1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bag-pipe
BAG-PIPE (Celt. piob-mala, ullan-piob, cuislean, cuislin; Fr. cornemuse, chalemie, musette, sourdeline, chevrette, loure; Ger. Sackpfeife, Dudelsack; M. H. Ger. Suegdbalch; Ital. cornamusa, piva, zampogna, surdelina; Gr. ἄσκαυλος (?); Lat. ascaulus (?), tibia utricularis, utricularium; med. Lat. chorus), a complex reed instrument of great antiquity. The bag-pipe forms the link between the syrinx (q.v.) and the primitive organ, by furnishing the principle of the reservoir for the wind-supply, combined with a simple method of regulating the sound-producing pressure by means of the arm of the performer. The bag-pipes consists of an air-tight leather bag having three to five apertures, each of which contains a fixed stock or short tube. The stocks act as sockets for the reception of the pipes, and as air-chambers for the accommodation and protection of the reeds. The pipes are of three kinds: (1) a simple valved insufflation tube or “blow-pipe,” by means of which the performer fills the bag reservoir; (2) the “chaunter” (chanter) or the melody-pipe, having according to the variety of the bag-pipe a conical or a cylindrical bore, lateral holes, and in some cases keys and a bell; the “chaunter” is invariably made to speak by means of a double-reed; (3) the “drones,” jointed pipes with cylindrical bore, generally terminating in a bell, but having no lateral holes and being capable, therefore, of producing but one fixed note.
The main characteristic of the bag-pipe is the drone ground bass which sounds without intermission. Each drone is fitted with a beating-reed resembling the primitive “squeaker” known to all country lads; it is prepared by making a cut partly across a piece of cane or reed, near the open end, and splitting back from this towards a joint or knot, thus raising a tongue or flap. The beating-reed is then fixed in a socket of the drone, which fits into the stock. The sound is produced by the stream of air forced from the bag into the drone-pipe by the pressure of the performer's arm, causing the tongue of reed to vibrate over the aperture, thus setting the whole column of air in vibration. The drone-pipe, like all cylindrical tubes with reed mouthpieces, has the acoustic properties of the closed pipe and produces the note of a pipe twice its length. The drones are tuned by means of sliding-joints. The blow-pipe and the chaunter occupy positions at opposite extremities of the bag, which rests under the arm of the performer while the drones point over his shoulder. These are the main features in the construction of the bag-pipe, whose numerous varieties fall into two classes according to the method of inflating the bag: (1) by means of the blow-pipe described above; (2) by means of a small bellows connected by a valved feed-pipe with the bag and worked by the other arm or elbow to which it is attached by a ribbon or strap.
Class I. comprises: (a) the Highland bag-pipe; (b) the old Irish bag-pipe; (c) the cornemuse; (d) the bignou or biniou (Breton bag-pipe); (e) the Calabrian bag-pipe; (f) the ascaulus of the Greeks and Romans; (g) the tibia utricularis; (h) the chorus. To Class II. belong: (a) the musette; (b) the Northumbrian or border bag-pipe; (c) the Lowland bag-pipe; (d) the union pipes of Ireland; (e) the surdelina of Naples.
Hodroho, hodroho, haninin, hiechin,
Hodroha, hodroho, hodroho, hachin,
Hiodroho, hodroho, haninin, hiechin,” &c.
Sackpfeife or Dudelsack.
the eight holes of the grand chalumeau.
the seven keys of the grand chalumeau.
the six keys of the petit chalumeau.
The chaunters and drones were pierced with a very narrow cylindrical bore, and double reeds were used throughout, causing them to speak as closed pipes, which accounts for the deep pitch of these relatively short pipes (see Aulos). Martin Hotteterre was hardly the first to introduce the second chaunter for the bag-pipe, since Praetorius in 1618 figures and describes the Magdeburg sackpfeife with two chaunters, but without keys and with a conical bore.
The surdelina or sampogna is described and illustrated by Mersenne as the musette de Naples; its construction was very complicated. Mersenne states that the instrument was invented by Jean Baptiste Riva (who was living in Paris in 1620), Dom Julio and Vincenze; but Mersenne seems to have made alterations himself in the original instrument, which are not very clearly explained. There were two chaunters with narrow cylindrical bore and having both finger-holes and keys; and two drones each having ten keys. The four pipes were fixed in the same stock, and double reeds were used throughout; the bag was inflated by means of bellows. Passenti of Venice published a collection of melodies for the zampogna in 1628, under the title of Canora Zampogna.
