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Extract from Vol. 3 of ENCYCLOPAEDIA PERTHENSIS (23 volumes of which were published in Perth between 1796 and 1806, which makes it highly likely this extract was written prior to 1800).

Andy Hunter, who ‘discovered’ the encyclopaedia entry, makes the following comments and observations.

  • The definition of bagpipe which heads the article is taken word for word from Dr Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of The English Language. London 1785.
  • The types of pipe mentioned which are of specific interest to our Society are, Highland, Lowland, Small pipe and Shuttle pipe. The article seems to imply strongly a case for affinity between the Highland and Lowland pipes with a clear assertion that they possess a repertoire peculiar to themselves and peculiar to Scotland. There is a difference in repertoire and function, but not so great that a Lowland piper would not have made his way to Skye to learn advanced gracing and be in a position to “improve” Lowland. piping; it also comments dismissively on the eclectic repertoire of the shuttle and small pipe.

Although the author does not state that the small pipe with closed chanter and the shuttle pipe are not Scottish, the music played upon them (music not “peculiar” to themselves) do not represent a self-contained and self-conscious tradition in the way that Highland and Lowland pipes do. (It is worth noting that no mention is made of the “pastoral” pipe; perhaps due to the fact that the references to Irish pipes would cover this. However the author could have made the same remarks about an eclectic repertoire as rightly identified by John Goodacre at the Peebles Collogue a few years back.)

  • I am persuaded that we may be looking at yet another tantalisingly brief glimpse of the Lowland piobaireachd or a classical form of piping peculiar to the Lowland pipe. Why would the Lowland piper go to Skye if he did not wish to improve his already proven skills by more complex gracing? Did he wish to learn a completely different tradition (and why would the Highlanders tolerate an outsider?) I am at least partially persuaded that he also has something which was akin to piobaireachd which the Highlanders themselves respected e. a piping tradition which was based on structured variations on a theme, undoubtedly supplied by good solid Lowland airs. (In this respect I never fail to be impressed by the   version of Soor Plooms of Galashiels as published and played by Gordon Mooney, with its beautiful progression through its variations). Stunningly, given the past debates within our Society, the theses put forward by some of our leading theorists are beginning to come together ie. Gordon Mooney’s instinctive hunch over the existence of a “classical” Lowland piping tradition, Allan MacDonald’s iconoclastic but well founded views on the role of the singing tradition and Highland piobaireachd, Matt Seattle’s convincing theories of pipe   music and the identifying criterion of variations, and lastly my own feeling that what we now refer to as Border pipes should historically be referred to as Lowland pipes (as in the article) and that any other variation relying principally on drone combinations differing from the two tenor and bass configuration be termed fairly “Border” pipes.
  • The Highland piobaireachd begins with a “tune” (the theme is often referred to in this way by Highland pipers), Allan MacDonald makes a sound case for this tune being sourced in song and perhaps further back in harp music; the variations become variations relying mostly on change of tempo and a build up of gracings. The Lowland classical piece would be also a “tune” but the variations would be a melodic progression in the wider European tradition.
  • So what's new in the debate surrounding our various traditions! At the end of the 18th century a contributor to a Scottish Encyclopaedia exhibiting a strong Scottish bias makes the case for a Scottish Highland and a Scottish Lowland tradition in piping; small pipes and shuttle pipes are not part of this tradition (although their eclectic repertoire may include popular Scottish pieces among others). He also states that the Highlanders have it with     sophisticated gracing. We also have a case of a piper straddling two traditions no doubt in the same way as the gypsy, Allan and the master piper, Dixon bridged other traditions in their own day. Today we have extremely talented Highland pipers adopting the bellows pipes as another string to their bow (there is no evidence to date of any attraction towards the Lowland repertoire per se), but maybe we should just be glad we have a living tradition and get on with making music.

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(I.) * BAGPIPE. n. [from; bag and pipe ; the wind being received in a bag.] A musical instrument, consisting of a leathern bag, which blows up like a football, by means of a port vent or: little tube fixed to it, and stopped by a valve; and three pipes or flutes, the first called the great pipe or drone, and the second the little one; which pass the wind out only at the bottom; the third has a reed, and is played on by compressing the bag under the arm, when full; and opening or stopping the holes, which are eight, with the fingers. The bagpipe takes in the compass of three octaves. Chambers .. No banners but shirts, with some bad bagpipes instead of drum and fife. Sidney - He heard a bagpipe, and saw a general animated with the sound. Addison's Freeholder.

