strathspey Archive: SCD to Mouth Music

Previous thread: Book a month
Next thread: Another approach to SCD / Riverdance

SCD to Mouth Music

Message 3493 · Joe Shelby · 30 Jan 1996 19:20:06 · Top

On Jan 30, 9:08am, Anselm Lingnau wrote:
> If you consider the history of Scottish Country dancing, you will find
> that, at first, country dancing in Scotland used to be much more of a
> Lowland kind of thing (coming as it did from the stylish places in
> England). In fact, it took SCD a hundred years or so (well into the 19th
> c. at any rate) to make any noticeable impact in the Highlands relative
> to the `Highland' social dances, most notably the Foursome Reel. Therefore
> it is not too surprising that Highland music styles like puirt a' beul
> or instruments like the Highland bagpipes don't play a big role in SCD
> today.

true, but scotland today is trying to find a more "unified" appearance
to the world instead of the old "highlander" vs. "lowland anglo-saxon"
of the past. Scottish music today is seen as "Scottish Music", not
highland/lowland. Its becoming much more balanced, as the dances were
becoming much more balanced with the developement of dances like
Robertons Rant, Glasgow Highlanders, and the Gerry Strathspey, all
of which have a setting/reeling pattern likely inspired by the
highland "Scotch Reel" which was losing popularity by the end
of the 19th century.

> I think the dominance of the accordion has nothing to do with low
> interest in `Highland Scottish music' but everything to do with the
> accordion being a convenient and flexible instrument that sounds nice
> (albeit different from the fiddle). Actually I'm told that the late
> Dr Milligan by far preferred the fiddle to the accordion. In my opinion,
> it is good to have both accordion-centred and fiddle-centred recordings
> or even (gasp) ones that combine both.

i definitely agree. the rise of the accordian over the pipes in
scotland seems to be primarily due to 1) the accordian has volume
control, which the pipes do not, and 2) the accordian is chromatic
thus being able to play just about anything. almost all pipes
are stuck in their specific keys, given their "native" scale, or a
set of penta-scales. the Irish Uilliean pipes are a notable exception
that CAN play a chromatic scale, but its pretty hard and only the
best try it.

> > (now if we can just get more groups to record/play w/ the pipes,
> > things would be cookin! small-pipes or uillean pipes acceptable :)
> Woops. If I had my say I'd rather see a renaissance of the flute (well,
> we do get to hear one every once in a while) and the 'cello. These used to
> be an almost-obligatory part of SCD bands before `the box' was invented.
> How about the bassoon?

bassoon might be pushing it :)
i'm not worried about the flute or cello, as several dance bands here
around DC favor each (Homespun Ceilligh Band and Findhorne in particular).

> I don't have anything against the Highland pipes but IMHO they aren't
> really an instrument in the SCD `tradition', if only because there isn't
> much room for ensemble playing unless *everybody* has a set of pipes or
> a drum to make himself heard at all (this is less of an issue in the age
> of electronic amplifiers). It would also depend a lot on the dance --
> the pipes should be fine for a Foursome but less so for, say, Seann
> Truibhas Willichan (sp?). Smallpipes, maybe. I've never heard them on
> a SCD recording, though, but they might be really nice.

well, the dances i would want Highland pipes into aren't really a part
of the "tradition" anyways. Reel of the 51st, Reel of the Royal Scots,
Eightsome Reels, Schehalion & 1314; those seem to be the types of dances
where the warpipe can really add emotion to it.

as for the smallpipes; Suzie Petrov's "Local Hero" has a wind/pipe
player who used the smallpipes fairly often in their set at
the Delaware Valley Hogmany. The sound, blend and arraingments were
quite beautiful. I can see the smallpipes really finding a place in
dances like Glasgow Highlanders and Trysting Place; semi-highland
strathspeys were you still want a kind of "quiet elegance", where
the warpipe would definitely be out of place :)

like in classical music, dramatic arraingments of SCD music rely on
contrast and balance. Too much of any one thing will lead to a
boring night.


Joseph Shelby : Software Engineer
5301 Shawnee Rd. Alexandria, VA 22312-2333 (703) 658-4071
I'm not sure who he is, but I've heard he's got his hand in a lot of things.
--Kermit, about Jim Henson

SCD to Mouth Music

Message 3497 · Courtney Cartwright · 30 Jan 1996 19:54:12 · Top

>Since much of the discussion of mouth music has a thread about trying to
>dance to it, and the differences from the usual music, I will say that in the
>past few weeks I have been coaching a new musician for the local dance class.
> This has been an interesting project, not yet finished. If the group
>wishes, I will do a lengthy discussion of the progress and outcome. It has
>involved learning on my part (teacher), fiddler, and dancers and at this
>point looks to be successful.
>Sylvia Miskoe, concord, NH
I think that this would be valuable information for anyone who works with
musicians in a class or ball setting. I have no doubt that alot of us have
come up against the same things you encountered in your efforts. It might make
things easier for "the next generation" if these experiences are shared.

Courtney Cartwright
Tucson, Arizona

SCD to Mouth Music

Message 3511 · McOwen · 31 Jan 1996 10:15:01 · Top

Joe Shelby writes, re the Tullochgorum album,

>>b.t.w., is it still possible to get a copy of the record?

I'll answer since asked! Yes, through TacSound. LP only, no more cassettes,
no CDs (yet!). And apologies accepted, Joe! No prob, it's very hard to keep
every detail about every recording straight, I know. Even without a cold!

Barbara McOwen
Boston Branch member

SCD to Mouth Music

Message 3512 · SMiskoe · 31 Jan 1996 14:07:12 · Top

I have played with highland pipes and it is an exciting experience. The
downside is that the pipes only play in 2 keys, both of which are physically
difficult on the accordion, and many SCD tunes are not in a good key or range
for a pipe. Some tunes can be transposed into a pipe key. The arrangement
is the key to playing/dancing to a pipe.
On the other hand, I remember years ago being in New York for some sort of
function and having a piper play SCD music for half the night, in the hotel
lobby. The next morning I couldn't walk!!
Sylvia Miskoe, Concord, NH

Previous thread: Book a month
Next thread: Another approach to SCD / Riverdance
A Django site.