The modern Lowland bag-pipe differs from the Highland bag-pipe mainly in that it is blown by bellows instead of by the mouth.
The Northumbrian or Border bag-pipe, also blown by means of bellows, is chiefly distinguished by having a chaunter stopped at the lower end so that when all the holes are closed, the pipe is silent. There are seven finger-holes, one for the thumb, and a varying number of keys. The four drones are fixed in one stock and are tuned by means of stoppers, so that, as in the musette, any one of them may be silenced. A fine Northumbrian bag-pipe from the collection of the Rev. F. W. Galpin is illustrated (fig. 1. (5)).
The union pipes of the 18th century, or modern Irish bag-pipe, blown by bellows (see fig. 1. (2)), had one chaunter with seven finger-holes, one thumb-hole and eight keys, which together gave the chromatic scale in two octaves. The drones were tuned to A in different octaves, and three regulators or drones with keys, played by the elbow, produced a kind of harmony; the regulators correspond to the sliders on the drone-barrel of the musette.
History of the Bag-pipe.—There is reason to believe that the origin of the bag-pipe must be sought in remote antiquity. No instrument in any degree similar to it is represented on any of the monuments of Egypt or Assyria known at the present day; we are, nevertheless, able to trace it in ancient Persia and by inference in Egypt, in Chaldaea and in ancient Greece. The most characteristic feature of the bag-pipe is not the obvious bag or air-reservoir from which the instrument derives its name in most languages, but the fixed harmony of the buzzing drones. The principle of the drone, i.e. the beating-reed sunk some three inches down the pipe, was known to the ancient Egyptians. In a pipe discovered in a mummy-case and now in the museum at Turin, was found a straw beating-reed in position. The arghoul (q.v.), a modern Egyptian instrument, possesses the characteristic feature of drone and chaunter without the bag. The same instrument occurs once in the hieroglyphs, being sounded as-it, and once on a mural painting preserved in the Musée Guimet and reproduced by Victor Loret. During Jacques de Morgan's excavations in Persia some terracotta figures of musicians, dating from the 8th century B.C., were discovered in a tell (mound) at Susa, two of which appear to be playing bag-pipes; the chaunter, curved in the shape of a hook from the stock, is clearly visible, the bag under the arm is indicated, and the lips are pursed as if in the act of blowing, but the insufflation tube is absent; a round hole in one of the figures suggests its presence formerly.
Among the names of musical instruments in Daniel iii. 5 and 15, the sixth, generally but wrongly rendered “dulcimer,” is thought by many scholars to signify a kind of bag-pipe (see commentaries on Daniel and the theological encyc.). This belief is based on the supposition that the Aramaic sumpōnyā is a loan-word from the Greek, being a mispronunciation of συμφονία. The argument is, however, exceedingly weak. In the first place, the date of the book of Daniel is matter of controversy, hingeing partly on precisely such questions as the true significance and derivation of sumpōnyā. Second, it is possible that the word sumpōnyā is a late interpolation. Third, its exact form is uncertain; in verse 10, sippōnyā is used of the same instrument, suggesting a derivation from the Gr. σίφον (tube or pipe). Fourth, even if συμφονία is the source of the word, there is very little evidence that it was used for any particular instrument. The original natural sense of συμφονία is “concord of sound,” “a concordant interval,” and the evidence of its use for a particular instrument is of the 2nd century B.C., and, even so, very slight. Only one passage (Polyb. xxvi. 10. 5) really bears on the question, and there the translation of the word depends on a context the reading of which is uncertain (see Symphonia). It is, however, curious that the bag-pipe was known in Italy and Spain during the middle ages, the two countries through which Eastern culture was introduced into Europe, by the name of zampogna or sampogna, which strongly recall the Chaldaean sumpōnyā; and further that in the same countries the word sinfonia should be coexistent with zampogna and have the original meaning attached to the classical συμφονία, “a concord of sound.” A single passage only in Dion Chrysostom (see Askaules) is enough to prove that the instrument was known in Greece in A.D. 100. The Greeks had undoubtedly received some kind of bag-pipe from Egypt (in the form of the as-it), or from Chaldaea, but it remained a rustic instrument used only by shepherds and peasants. This conclusion is supported by allusions in Aristophanes and in Plato's Crito, which undoubtedly refer to the drone: “This, dear Crito, is the voice which I seem to hear murmuring in my ears like the sound of the flute (aulos) in the ears of the mystic; that voice, I say, is humming in my ears.” Aristophanes, in his play The Acharnians, indulges in a flight of satire at the expense of the musical Boeotians, by making a band of Theban pipers play a Boeotian merchant and his slave into town. The musicians are dubbed “bumblebee pipers” (βομβαύλιοι, l. 866) by the exasperated inhabitants. The verb used here for “blowing” is φυσᾶν, the very word applied to blowing or inflating the bellows (φῦσα), and not the usual verb αὐλεῖν, to play the aulos. Another instrument, mentioned by Aristophanes in Lysistrata (ll. 1242 and 1245), which was probably a kind of bag-pipe, is also derived from φῦσα, i.e. physallis, the “concrete,” and physateria the “collective” form of the instrument. We leave the realm of inference for that of certainty when we reach the reign of Nero, who had a passion for the Hydraulus (see Organ: History) and the tibia utricularis.