(2.) BAGPIPE FARTHER DESCRIBED. The peculiarity of the bagpipe, and from which it takes its name, is that the air which blows it is collected into a leathern bag, from whence it is pressed out by the arm into the pipes, These pipes consist of a bass, and tenor or rather treble; and are different according to the species of the pipe. The bass part is called the DRONE, and the tenor or treble part the CHANTER.

Bagpipes are chiefly used in Scotland and Ireland. In all the species, the bass never varies from its uniform note, and therefore very deservedly gets the name of drone; and the compass of the chanter is likewise very limited. There is a considerable difference between the Highland and Lowland bagpipe of Scotland; the former being blown with the mouth, and the latter with a small bellows: though this difference is not essential, every species of bagpipe being capable, by a proper construction of the reeds, of producing music either with the mouth or bellows. The species of bagpipes most commonly known in this country, are as follows:

  • BAGPIPE, HIGHLAND. This consists of a chanter and two short drones, which sound in unison the lowest note of the chanter except one. This is exceedingly loud, and almost deafening, if played in a room; and is therefore mostly used in the fields, for marches, &c. It requires a prodigious blast to sound it: so that those unaccustomed to it cannot imagine how Highland pipers can continue to play for hours together, as they are often known to do. For the same reason, those who use the instrument are obliged either to stand on their feet or walk when they play. The instrument hath but 9 notes; its scale, however, hath not yet been reduced to a regular standard by comparing it with that of other instruments, so that we can say nothing about its compass. Those who are better acquainted with it, however, affirm that it plays only the natural notes, without being capable of variation by flats or sharps.
  • BAGPIPE, IRISH.   This is the softest and in some respects the most melodious of any, so that music books have been published with directions how to play on it. The chanter, like that of all the rest, has eight holes like the English flute, and is played on by opening and shutting the holes as occasion requires; the bass consists of two short drones, and a long one: The lowest note of the chanter is D on the German flute, being the open note on the counter string of a violin; the small drone (one of them commonly being stopped up) is tuned in unison with the note above this, and the large one to an octave below; so that great length is required in order to produce such a low note, on which account the drone hath sometimes two or three turns. The instrument is tuned by lengthening or shortening the drone till it sounds the note defined.
  • BAGPIPE, SCOTS Lowland   is also a very loud instrument, though less so than the former. It is blown with bellows, and hath a bass like the Irish pipe. This species is different from all the rest, as it cannot play the natural notes, but hath F and C sharp. The lowest note of a good bag pipe of this kind is unison with C sharp on the tenor of a violin tuned concert pitch; and as it hath but 9 notes, the highest is D in alt. From this peculiar construction, the Highland and Lowland bagpipes play two species of music essentially different from one another, as each of them also, is from every other species of music in the world. Hence these two species of bagpipes deserve notice as curiosities; for the music which they play is accompanied with such peculiar ornaments, or what are intended as such, as neither violin, nor even organ, can imitate, but in a very imperfect manner, This kind of bagpipe was     formerly very much used in Scotland at weddings and other festivals; being indeed             extremely well calculated for playing that peculiar species of Scots music called reels. It has been often a matter of surprise how this was possible, as the instrument has only a compass of 9 or 10 notes at the utmost, and which cannot be varied as in other instruments. In this respect, however, it has a very great compass, and will play an inconceivable variety of tunes. As its notes are naturally so high, there is scarce any one tune but what is naturally transposed by it, so that what would be a flat note on the key proper for the violin, may be a sharp one on the bagpipe; and though the latter cannot play any flat note, it may                               nevertheless in this manner play tunes, which on other instruments would be flat, to as great perfection these instruments themselves.
  • BAGPIPE, SMALL,   is remarkable for its smallness, the chanter not exceeding 8 inches in length; for which reason, the holes are so near each other, that it is with difficulty they can be closed. This hath only 8 notes, the lower end of the chanter being commonly stopped. The reason of this is, to prevent the slurring of all the notes, which is unavoidable in the other species, so that in the hands of a bad player they become the most shocking and unintelligible instruments imaginable: but this, by having the lower hole closed, and also by the peculiar way in which the notes are expressed, plays all its tunes in the way called by the Italians staccato. It hath no species of music peculiar to itself; but can play nothing which cannot be much better done upon other instruments; though it is surprising with what volubility some performers on this instrument will display, and how much they will overcome the natural disadvantages of it. Some of this species, instead of having drones like the others have their bass parts consisting of a winding cavity in a kind of short case, and are tuned by opening these to a certain degree by means of sliding covers; from which contrivance they are called shuttle pipes.

