Selected Compositions for Pipes, Fiddle & other Melody Instruments’ by Matt Seattle
A review by Graham Dixon

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The irrepressible Matt Seattle is on the march again with this excellent collection of tunes. There is a great cover photograph by John Parris of a resplendent Matt as Today’s Toun Piper (or Monarch of the Glen) and a wealth of gems is to be found within.
Matt should need no introduction to the readers of this Journal. Over the years, under the Dragonfly banner, he has produced various essential collections making available the music of earlier generations such as Wm. Vickers, Robert Bewick, Wm. Dixon (no relation) – ‘The Master Piper’ and most recently ‘Geordie Syme’s Paircel o Tunes’. In addition there have been more general collections such as ‘Morpeth Rant’ and the ‘Green’ and ‘Yellow Northumbrian Piper’s Pocket Books’.
The present book is a collection of Matt’s own compositions (with one or two exceptions). The tunes reflect the composer’s journey from Brighton to the North East of England then to the Scottish Borders with one or two diversions along the way. They also reflect his development as a musician starting on guitar before finding traditional music, taking up the fiddle and finally Border pipes. A flavour of all these influences comes through in the music. It came as quite a surprise to be reminded of just how many tunes Matt has composed over the years when you see them all laid out together. By my reckoning you will find 79 great tunes to be explored. It is also noteworthy how many of them have been recorded by other musicians – a true test of their value. As you would expect, you will find airs, rants, 3/2 hornpipes, waltzes, jigs, slip jigs, reels and other types of tunes. A variety of time and key signatures means that this collection should appeal to more musicians than just the bellows piping fraternity. Also, there are three suites of music, two based upon Border Ballads – ‘Thomas the Rhymer’, ‘Rattlin Roaring Willie’ and ‘Cuddy and His Mates’ which was incidental music for a theatre production. The music and words for two songs are also included – ‘The Fisherman’s Daith’ with words by Howard Purdie and ‘Theme for the Early Days of a Better Nation’, a collaboration between Matt and David Finnie.
Given Matt’s predilection for long variation sets, you will only find one here, but more are threatened. The traditional Northumbrian tune ‘Cuckold Come out of the Amrey’ appears here in an extended version with 18 strains and as is related in the accompanying notes, was included in the official soundtrack recording for the film ‘Master and Commander’.
I am always keen to know more about the background to a tune than just the bare notes. As with his previous publications the music is clearly set out and commentary made on all of the tunes. The notes may explain how a tune could be approached or interpreted, the background as to how it was ‘put together’, or information about the people, places or events that the tune was named after. Unfortunately there appears to be an omission in that there is no clear explanation of what prompted ‘Julian Goodacre’s Famous Disco Hornpipe’. I think we should be told. It was lovely to be reminded of Peter Rowley with a 3/2 hornpipe in his honour and of the much missed Phil Ranson who came up with the ‘Wandering Willick’ as the title for a jig. A couple of favourite tunes of mine re-appear here – the chromatic Russian flavoured fiddle tunes – ‘President Gorbachev’s Hornpipe’ and ‘The Perestroika Reel’. A product of their times!
Whilst some of these tunes have been previously published in now out of print music books it is great to have them available again as part of this comprehensive collection. The subtitle of this book is ‘Selected Compositions…..’ so hopefully there will be more to follow at some stage! I thoroughly recommend this collection not just to pipers, but musicians in general and look forward to spending much more time exploring these tunes. If you want to know what ‘Ower the Dunion’ means you’ll have to buy the book.

Graham Dixon
Pathhead, May 2018

(‘Ower the Dunion’ is published by Dragonfly Music 2018 ISBN 978-1-872277-36-3 and is available from the publisher