That the bag-pipe was introduced by the Romans into the British Isles is a conclusion supported by the discovery in the foundations of the praetorian camp at Richborough of a small bronze figure of a Roman soldier playing the tibia utricularis. The Rev. Stephen Weston, who made a communication on the subject to Archaeologia, points out further the interesting fact in connexion with the instrument, that the Romans had instituted colleges for training pipers on the bag-pipe, a practice followed in the Highlands in the 18th century and notably in Skye. Gruterus mentions among the fraternities a Corpus et Collegium Utriculariorum, and Spon also quotes the Collegio Utricular. The bag-pipe in question appears to have two drones in front pointing towards the right shoulder, and although no chaunter is shown in the design, both hands are held in correct positions over the spot where it ought to be; it may have been broken off. The bronze figure has been reproduced from drawings by Edward King in three positions. The statement made by several writers on music that a bag-pipe is represented on a contorniate of Nero is erroneous, as a verification of certain references will show. The error is due in the first place to Montfaucon, who misunderstood the explanation of Bianchini's drawing which he reproduced. The contorniate referred to is one containing the hydraulic organ, and the legend Laurentinus Aug., but no bag-pipe. Bianchini gives a drawing of a bag-pipe with two long drones, which, he says, was copied from a marble relief over the gateway of the palace of the prince of Santa Croce in Rome, near the church of San Carlo ad Catinarios. If the drawing be accurate and the sculpture of classical Roman period, it would corroborate the details of the instrument held by the little bronze figure of the Roman soldier.
From England the bag-pipe spread to Caledonia and Ireland, where it took root, identifying itself with the life of the people, as a military instrument held in great esteem by the Celtic races. The bag-pipe was used at weddings and funerals, and at all festivals; to lighten labour, during the 18th century, as for instance in Skye, in 1786, when the inhabitants were engaged in roadmaking, and each party of labourers had its bag-piper. It was used in old mysteries at Coventry in 1534. Readers who wish to follow closely the history of the bag-pipe in the British Isles should consult Sir John Graham Dalyell's Musical Memoirs of Scotland (London, 1849, with illustrative plates).
Fig. 2.—Ancient Persian bag-
(From Sir Robert Porter's
Travels in Georgia, Persia,
&c., vol. ii. p. 177, pl. lxiv.)
On the downfall of the Roman empire, the bag-pipe, sharing the fate of other instruments, probably lingered for a time among itinerant musicians, actors, jugglers, &c., reappearing later in primitive guise with the stamp of naïveté which characterizes the productions of the early middle ages, and with a new name, chorus (q.v.). An illustration of a Persian bag-pipe dating from the 6th century A.D. (reign of Chosroes II.) is to be found on the great arch at Takht-i-Bostan (see fig. 2). This very crude representation of the bag-pipe can only be useful as evidence that during centuries which elapsed between the moulding of the figurine found in the tell at Susa, mentioned above, and the carving in the rock at Takht-i-Bostan, the instrument had survived. The reign of Chosroes was noted for its high standard of musical culture. The fault probably lies with the draughtsman, who drew the sculptures on the arch for the book. Nothing more is heard henceforth of the tibia utricularis. If the drawings of the early medieval bag-pipes, which are by no means rare in MSS. and monuments of the 9th to the 13th century, are to be trusted, it seems hard to understand the raison d'être of the instrument shorn of its drones, to see how it justified its existence except as an ill-understood reminiscence. What could be the object of laboriously inflating a bag for the purpose of making a single chaunter speak, which could be done so much more satisfactorily by taking the reed itself into the mouth, as was the practice of the Greeks and Romans? There is a fine psalter in the library of University Court, Glasgow, belonging co the Hunterian collection, in which King David is represented, as usual in the 12th century, playing or rather tuning a harp, surrounded by musicians playing bells, rebec, guitar fiddle (in 'cello position), quadruple pipes or ganistrum, and a bag-pipe with long chaunter having a well-defined stock. The insufflation tube appears to have been left out, and there are no drones to be seen.
