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  Prize for ensemble works 14/06/08  Misuc at 18:56 on 14 June 2008

Ensemble? Hardly! But very multicultural! Something for Roberto or Windart (right up his street!) or perhaps Pete's students? How about it? [Look it up under 'Competitions, Jobs & Opps']

  Re: Prize for ensemble works 14/06/08  ruska02 at 21:01 on 14 June 2008

I am trembling with deep emotion at this challenge !
I will start writing something as soon as possible may be with a
'functional generative process' as its basis. No, maybe I will leave
this up to some of my more"open minded collegues" who knows...
probably someone will come up with a "bicinium" for sheng and bagpipe
a will win a pulitzer prize..after david lang has won it with "such a work"
everyone may I think..

respect...if any!

Roberto ..not a composer if this is the bottom line

  Re: Prize for ensemble works 14/06/08  scott_good at 14:00 on 16 June 2008


are you cutting on the glorious bag pipe!?

but yes, roberto is trembling...as have many before hearing the awesome sound of a legion (or should i say gaggle) of pipers coming over the hill - look out englishmen, the scots are pissed.

back in the day that must have been quite a terrifying sight/sound.

but pipes are great...4 of em, you could have fun. drones could be tuned to other pitches - i have heard D and C outside the Bb. chromatisism outside of Eb maj is possible, but each note has it's own unique colour - F# is quite a note! like a hoarse goose. so, one pipe with a D drone, one with C, 1 with Bb, and one with chanter alone. you could flux between each - structure the work around drone densities.

there is of course a classical tradition in it's own rite around pipes - good to study if you are going to compose for the instrument - the real intricacy of the tradition comes from the ornaments, and the meter. of course, not unlike wind playing of arabic/armenian etc style. it is interesting to note the similarities between different cultures music through the instrument and instrumental technique - in this case double reeds, but really more about the responsiveness of a reed instrument, rather than the mouth quality, as reed is activated in a bag pipe more like an organ than a duduk with a bag pipe. and the accordion is similar as well. so, bag pipes can be compared to many other instruments, thus can capitalize on the musics of many other cultures, thus there are many possibilities for innovative composition.

just remember they are loud!!!! no getting around that. so, if one decided to include pipes in a mixed work, mix them with brass, sax, drums, piccolo...that sort of thing.


  Re: Prize for ensemble works 14/06/08  Misuc at 16:33 on 16 June 2008

Scott is talking about 'Pibroch' here: one of the most awesome and wonderful music-types in the world. It could only be produced by people who eat lumpy salty porridge and go out on to the wet freezing windy heath with a kilt. It is amazing for being both hard, rigid and austere and at the same time, passionate, delicate, vulnerable and responsive. The tunes all have a tight 4-phrase ABBA structure - played very slow and with cross-references between the A and the B so that it is hard to follow where you are. There follows a long series of variations of increasing complexity. these are based, as Scott says, on the characteristic ornamentation of the instrument. The first constraint of the instrument is that there can be no articulation. You can't have any repeated notes. To get the effect of a repeated note you perform a sort of elaborate mordant Throughout the variations these 'multi mordants' spread employing more and more 'grace' notes of varying intervals against the 'original' till the whole tune is barely recognisable beneath a forest of flourishes.....

This is truly awe-inspiring. In my opinion attempting to fiddle with drone-changes would be like bio-engineering a horse with a petrol engine. The structure comes from the nature of the instrument and also the mode it is tuned to: what accounts for its haunting character: the way the A and B phrases interfere: the way that repeated hearings of the tune never sound quite complete comes from the fact that the mode has got no certain 'final' despite the ever-present drone [you always get effectively a G triad against A (minor)] Mess about with this and you are in danger of losing its intangible resonances. And you had better be a virtuoso player or at least long connoisseur to appreciate the artistry of the performer and to dare to introduce any innovation. (Here is where I would like to be able to submit an MP3 sample of one of the great pipe-majors like John Burgess, Donald McCleod or William Maclean etc,

But in any case this is not what the competition calls for. It calls for (what appears to be a solo) march in 6/8. You could never march to a pibroch. It is severely listening music.

  Re: Prize for ensemble works 14/06/08  scott_good at 00:17 on 17 June 2008

misuc, i just knew if i pushed a bit, you would have something more to share. thanks again!

i know little of the pipes, but have worked with quite a virtuosi player here in toronto who plays chromatic bag pipes with different drones. it is very weird, and very intense. always catches lots of attention. Eb+ over D or C are very useful modes. of course, he practices this technique....

now, i think in the realm of said competition, futzing about with drones would not be appropriate. i only mentioned as one should keep an "open mind" about possibility. i bet chromatic pipes in a chamber opera setting could be quite profound (for instance), and have great dramatic effect.


