lengths.

    Thanks for lining up the score with the performance! That is always a brave thing to do, because people will follow along and notice the differences! Of course it’s fine to deviate from the score in whatever way you want, but I’m interested to know reasons.

    1. I’ll offer my explanations (assuming I have any goods one for you, Simon), just so as to pull it all together.

      1) It is certainly performed speedily. This was an interpretive choice on my part, imagining the pibroch as a “battlefield pibroch” needing a bit more aggressiveness. I also imagined (adopting the apocryphal story) what it would be like to taunt and sneer at the victims in the church, to be on the winning side of a long-standing feud. So, yes: it’s pretty speedy. Doesn’t have to be, but I wanted it to be, to see how it would impact the listener.

      2) Repeats: They added nothing musically, but simply made the song longer. I didn’t see any compelling reason to play them. When it comes to the Finger Lock, I probably won’t do repeats either, although the phrases that are repeated are much shorter there, and therefore may not elongate the tune unnecessarily.

      3) That low-G is pure idiosyncrasy on my part. Half-grips are pretty hard to play, truth be told. The slight holding tries to make me perform them cleanly, In truth, the half-grip ends up sounding the same length as if I were to play a full grip, but it is a musical much different feel. I keep wrestling with it, so it will change over time.

      4) Here’s the thing I’m pondering about crunluaths: the late Geoff Hore used to say, transcribers wrote what exactly they intended (accepting an occasional error typical of any human communication). Allan Speedy is convinced that crunluaths (the edre’s in particular) were played much differently than they are today. He may be right. Perhaps he’ll send a recording.

      Still – you are right: I am playing them (or trying to) in compound time, really. I’ve tried fosgailte crunluaths in a pattern more along the lines you are describing, and they just sounded wrong. It’s the result of changing all my crunluaths to a more compound rhythm, which I find more musically interesting.

      Hope all of this helps.

  3. Very nice. I can hear the taunting. Maybe I agree the crunluath is a little crushed sounding, myself I’ve been practicing to make sure the B/C/D sounds clearly before the edre, but to me the rest sounds purposefully brisk.

    I wonder if something different can’t be done with the throws to the high-A in the thumb variation. It doesn’t sound like you’re playing the throws and are putting the emphasis on the low-A before. What if you put the emphasis on the B (treat the low-A like a lead-in note) and do play the throw? I do quite like the way you hang on the high-A before the mordent/trill thing.

    The low-G grace notes in the ground between E and D near the ends of lines are very strange. They sound like crossing noises to my ear, but they’re obviously there written out as grace notes. Donald MacDonald has those as full melody notes maybe for this reason?

  4. I enjoyed this a lot – was surprised though by the energy and speed and aggressiveness in it although realised and liked the fact that it was probably describing a scene, which it seemed to do effectively. Thank you for sharing.

  5. I am very much enjoying the feedback here! Please feel free (those of you who haven’t) to join in!

    To me, the whole point of this (and future performance from the Hannay-MacAuslan collection) is to solicit ideas, and to entice different perspectives.

    That is the crux of a living tradition!

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