Among the many Society members across the world few are more aptly named than Franco Zampogna. Here, this belgian-born Italian piper, living in France, writes about the bellows pipes of Central France

"La tradition ne consiste pas à remuer les cendres mais à entretenir la flamme" Jean Jaurès
“The tradition does not consist in moving ashes but in maintaining the flame”

In the Common Stock edition of June 2012, I was very pleased reading an interesting article on the "Chabrette du Limousin" (Centre West of France). I discovered that some of the "Chabrettes" were also (although rarely) bellows-blown.
By chance, after two years of patience, this coincided with the arrival of my brand new set of French "Joseph Béchonnet" bellows-blown "Cornemuse du Centre" made by Raphaël Jeannin, a young piper and maker of French "Cornemuse", among the best in France.
I also visited Nicolas Rouzier, piper, maker and teacher at the Conservatoire de la Creuse (in the region of Limoges) who made the bellows of my brand new Joseph Béchonnet "Cornemuse du Centre".
Indeed, both the "Joseph Béchonnet" model of cornemuse and its bellows are so specific, so particular, that nowadays they require two different expert makers to produce such a marvelous double perfectly matching combination [in the past Joseph Béchonnet made both parts of the instruments himself].
Of course this is not a good enough reason to betray my Hamish Moore set of smallpipes, a marvelous instrument too, which has allowed me for a couple of years to meet very friendly  pipers from Edinburgh to Cork as well as Barga in Tuscany.
One common denominator drives this short contribution to the Common Stock readers' community: the “bellows”.
Although I am by no means a specialist of bellows-blown pipes, I am strongly motivated by sharing with the "Pipers' Brotherhood" an everyday increasing love and interest for this magical instrument, "pipes" or "cornemuse" whose constant sound of the drones remind us of the everlasting continuity of life, no matter times, places and ages.
I also thought it might be of interest for the Scottish and Irish pipers as well as all the enthusiastic readers of Common Stock (and in particular, the ones playing Smallpipes, Border or Pastoral pipes as well as Uillean pipes or Northumbrian pipes) to read something  about the "cousin" pipes of France.
French Pipes
Although there are still discussions among the French specialists, it would not be a mistake to state that the French family of pipes is wide. We might consider that, at the end of the twentieth century, about fifteen families of pipes could be listed for the French territory alone.
They are mainly mouth blown pipes but not only; several types of pipes are bellows-blown, and are not located in the same region.
One of the currently accepted assumptions suggests that the "bellows" originated (or at least were used) in France, first with the "Musette de Cour" towards the end of the sixteenth century. This reminds me of another interesting article from Common Stock referring to the influence of the French Bransles of this time and their possible connection with the Reels, Strathspey and other typical Scottish rhythms.
Coming back to the French pipes, we might also consider that the widest variety of French pipes is located in the Centre and South as well South-West of France. Among the various types of "Cornemuse" we find the "Chabrette" or "Chabretta" (subject of the article of Pete Stewart), but also the "Cabrette" (which is a recent type of pipe created and "exported" from Paris by people who had emigrated from the Auvergne region) as well as the "Cornemuse du Centre" (located in particular in the region of Berry and Bourbonnais).
This last type of cornemuse ("Cornemuse du Centre") is the one I would like to focus on when describing the "Joseph Béchonnet" bellows-blown cornemuse
Nowadays several makers (and pipers) located in France produce excellent instruments of all types of French cornemuse although the mouth-blown "cornemuse du Centre" seems to be a well-adapted instrument for beginners as well as for experts of traditional dances. Since the seventies, various regional movements, associations and traditional groups have been looking for and "collecting" complex materials of tunes, lyrics and stories related to the cornemuse, re-discovering this instrument as a revival of the past. In particular, through the "oral" transmission of the remaining pipers still alive, families, relatives and friends, it was possible to retrieve not only the life of these pipers and makers but also, the tunes, their stories, social uses, links between the main social events of the villages in a rural environment.
Today there are records, stored in several forms of modern and less modern media, which describe the social role of the earlier pipers, both those playing only locally and the "ménestrels" (minstrels, traveling pipers), playing "de routine" (i.e. without knowing standard music notation). These records also reveal many ethnological aspects of the rich and intense social cohesion of these disappeared communities.
Joseph Bechonnet’s  cornemuse du Centre
Joseph Béchonnet (1820-1890) was born and died in Effiat (Puy-de-Dôme, centre of France) and started making his instruments around 1855 for approximately 40 years. He made an average of 2 instruments per year and there are still about 60 referenced. Each instrument is original, with several common characteristics which differentiate it from the traditional "cornemuse du Centre", its parent family (see the pictures).
The principle differences between the Cornemuse du Centre and the Joseph Béchonnet model are as follows:
The Béchonnet pipes are bellows-blown, whereas the cornemuse du centre is mouth-blown. Rather than lying back on the left shoulder, the bass drone is either vertical or directed forwards, meaning that all the sound sources are directed forward. The common-stock is always a rectangle rather than oval, with rich ornamentation with mother of pearl, paintings, horn, ivory, drafts, colours on the front and the back, rather than the little or no ornament on the cornemuse du centre. Béchonnet pipes are usually of ebony, but sometimes boxwood, whereas the cornemuse du centre may be of various woods, generally fruit trees and box wood, sometimes ebony.
The chanter has a double reed, (plastic or cane) and a conical bore; a second hole in the back for the right thumb was added in the 70’s to give a flat third. Measured in inches (2.77cm),  the chanters can be 14 # in A, 16 # in G, 20# in D etc. The most common nowadays is the 16# in G. The range is from lower F to C’ (one octave higher) - 12 notes + intermediate semi-tones. The progression of the conical bore is 1/22 - 1/30, an average widening out of 1 mm each 22 mm or 30 mm length; the chanter of the cornemuse du centre is longer with a higher progression of the cone.
My Joseph Béchonnet cornemuse is in ebony (chanter, drones, stocks and common stocks). I asked for the front rectangular common stock to be decorated with black and white mosaic horn, a symbol of the good and evil, the sky and the earth, the border lines human beings have to consider when behaving in a balanced way between excesses.
On the back, the maker made me a present: an authentic caricature from the main production period of Joseph Béchonnet (from 1850 to 1885) representing a "zampognaro", i.e. the piper, player of the "zampogna" which is the main family of bagpipes of Italy.
The bellows are made in French walnut and are exactly the same model as the ones made by Joseph Béchonnet: two trapezes without hinge, only leather internally strengthened with wood and stronger leather. Luckily an antiquary asked the maker to repair and restore a genuine set of original Joseph Béchonnet bellows which was broken, so he could analyse and make new sets in exactly the same way. The glue is a special one as well as the "air inlet" which has a smart system to keep the air transfer.