  Re: Prize for ensemble works 14/06/08  Misuc at 18:47 on 23 June 2008

Thank you, Scott, but I had not listened to the stuff for a long time. It is both more austere,obstinate,obsessive,stereotyped, tribal,limited,primitive and also more intricate, subtle, complex and difficult than I described. Don't forget: you've only got nine notes -against an unalterable drone. Even just looking up wikipedia will inform you that the structure is more detailed and more counterintuitive than i said.

The thing that is most appealing/amazing and also frustrating and irritating about traditional musics is just that: i.e. that they are traditional. They come from societies where survival depended on doing things the way they were always done: where therefore ancestors were worshipped and elders were closest to the ancestors and always 'knew best'. They also made sure that their privileges as seniors/senators were not threatened by new ideas.

Of course Brecht said; "the thinking man does not eat too much, use too much electricity - nor does he have an idea too many".

Listen to this:


See what i mean? But don't give up. Get used to it. It's not only like eating porridge, t's like doing 'porriidge' [prison]. Once you realise here's just no escape, you come to start seeing the value of restricting your expectations..........

  Re: Prize for ensemble works 14/06/08  scott_good at 04:03 on 24 June 2008


i can assure you that the pipes have far more than 9 notes...

so, to give you a taste, i posted a recording of a pipes solo - go to my sound page - "GUH - pipes solo" is the file.

it's weird, man. and every time i play with this group, about %30 of the audience are gone after 2 songs - it's an intense experience listening to bag pipes.

but ya, the traditional pipe music is really intense (and all the other adjectives you mentioned as well...) - only short doses though.

(quite "minimalist" wouldn't you say?)

let me know what you think of Henry in GUH - i love the F#-F-E thing near the end.

i don't really have any opinions about traditional music except that much of it i enjoy. pipes remind me of bulgarian singing - intense, loud drone music. the intervals become hypnotic - in both traditions, the use of "M2" of course not equal tempered, is so effective to highlight the cadence. perhaps these are small points, but it has an effect on how i think of sound and music. another example of leading tone, of cadence, of goal orientation. The layers of rhythm - from the shortest notes of the ornaments to the longest shenkerian like melodic motion etc. much of this you can hear in just about all music (which i think is very interesting.)

oh ya, i'll see if i can find an example of C and D drones as well. also, you can have no drone. there are options...

  Re: Prize for ensemble works 14/06/08  Jim Tribble at 00:16 on 03 July 2008

There are currently over 40 different bagpipes world wide, a good selection of which are on the collective recording sold by Arc records.

Examples of C pipes would include the early English pipes, D pipes include Dutch bagpipes and the french Musette.

The most flexible pipes are the Irish, but the french musette in classical form, which had concertos written for it comes a close second.


  Re: Prize for ensemble works 14/06/08  scott_good at 04:35 on 03 July 2008


thanks for the info.

just to be clear, i meant a c or d drone below the normal scale (basically Eb, or really, Bbmixolydian)


  Re: Prize for ensemble works 14/06/08  Misuc at 10:31 on 03 July 2008

The competition is quite specific: a 6/8 march for traditional Highland Bagpipes. This instrument is pitched in A and has a total of 9 notes only. There is a particular 'saltiness' to the tuning, which, of course, is not equal temperament.

There are obviously many, many different types of bagpipes. - all of which, in my experience, are virtually impossible to get more than squawk out of, but somehow people who know how do make the most miraculously thrilling music.

Instruments that have inspired me, that I have and have failed with include a practise set of Uillean pipes, a Zampagna and a French set. All have different characteristics, tunings and repertoire.

Concerning traditional music, one should not forget that generations of musicians grew up aware of the limitations,which were regarded almost as unalterable natural phenomena. They devised thousands of subtle ways of getting round or exploiting them, which are lost on untuned ears. The forms of Pibroch, for example, allow for and regulate how single bars within the 'A' section may be used at certain points within the 'B' section - i.e. within a different context to perform a different structural role (e.g. an extension within a mode based on the note A, becoming a half-close in G etc.) forcing the attentive listener continually to reorientate and to retrace his position within the whole piece....

This is indeed an example of true minimalism - akin, in a way, to Satie's: minimum material for maximum meaning: minimum fuss: maximum content. This is the extreme opposite to the aesthetic of the contemporary 'minimalist' school which uses undifferentiated tuning, fuzzy syncopations and 'easy listening' devices and makes a positive virtue of the total absence of even the beginnings of an idea of what musical grammar might be: the bland lack of even primitive differentiation of musical material into beginnings, middles or ends etc., the absolute lack of anything for the mind and soul of the listener to catch hold of and develop for himself: an abusive relationship to the audience.

I am a little sceptical of, but nonetheless intrigued by possible non-traditional uses of such a very traditional instrument. I will definitely have a listen as soon aa I can.