c. 1755-60 – James Oswald (O)

The Caledonian Pocket Companion Containing A Favourite Collection of Scots Tunes with Variations for the German Flute or Violin by James Oswald.

This is one of the most important collections of Scottish tunes with many pieces appearing in print for the first time. It consists of twelve books later bound into two volumes of six books each and contains 550 tunes with extensive variations. Published in London between c.1745 and c.1760, Vol. I was complete in about 1755 and Vol. II by 1760.

A CD-ROM edition was published in 2007 with introduction and notes to the tunes by John Purser, modern typesetting by John & Barbara Purser, and high-resolution scans and CD-ROM creation by Nick Parkes. Low-resolution scans are available at IMSLP.org but the 2007 CD-ROM edition contains much more and is excellent value. We are grateful to Nick Parkes for his permission to publish a screen shot of Will you go to Sherriff Muir below; the other facsimiles here are from IMSLP.org.

James Oswald was not attempting to transcribe Highland bagpipe music, preserving it for future generations. His scores may reflect a parallel fiddle tradition, or he may have taken a free and creative approach, transforming pipe music not only for the flute and violin but for the musical taste of another cultural milieu. A combination of both is likely. For McIntosh’s Lament, he used a non-standard tuning and readers of the facsimile should note that pitches played on the E string sound a minor 3rd lower than written, and pitches on the D and G strings sound a tone higher than written. Patrick MacDonald published a related fiddle setting in his 1784 collection (p. 40).

Barnaby Brown, 2015

Vol I title (c. 1755)

Oswald published material relating to 4 pibrochs:

O.6:10  PS 295  Will you go to Sherriff Muir (c.1755)
O.10:18 (Vol.II, p.104)  PS 200  McIntosh’s Lament (c.1758)
O.11:14 (Vol.II, p.124)  PS 203  Marsail Lochinalie (c.1759)
O.12:14 (Vol.II, p.152)  PS 177  Pioberachd Mhic Dhonuil (c.1760)

[source abbreviation].[book no.]:[page no. in the book, not the volume]

3 thoughts on “c. 1755-60 – James Oswald (O)

  1. Pingback: Musical Materials, phase 1 – FINISHED!!! | Alt Pibroch Club – Learning Living Pibroch

  2. Barnaby I would question your implicit assumption when you say “not attempting to transcribe Highland bagpipe music accurately”

    I would rather see the fiddle versions as a parallel tradition, with fiddle espeically sharing in the genre alongside pipes, not being the recipient of adaptions of pipe music. Whether Oswald was printing recieved traditional sets, or adapting creatively, I see no need to assume he was working from a pipe exemplar for any of these pieces, rather than a fiddle version.

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