french pipes 1

The Joseph Béchonnet cornemuse

french pipes 2

The back of the chanter stock, showing the small drone

french pipes 3

The front of the chanter stock

french pipes 4

The bellows, modelled after Béchonnet’s  original design

Comparing my Scottish set of smallpipes to my French Joseph Béchonnet, the main differences are:
- The pressure on the bag is lower than on the smallpipes (due to the use of plastic reeds, which provide stability across the various components)
-The sound is louder with the Joseph Béchonnet cornemuse (due to the conical bore)
-Drones:  A/D/E on the smallpipes and only G on the Joseph Béchonnet cornemuse
-Number of notes: about double the notes with the Joseph Béchonnet cornemuse (flat and sharp notes) vs the smallpipes.
-Grace notes: we note a very different set of grace notes according to the instrument. Mainly the simple grace notes are possible on both instruments but even common “birls” for instance are very difficult to do with the French cornemuse. However, the traditional repertoire of the French cornemuse allows other types of appoggiature (ornaments) which would sound strange on Scottish smallpipes.
In any case both types of pipes have a common destiny - making dancers dance because of the melody, the rhythm and in particular the “dird” so well described in the December 2011 issue of Common Stock.Whenever I have the feeling of getting closer to this exceptional combination of music, rhythm and dird, I feel I have one foot in paradise....while the other one is hitting the dance-floor ...!
I would like to thank Mrs Charlotte Mear (at the end of the text) for revising my text but nevertheless, on my request, leave some typical French mistakes to keep a "French" touch although written by an Italian Belgian-born piper…
I would also like to thank the LBPS for giving me the opportunity to express my views on the subject: we should stress how close the different kinds of pipes are. To me, pipes are really a instrument "à part" and therefore, the link between the different pipers playing the different kinds of pipes, is "à part" too ...

Franco Zampogna