Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/136

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124
BAGPIPE
 

like that of the oboe or bassoon, while the drone reed roughly represents the single beating reed of the organ or clarinet. The drone reed is an exact reproduction of the 'squeaker' which children in the fields fashion out of joints of tall grass, probably the oldest form of the reed in existence.

The drone tubes are in length proportional to their note, the longest being about three feet high. The chaunter is a conical wooden tube, about fourteen inches long, pierced with eight sounding holes, seven in front for the fingers, and one at the top behind for the thumb of the right hand. Two additional holes bored across the tube below the lowest of these merely regulate the pitch, and are never stopped.

The compass is only of nine notes, from G to A inclusive { \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f g'4 a'' }. They do not form any diatonic scale whatever, nor indeed are they accurately tuned to one another. The nearest approximation to their position can be obtained by taking the two common chords of G and A superposed, and adding one extra note in the neighbourhood of F, or F♯. In the former common chord, which is tolerably true, we have G, B, D, G, upwards, and in the latter A, C♯, E, A, which is far less accurate. G to A is not however a whole tone, only about ¾ of one. C♯, unlike that of the tempered scale, which is nearly a comma sharp, is here as much flat. The B and D accord with the low G, and not with the low A. It appears to the writer better thus to describe the real sounds produced than to indulge in speculation as to Lydian and Phrygian modes.

In the tuning of the drones there seems to be difference of practice. Glen's 'Tutor for the Great Highland Bagpipe' states that the drones are all tuned to A; the two smaller in unison with the lower A of the chaunter, the largest to the octave below; whereas from other works it appears that the sequence G, D, G, as well as D, A, D, are both admissible. But the Northumbrian or border pipe, a far more accurate instrument according to modern musical notions than the Scotch, provides for a possible change of key by the addition of a fourth supplementary drone; probably the three notes G, D, and A, might be tolerated, in alternate pairs, according to the predominant key of G or A in the melody. There is good ground, however, for believing that any attempt to accommodate the bagpipe to modern scale-notation would only result in a total loss of its archaic, semi-barbarous, and stimulating character.

Some confirmation of the view here taken as to the scale of the bagpipe may be derived from an examination of the music written for it. It is known to all musicians that a fairly passable imitation of Scotch and Irish tunes may be obtained by playing exclusively on the 'black keys.' This amounts simply to omission of semitones; and in semitones lies the special character of a scale, whether major or minor. The minor effect may indeed be obtained; and is usually remarkable in all tunes of the Keltic family, but it is done by chord rather than by scale. None of the oldest and most characteristic Scotch melodies contain scales; all proceed more or less by leaps, especially that of a sixth, with abundant use of heterogeneous passing notes. If the airs of the pibrochs be read with a view to map out the resting or sustained notes in the melody, it will be found, in the most characteristic and original tunes, that the scale is A, B, D, E, F♯ and high A. This is equivalent to the black-key scale, beginning on D♭. 'Mackrimmon's lament' is a good example. The minor effect named above is gained through the major sixth, with the help of the drone notes; a fact which, though rather startling, is easily demonstrable.

This use of ornamental notes has in course of time developed into a new and prominent character in bagpipe music. Such a development is only natural in an instrument possessing no real diatonic scale, and therefore relying for tolerance of jarring intervals on perpetual suspension, or on constant discord and resolution; with a 'drone bass' in the strictest sense of the term. The ornamental notes thus introduced are termed 'warblers,' very appropriately, after the birds, who, until trained and civilised, sometimes by the splitting of their tongues, entirely disregard the diatonic scale, whether natural or tempered. First-rate pipers succeed in introducing a 'warbler' of eleven notes between the last up-beat and the first down-beat of a bar. Warblers of seven notes are common, and of five usual.

The Irish bagpipe differs from the Scotch in being played by means of bellows, in having a softer reed and longer tubes, with a chaunter giving ten or even twelve notes. The scale is said to be more accurate than the Scotch. The Northumbrian, of which a beautiful specimen has been lent to the writer by Mr. Charles S. Keene, is a much smaller and feebler instrument. The ivory chaunter has, besides the seven holes in front, and one behind, five silver keys producing additional notes. It is moreover stopped at the bottom, so that when all holes are closed no sound issues. The long wail with which a Scotch pipe begins and ends is thus obviated. Each hole is opened singly by the finger, the others remaining closed, contrary to the practice of other reeds. The gamut of the Northumbrian or Border pipes is given as fifteen notes, including two chromatic intervals, C and C♯, D and D♯. The drones can be tuned to G, D, G, or to D, A, D, as above stated.

Considering the small compass of the bagpipe, the music written for it appears singularly abundant. 'Tutors' for the instrument have been published by Donald MacDonald and Angus Mackay. Glen's collection of music for the great Highland bagpipe contains instructions for the management of the reeds, etc., with 213 tunes. Ulleam Ross, the present Queen's Piper, published a collection of pipe music in 1869 consisting of 243 marches, piobaireachds, or pibrochs, strathspeys, and reels, selected from a thousand