Reverse Engineering in Pibroch – by Ronald Smith

We have seen great advances in recovering and reclaiming the nearly lost art of the clarsach, and heard Simon Chadwick’s ressurections of its music and explorations into the lost world of the era when harp music and pibroch flourished side by side.  While illuminating and inspiring, much of this remains a specialist activity requiring dedication […]

An Interesting Puzzle, and a Potential Opportunity

In my encounters chatting with competitors and judges, one  hears discussions about what constitutes qualifications for aassessing “alternative” settings. This poses an interesting question: Since so many of the current and previous generation of pipers only learn from and know the derivative and secondary sources, and are taught in the dominant stylistic paradigm, where does one find judges familiar […]

Using colour to convey musical pitches – Part 3

PART 1. The rift between vocal and written canntaireachd PART 2. The rationale behind a proposed colour scheme PART 3. Case study 1: Hiharin hiodreen – One of the Cragich (PS 36) This series is dedicated to the memory of Lt Cl David Murray who awakened debate on the notation and timing of hiharin over 50 years ago. He was a source of tremendous encouragement […]

Using colour to convey musical pitches – Part 2

In Part 1, I observed how the difference between sound waves and light waves has severed the vocal practice of canntaireachd from its written forms. In this part, I explain the rationale for a colour system that could heal the rift, making canntaireachd easier to handle. I have been using colour to communicate pitches in music education since 1995. That was when I bought […]

Using colour to convey musical pitches – Part 1

This series of posts seeks to elucidate canntaireachd, pibroch’s oldest tool for memorisation and musical understanding. In this part, I notice how the difference between sound waves and light waves has severed the vocal practice of canntaireachd from its written forms. I propose that colour could heal this rift, making canntaireachd less confusing and more useful in the 21st century. 200 years ago, John MacCrimmon fingered his walking stick […]

The world’s oldest tune and pipe

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Sweden piping at the opening of the Archaeomusica exhibition. Most of the pipes in my case were reproductions of archaeological finds. In 2008, a 42,000-year-old vulture bone with 5 finger holes was unearthed in Hohle Fels cave, southwestern Germany. On 8 April this year, I made a reproduction from a Gyps fulvus radius bone kindly provided […]