Studies in Pibroch (1)

Lorimer, R L C, “Studies in Pibroch – The ‘4:6:4:1 (or 2)’ Metre in Pibroch Reconsidered in Terms of Joseph MacDonald’s ‘Antient Rule’,” Scottish Studies 6 (1962), 1-30.

A very dense analysis of the structure of tunes that Archibald Campbell and the Piobaireachd Society at the time considered “under suspicion and generally not played”.  In it, he argues that Joseph MacDonald’s “rule of thumb” (referring to the mnemonic aid he reported, whereby pibroch tune structures or metres were measured in 4 quarters of 2, 4 or 8 “fingers”) can be used to explain the otherwise convoluted (through time or accident) metre of these tunes: their original structure consisted of 4:4:4:4 arranged in two phrases:

A     B
A     B’
B     A
B”    A’

Therefore, not only were they, in fact, regular, but we must also take more seriously Joseph MacDonald’s account of the “Antient Rule for regulating Time and Composition”.

Thanks to John Shaw and the School of Celtic & Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh.

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