page 16

The Border Bagpipe Book.

Music for Lowland Pipes, Northumbrian Half Long Pipes and Scottish Small Pipes.

Edited by Matt Seattle.

Published by Dragonfly Music. 96 pp, A4.

This book of Border Bagpipe music consists of an introduction and 50 tunes with           comprehensive notes, together with songs and dance arrangements for many of them. The author is being modest in describing himself as an editor because Matt Seattle, who is an accomplished musician on the fiddle and border pipes, has put a lot of research and thought into this book.

The introduction is a mine of information. There is a good description of the origins and types of border bagpipe followed by a review of the repertoire with sections on notation, variations and performance. The importance of Robert Riddel’s and Peacock’s collections at the end of the 18th century is emphasised and linked to fiddle music and Joseph MacDonald’s book on the Highland Bagpipe in 1760. The discussion of notation is helpful, although modal terms such as mixolydian, Aeolian and Ionian tend to confuse the non- musicologist. What matters are the main notes in the pentatonic scale being used. There are good sections on variations and performance, although the notation used for syncopated variations in some of the tunes was not always easy to follow, it would also help if the pages were numbered.

The tunes, which are numbered, will provide many hours of pleasure and extend the repertoire of players both musically and in terms of information from the extensive notes and references. For several of the tunes the words of songs are given, with over half having descriptions of dances. Some old favourites such as Mary Scott the Flower of Yarrow and Drops of Brandy are given unusual settings, each with eight variations. Indeed many tunes have extensive variations often composed by the author which certainly add challenge and interest, However there are several attractive shorter pieces such as Miss Bowles’ Minuet and The Lasses O’ Duns.

This is a book from which every “cauld wind” piper will benefit and hopefully its success will encourage the author to produce a further volume.

Available from Dragonfly Music,

10 Gibson St,


Northumberland NE64 6PE.

                                                                                                   David R. Hannay. May 1994.