There are interesting specimens of bag-pipes in Spanish illuminated MSS. such as the magnificent volume of the Cantigas di Santa Maria, in the Escurial, compiled for King Alphonso the Wise (13th century). There are fifty-one separate figures of instrumentalists forming a kind of introduction to the canticles, and among the instruments are three bag-pipes, one of which is a remarkable instrument having no less than four long drones and two chaunters which by an error of the draughtsmen are represented as being blown from the piper's mouth. The fifty-one musicians have been reproduced in black and white by Juan F. Riaño and also by Don F. Aznar. Another fine Spanish MS. in the British Museum, Add. MS. 18,851, of the end of the 15th century, illustrated by Flemish artists for presentation to Queen Isabella, displays a profusion of musical instruments in innumerable concert scenes; there are bag-pipes on f. 13,412b and 419; one of these has two drones, one conical, the other cylindrical, bound together, and a curved chaunter.
The most trustworthy evidence we have of the medieval bag-pipe is the fine Highland bag-pipe dated 1409, and belonging to Messrs J. & R. Glen, described above. Edward Buhle points out that from the 13th century the bag-pipe became a court instrument played by minnesingers and troubadours, as seen in literature and in the MSS. and monuments. It was about 1250 that the human or animals' heads were used as stocks and as bells for the chaunters. The opinion advanced that the bellows were first added to the bag-pipe in Ireland seems untenable and is quite unsupported by facts; the bellows were in all probability added to the union-pipes in imitation of the musette. In the Image of Ireland and Discoverie of Woodkarne, by John Derrick, 1581, the Irish insurgents are portrayed in pictures full of life and character, as led to rebellion and pillage by a piper armed with a bag-pipe, similar to the Highland bag-pipe. The cradle of the musette is inconceivable anywhere but in France, among the courtiers and elegant world, turning from the pomps and luxuries of court life to an artificial admiration and cult of Nature, idealized to harmonize with silks and satins. The cornemuse of shepherds and rustic swains became the fashionable instrument, but as inflating the bag by the breath distorted the performer's face, the bellows were substituted, and the whole instrument was refined in appearance and tone-quality to fit it for its more exalted position. The Hotteterre family and that of Chédeville were past masters of the art of making the musette and of playing upon it; they counted among their pupils the highest and noblest in the land. The cult of the musette continued throughout the 17th and 18th centuries until the 'seventies, when its popularity was on the wane and musettes figured largely in sales. Lully introduced the musette into his operas, and in 1758 the list of instruments forming the orchestra at the Opéra includes one musette.
- See E. G. Graff, Deutsche Interlinearversionen der Psalmen (from a 12th-cent. Windberg MS. at Munich), p. 384, Ps. lxxx. 2. “nemet den Sulmen unde gebet den Suegdbalch.”
- These harmonics may be obtained by good performers by what is known as “pinching” or only partially covering the B and C holes and increasing the wind pressure.
- The notes marked with asterisks are approximately a quarter of a tone sharp.
- “Complete Tutor for attaining a thorough knowledge of the pipe music,” prefixed to A Collection of the Ancient Martial Music of Caledonia called Piobaireachd, as performed on the Great Highland Bag-pipe, Edinburgh, c. 1805.
- Paper on “The Musical Scales of Various Nations,” by Alex. J. Ellis, F.R.S., Jrnl. Soc. Arts, 1885, vol. xxxiii. p. 499.
- Tutor for the Highland Bag-pipe, by David Glen (Edinburgh, 1899).
- Tutor for the Highland Bag-pipe, by Angus Mackay (Edinburgh, 1839).
- A Collection of Ancient Piobaireachd or Highland Pipe Music by Angus Mackay (Edinburgh, 1839), p. 128.
- A Collection of Piobaireachd or Pipe Tunes as verbally taught by the M'Crummen Pipers on the Isle of Skye to their apprentices, as taken from John M'Crummen (or Crimmon) by Niel MacLeod of Gesto, Skye (Edinburgh, 1880).
- Albyn's Anthology, vol. i. p. 90.
