Interview with Stephen Rooklidge – Shasta Piping Society (Part 3)

Given the breadth of experience among the composers you just described, what is your impression of the current state of pibroch composition? What stuck out for you once you saw the submissions?

In general, the submitted pibrochs were a varied and impressive lot, and the quality supports the idea that more of these contests are in order.

My limited experience makes me woefully incompetent to judge a composer’s intent, so I made it a point to not listen to the submissions for quality. I only listened to the audio submissions to ensure there was no speaking on the audio that could identify the composer and I viewed the scores in the same way. We were strict about keeping identifying information out of sight, and sent a few submissions back for editing. Once the judges decided on the winning tunes, it was only then that the names and biographies were returned to them for the announcement.

Many of the audio files were on practice chanters, both reeded and electronic, and we only meant the audio files to support the interpretation of the scores. As most APC members know, written scores are not a very reliable way to convey the music as intended, so the audio requirement allowed the judges to pick up unique musical qualities that are tough to interpret from the page. However, the audio files were only used to support the judging because many older composers are no longer active players and requiring audio of pipes would have unfairly limited our submissions.

I had an opportunity to listen to the winning pibrochs posted on Piping Press and am very happy with the results. Others have shared their work on social media and that is extremely satisfying because our whole intent was to get more music out to listeners. Matt Turnbull posted his submission and I find it quite breathtaking. To hear this work and from others like J Montague clearly indicates the art form is far from stagnant.

More to follow…

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8 Replies to “Interview with Stephen Rooklidge – Shasta Piping Society (Part 3)”

  1. Is it possible for us to have a link to Matt Turnbull’s composition? I notice you say it is available on Social Media. It would be lovely if our efforts and scores etc could be shared around more. From this part 3 interview, an interesting question arises, which there may be no answer to. What is the correlation between placings in a piobaireachd ‘composing’ competition and ability of composer as a ‘performing’ piobaireachd player? Someone once said to me that to compose a piobaireachd one had to have many many years of piobaireachd performing experience in the bag first of all. Do people feel this is true?

  2. We will be making an announcement shortly. We hope to make available most, if not all of the compositions entered into the competition. We also hope, thereby, to create a platform for other composers to publish their work.
    Unfortunately, Matt Turnbull did not want his particular composition made available at this time. He has other plans for it.
    I think the gatekeeping function of such statements is clear, and both naive and silly. Do we really think composers could play every instrument in the orchestra?

  3. Oh it would have been nice to hear Matt’s composition but each to their own ways. I must say I’m way at the other side of that continuum. I regard my compositions as team efforts and without the ‘team’ they wouldn’t be in existence at all. The team consists of everyone I’ve ever met in life, the surroundings I’ve found myself in at any given moment, everyone who has ever supported me or not, and it includes people long dead who were good enough to leave me some cool musical genes – and of course the actual team of people who come together to perform, record, photograph, donate, and provide support, publicity, emotional sustenance – then the people who receive one’s efforts with good grace and absorb and enjoy the results and inspire one to do more. Given all that, I never have any hesitation in saying ‘look what WE made’ ”here, share this’ ‘here it is finished, enjoy’ and so on. But we’re all coming at it from different places – and this is one of the interesting things about it all I guess. As for ‘mine’, let it float on the wind, travel where it will, fall into your hands, reach you on a sound wave, and touch your heart a little. And to quote Esther the Wonder Pig – ‘Rest, Root, Repeat’!!!

  4. Many of the pieces for the composition are now on the wiki (see below). It’s a shame that Matt doesn’t want to share his submission, though I think we should still document its existence. Doing that much is always allowed.

    https://wiki.altpibroch.com/p/Shasta_Piping_Society_2017

    1. William will you let us know how we can add information to this exciting new development of wiki.altpibroch.com or how we can get the info to you? It’s an amazing development and is going to make all the difference. Thank you so much for all the work involved in initiating it and getting it up and running.

      1. Janette, thank you. It is very early days though, still much to do. If you would like to contribute information you can either make an account on the wiki and we’ll enable it and then you can edit it directly. Or if you prefer, just write an email — you can get my address from David.

  5. Matt posted audio his composition on his facebook page, and he has several compositions on the Piobaireachd Society Reference page, which I recommend for a good listen. We encourage composers to spread the word as wisely as possible, but also support the right to keep close for future publication or save for the time the composer feels comfortable with any revisions. I’m sure all artists understand that their work is ready for public exposure only when it feels right. Remember, there are those out there who are critical in a manner that can discourage creativity, and I would never want to push a composer to do something that would impact future submissions. At least from our end, we support whatever the composer wants to do with their work and are excited that the APC wiki provides a place for composers to get the recognition they deserve.

  6. Wow, I should be a better spell-checker. “..as widely as possible…”
    About Janette’s question: there were composers who could not get through their submissions due to age-related health issues or lack of tech know-how, and they asked relatives to play it or help them figure out the recording process. I imagine if a composer has it in their heads to put music to paper, no matter the experience and training, there can be something worthwhile come of it. Perhaps what long time players avoid through familiarity are the pitfalls of repeating what has already been done.

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