Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Bagpipe

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

BAGPIPE (Fr. musette, Ger. Sackpfeife, Ital. cornamusa), a musical instrument of unknown antiquity, which seems to have been at one time or other in common use among all the nations of Europe, and still retains its place in many Highland districts, such as Calabria, the Tyrol, and the Highlands of Scotland. The wind is generally supplied by a blowpipe, though in some cases bellows are used. These and other slight variations, however, involve no essential difference in character or construction, and a description of the great bagpipe of the Highlands of Scotland will serve to indicate the leading features of the instrument in all its forms. It consists of a large wind bag made of greased leather covered with woollen cloth; a mouth-tube, valved, by which the bag is inflated with the player s breath; three reed drones; and a reed chanter with finger-holes, on which the tunes are played. Of the three drones, one is long and two are short. The longest is tuned to A, an octave below the lowest A of the chanter, and the two shorter drones are tuned each an octave above the A of the longest drone; or, in other words, in unison with the lowest A of the chanter. The scale of the chanter has a compass of nine notes, all natural, extending from G on the second line of the treble stave up to A in alt. In the music performed upon this instrument, the players introduce among the simple notes of the tune a kind of appoggiatura, consisting of a great number of rapid notes of peculiar embellishment, which they term warblers. No exact idea of these warblers can be formed except by hear ing a first-rate player upon the Highland bagpipe. The history of the bagpipe can be clearly traced from the earliest periods by means of pictorial representations and references occurring in literature. The instrument probably consisted at first of the pipes without the bag, and in this form it is mentioned in Scripture (1 Sam. x. 5; Isa. v. 12; Jer. xlviii. 36), and was used by the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans. The strain upon the player of these pipes was so great that he had to bandage up his lips and cheeks with a <f>op{3fia or Tre/Ho-ro/uov, the Roman capistrum, a leathern muzzle or headstall. It seems very probable that the bagpipe derived its origin from these double and triple reed-pipes, by the after addition to them of a wind-bag made of the skin of a goat or kid, together with a valved porte-vcrd, in order to relieve the strain on the lungs and cheeks of the player. There are several evidences that the bagpipe was well known in the time of Nero. It is represented on a coin of that reign, copied in Montfaucon s Antiquities, and Suetonius (Ner., 54) speaks of a promise made by Nero shortly before his death, that he would appear before the people as a bagpiper (utricu- larius). In mediaeval Latin the instrument is designated the Tibia utricularia. Chaucer represents the miller as skilled in playing the bagpipe; and Shakspeare s familiar allusion to " the drone of a Lincolnshire bagpipe " is suffi cient of itself to disprove the common notion that the instrument has always been peculiar to Scotland.