- Descriptive Catalogue of the Musical Instruments exhibited at the Royal Military Exhibition, London, 1890, Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1891, pl. ix. A, and description p. 57.
- Ancient Laws of Ireland, Brehon Law Tracts, published by the Commissioners for publishing the Ancient Laws and Institutions of Ireland (Dublin, 1879), vol. iv. pp. 338 and 339.
- John Derrick, Image of Ireland and Discoverie of Woodkarne (London, 1581), pl. ii.
- L'Harmonie universelle, vol. ii. bk. v. pp. 282-287 and 305 (Paris, 1636-1637).
- Syntagma Musicum, part ii., De Organographia (Wolfenbüttel, 1618); republished in Band xiii. of the Publicationen der Gesellschaft für Musikforschung (Berlin, 1884), chap. xix. and pl. v., xi., xiii.
- See E. Thoinan, Les Hotteterre et les Chèdeville, célèbres facteurs de flûtes, hautbois, bassons et musettes (Paris, 1894), p. 23. It is probable, however, that M. Thoinan, who makes this statement, has not considered the possibility of the word musette applying in this case to the small rustic hautbois or dessus de bombarde, also written muse, muset, musele, which occurs in many ballads of the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries. See Fr. Godefroy, Dictionnaire de l'ancienne langue française du IXe au XVe siècle (Paris, 1888).
- Musettes de Poitou; probably the cornemuses used in concert with the Hautbois de Poitou.
- Op. cit. vol. ii. bk. v. pp. 287-292.
- See Ernest Thoinan, op. cit. pp. 15 et seq. (cf. Jules Ecorcheville, “Quelques documents sur la musique de la Grande Écurie du Roi” in Intern. Mus. Ges., Sammelband ii. 4, p. 625 and table 2, “Grands Hautbois”).
- Méthode pour la musette, &c., by Hotteterre le Romain (Paris, 1737), 4to, chap. xvi.
- Traité de la musette avec une nouvelle méthode, &c. (Lyons, 1672), pp. 25-27 and plate. A copy of this work is in the British Museum.
- Op. cit. bk. v. p. 293.
- Illustrated and described by Capt. C. R. Day, Descriptive Catalogue, pl. ix. fig. C, p. 62.
- L'Egypte au temps des Pharaons—la vie, la science et l'art; avec Photogravures, &c. (Paris, 1889) 12mo, p. 139.
- See Délégation en Perse, by J. de Morgan (Paris, 1900), vol. i. pl. viii., Nos. 10 and 14.
- Dion Chrysostom, ed. Adolphus Emperius (Brunswick, 1844), p. 728 or lxxi. (R) 381. See Pauly-Wissowa, Realencyclopädie, s.v. “Askaules.”
- 54, B. Jowett's Eng. translation (Oxford, 1892).
- A suggestion the writer owes to Mr G. Barwick of the British Museum.
- See “Researches into the Origin of the Organs of the Ancients,” by Kathleen Schlesinger, Sammelband ii. Intern. Musik. Ges. vol. ii, 1901, pp. 188-202.
- Suetonius, Nero, 54 (S. Clarke's translation and text).
- Archaeologia, vol. xvii. pp. 176-179 (London, 1814).
- Inscriptiones antiquae totius orbis romani (Heidelberg, 1602–1603).
- Miscell. erudit. antiquitatis.
- Munimenta antiqua, vol. ii. (London, 1799), p. 22, pl. xx. fig. 3.
- See Montfaucon, Suppl. de l'antiq. expliquée, vol. iii. pl. lxxiii., Nos. 1 and 2, and explanation p. 189; Francesco Bianchini, de tribus generibus instr. mus. veterum, Romae, 1742, pl. ii., Nos. 12 and 13, and p. 11; Suetonius, Vitae Neronis, ed. Charles Patin, cap. 41, p. 304, where the contorniate in question, whose musical instrument differs essentially from Bianchini's and Montfaucon's, is figured.
- See Catalogue of the Exhibition of Illuminated MSS. at the Burlington Fine Arts Club, 1908, No. 31.
- Notes of Early Spanish Music (London, 1887), pp. 120 and 121.
- Idumentario Española (Madrid, 1880).
- Die musikalischen Instrumente in den Miniaturen des frühen Mittelalters, p. 50 (Leipzig, 1903).
- An interesting pamphlet by Eugène de Bricqueville, Les Musettes (Paris, 1894), p. 36, with illustrations.
- See Antoine Vidal, Les Instruments à archet (Paris, 1871), vol. i. p. 81, note 1.