APC Approach 1: PS 171 – End of the Great Bridge (Part 1)

Rule One – Primary Sources are required

Another of the Battlefield Pibrochs in the Hannay-MacAuslan collection (the others being the Finger Lock [PS 132] and Cille Chriost [PS 170]), the interpretive tradition of this tune is remarkably distinct.

One the one hand, we have the Angus MacKay approach, dominating today’s performances.  This interpretive approach is dominated by the held-E cadence, a distinctive and idiosyncratic, perhaps even defining feature of the MacKay style.  In the case of this tune, the cadence E becomes a melodic element in the first three motions (Urlar, Thumb and Var 1). You can see it here:

A performance of this style can be heard, for example, here (performed by the great Fred Morrison 2014):

On the other hand, the Hannay-MacAuslan collection (written in the MacDonald style) brings a completely different performative option to this tune. As is typical (idiosyncratic, and perhaps even definitive) of MacDonald-style scores, the cadences are streaming and numerous (though no more so than MacKay’s in this score).  The result is potentially quite difference, since this retains the integrity of the melodic line:

Setting aside this (significant) difference, both the MacKay and the Hannay-MacAuslan scores reflect the traditional taorluath and crunluath form.  They diverge in two areas, however:  Hannay-MacAuslan includes a Tripling (i.e., a mach) of the Taorluath motion, something quite rare in the pibroch world:


and the a mach style of the Crunluath motions are different:

(MacKay’s more familiar style)




One last thing to note: throughout the Hannay-MacAuslan manuscript, we see only light-grips (in the taorluath and crunluath movements).  This will have a significant impact on the sound of these movements.

More to follow…


2 Replies to “APC Approach 1: PS 171 – End of the Great Bridge (Part 1)”

  1. In the Hannay MacAuslan setting of the urlar and thumb variation, there are a number of D gracenotes leading onto D; eg. bars one and two, and elsewhere.
    How does one play a D gracenote on D? It looks to me like this three-note sequence (GED) is a formulaic insertion rather than an actual transcript of what a piper actually played. In which case, since it may not be possible to play this combination, is not the preceding note – an E demi-semi-quaver – going to be held longer? And does this not in turn suggest that this formulaic sequence in fact allows for a longer E, as MacKay records?

    1. Not sure if the one observation follows from the other. In fact, it could be argued that the formulaism reinforces the streaming cadence. Particularly In light of what MacDonald does in his book (a 3-note cadence G-F-E to D).

      Nevertheless, an interesting point.

Leave a Reply