(3.) BAGPIPES ANTIQUITY AND EFFECTS OF. The bagpipe appears to have been

an instrument of great antiquity in Ireland, though it is uncertain whence they derived it. Mr Pennant, by means of an antique found at Richborough in Kent, has determined that the bagpipe was introduced at a very early period into Britain; whe nce it is probable that both Irish and Danes might borrow the instrument from the Caledonians. As Ristides Quintilianus informs us, that it prevailed in the Highlands in very early ages; and indeed the genius of the people seems to render the opinion highly probable. The attachment of that people to their music called pibrochs is almost incredible, and on some occasions is said to have                 produced effects little less marvellous than those ascribed to the ancient music. At the battle of Quebec in 1760, while the British troops were retreating in great disorder, the general complained to a field-officer in Frasers’ regiment of the bad behaviour of his troops.

“ Sir, (said he with some warmth,) you did very wrong in forbidding the pipers to play this morning; nothing encourages the Highlanders so much on the day of action. Nay, even now they would be of use.”  

Let them blow like the devil, then, (replies the general,) if it will bring back the men. The pipers were then ordered to play a favourite martial air; and the Highlanders, the moment they heard the music, returned and formed with alacrity in the rear. In the late war in india, Sir Eyre Coote, sensible of the attachment of the Highlanders to their favourite instrument, gave them £50 to buy a pair of bagpipes after the battle of Porto Nuovo.

(4.) BAGPIPES, ORIGIN OF. The origin of bagpipe music, some think, is to be derived from the Danes; but Mr Pennant gives the following reasons, In his voyage to the Hebrides, for deriving it from Italy. Neither of these instruments (the Highland and Lowland bagpipes, (No ll. and Ill.) were the invention of the Danes, or, as is commonly supposed, of any of the northern nations; for their ancient writers prove them to have been animated by the clanger tubarum.

Notwithstanding they have had their foek-pipe long amongst them, as their old songs prove, yet we cannot allow them the honour of inventing this melodious instrument, but must assert, that they borrowed it from the invaded Caledonians; We must still go farther, and deprive even that ancient race of the credit and derive its origin from the mild                 climate of Italy, perhaps from Greece. There is now in Rome a most beautiful bas relievo, a Grecian sculpture of the highest antiquity, of a bagpiper playing on his instrument, exactly like a modern Highlander.

The Greeks had their Adcunlpz or instrument, composed of a pipe and blown-up skin: the Romans in all probability borrowed it from them, and introduced it among their swains, who still use it under the names of piva and cornu-musa. That master of music, Nero, used one; and had not the empire been suddenly deprived of that great artist, he would (as he graciously declared his intention) have treated the people with a concert, and, among other curious instruments, would have introduced the utricularius or bagpipe.

Nero perished; but the figure of the instrument is preserved on one of his coins, but highly improved by that great master! It has the bag and two of the vulgar pipes; but was blown with a bellows like an organ, and had on one side a row of nine unequal pipes resembling the Syrinx of the god Pan.

The bagpipe, in the improved state, is also represented in an ancient sculpture; and appears to have had two long pipes or drones, and a single short pipe for the fingers. Tradition says, that the kind played on by the mouth was introduced by the Danes: as theirs was wind                     music, we will admit that they might have made improvements, but more we cannot allow;

they were skilled in the use of the trumpet; the Highlanders in the piob or bagpipe.

(5.) BAGPIPES, THE GERMAN, ITALIAN, ORGAN &c. have nothing different in their construction from these above described, nor any peculiar good quality to recommend them.

(I.) * BAGPIPER. n./: [from bagpipe.] one that plays on a bagpipe. - Some that will evermore peep thro’ their eyes, And laugh, like parrots. at a bagpiper Shakespere.

(2.) BAGPIPERS, COLLEGE OF. Formerly there was a kind of college in the island of Sky where the Highland bagpipe was taught; the teachers making use of pins stuck into the ground instead of musical notes. This college, however, has been for some time entirely dissolved, and the use of the Highland pipe became much less general than before. At last a Society of gentlemen, thinking it perhaps impolitic to allow the ancient martial music of the country to decline, resolved to revive it by giving an annual prize to the best performers on the instrument.

These competitions were first held at Falkirk, but for a good number of years at Edinburgh; where the only surviving member of the ancient college of Sky is now professor of bagpipe music. The Lowland bagpipe was reformed and the music improved by George Mackie, who is said to have attended the college of Sky 7 years.

He had before been the best performer on that instrument in that part of the country where he lived; but, while attending the college at Sky, he adapted the graces of the Highland Music to the Lowland pipe. Upon his return, he was heard with astonishment and admiration; but unluckily, was not able to commit his improvements to writing, and indeed the nature of the instrument scarce admits of it.