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Surrounded by piping enthusiasts of all persuasions, I listened

to Jean-Pierre describe his research into French Baroque bagpipes, and took part in the exercises he

encouraged us to play (a rather unruly group!)

on D small pipes at the Bagpipe Society's annual Blow- out in Milton Keynes. Later on I had a chance to talk to him, and learn

a bit more about his project.


 What pipes do you actually play?

Presently I share it between what I call the Baroque smallpipes, or Musette de Cour - the court instrument of France of the 17th and 18th centuries, to play authentic music from the period. And I also play the pipes from the south of France, from the Auvergne I play the cabrette, and from the north of the Auvergne 1 play the musette bechonnet. They are all bellows-blown pipes. I only play bellows blown pipes.

And yet I’ve seen you playing on a mouth blown instrument just now.

Yes. I also use what we call a wind cap instrument which is like a glorified practice chanter, which in France we use in combination with the pipes. You would have the piper playing his instrument, and a companion playing (basically) that instrument’s chanter with a cap on, and taking the part of the oboe, I suppose. The question and answer response which is so frequently used: you get it in Brittany with the biniou and bombarde, you get it in Italy


with the piffaro and-zampogna, and you get it in Turkey as well, I think, with the zuma and gaijda.

Yes, you very often see these in old illustrations. You also play Border pipes occasionally?

Yes, for a long time I played a version of Northumbrian half-longs, until the instrument started to go wrong and the maker, John Adison had died after a long illness. So I couldn’t actually get a new reed.

You play in the Cock and Bull band, I know. Any other bands?

I play with two early music groups. One is called the Folies Bergeres which means ‘shepherd’s madness’, not the Can Can girls. We specialize in the junction between French and English 17th and 18th century music and the way in which it moved from one country to another. We play just that music, and a combination of the Folk side and the classical side. So we use the smallpipes for that purpose.

What instruments do you have in the band?

With the Folies Bergeres and the other group, Chalemie, I use the Baroque smallpipes, and I use also the large French pipes (the cornemuse from Berry) - they are the nearest to the ones described in the 17th and 18th century encyclopaedia, where they talk about the shepherds’ pipes.

OK. One of the things we’ve been looking at today is the ornamentation on the musette. You’ve done some research on this - could you tell us a little bit about how you came to be doing this research, and what you have found.

Well I came to it in the reverse of what you usually do. I was playing cabrette and the French cornemuse and I was trying to expand the repertoire. Because I was living in England I couldn’t go back into the [French] villages and do the research, so I went to the libraries, and I came across a couple of pieces that were published in recorder editions for children. And I kept on coming across the same composer’s name for pieces which were fit- ting my French smallpipes. They had the right range, they had the right feel about them, and eventually I came across the man who has done all the research on the French Baroque smallpipe which is Jean Christopho Maillard, and he said to me, because it is from Che- deville and Hotteterre and Boismortier, they were writing music for the French smallpipes. So then I systematically explored in the British Library all the music that was available from these composers, and I found that the bulk of that music was divided into two sections: you had very simple pieces which were usually in the form of duets, and I found out much later they were publications which were done for these composers’ students. So they were just like simple little tunes, and they were the ones that had been borrowed in modern edi- tions and used for recorders. It is very simple music, very basic, and when you play them on the recorder they are incredibly boring - little dance tunes that don’t sound of any particular value. As soon as you play the same piece and put them with the bagpipe with drones, the whole thing takes off and becomes real music.


So when I got to that stage, I discovered the music I’d found was getting more and more complicated. It was proper court music, proper chamber music. I realized I was not able to


one book that gives you all the information you need... Jacques Hotteterre’s Methode de la Musette


work out how that music was played so I went to the Guildhall school of music in London and studied with Stephen Preston, a flute specialist. He specializes in 18th century French Baroque music. Together we explored the one book that gives you all the information you need, which is Jacques Hotteterre’s Methode de la Musette - his method for the smallpipes. And it was an interesting exercise, because he couldn’t play my instru-


ment, but he understood what Hotteterre wanted him to do. We had to build the interpreta- tion of it - he could show it to me on the flute, and we’d have to find a way of transferring it to the smallpipes. And so little by little we worked out the explanations for all the ornamen- tations from Hotteterre, which fitted absolutely perfectly the instrument. And I then eventu- ally later on discovered a piece that was adapted to other instruments, and you could find remnants of these techniques on the playing of the cabrette players and the playing of the great pipes from Berry. The connection there was very obvious.

What changes have you made to your thinking in playing the pipes since you did this re- search?

What was really obvious as far as the body of work of the French Baroque smallpipes is that these trills and decorations required three conditions. First of all you had to perform on the instrument with closed fingering. And because of the choice of drones that were compulsory with the instrument that choice produced a staccato effect. So you had to learn that system of returning to your six finger note [the tonic, low A] between every note except if you spe- cifically wanted to tie two notes. If the notes were not tied, then you had to return to your six finger note. And your choice then was how short that extra little note was. If you made it very short then you’d have a little ‘clip’ between each note which made the tune still fairly flowing. But if you wanted to play it in a veiy staccato way, danceable, then you would in- sist on that low note. Just a little bit longer so you’d hear, very clearly, each note separated with a blank. And the blank is because in the combination of drones of the Baroque smallpipes your six finger note drone is so big in terms of sound that it tends to hide that note. You heard your notes as single notes although if you cut off your drones you would hear the six finger note [the tonic] in between, So that was your first decoration. I mean I would describe it as an ornamentation and a decoration although its purpose was specifi- cally rhythmical. And this fitted exactly one of the techniques of the cabrette players which we call ‘rappel’, which is returning to that six finger note. And it was in the cabrette players, particularly the ones we used at the end of the 19th century, and the beginning of the 20th century. They stopped boring the drones and that note, the rappel, was a reminder of the missing drone. So when you hear the really good players recorded in the 1920s and 30s they had no drones, but on some of the pieces you hear that drone. They put it back in by hitting that six finger note.


Yes, you showed me an example of that earlier today. And the trills you have been working at from these manuscripts, they are quite distinct.

Yes, the nearest sound is the one that is called the shake in English methods of the same pe- riod. And the instructions in Hotteterre of 1737 are very specific. He says that if you have a cross over a note which is the equivalent of the modern trill sound   you have to prepare the written note with the note above, and your preparation has to be half the length of that written note. So if your note is a crotchet, you have a quaver preparation on the note above, and then you do a little shake on those two notes in the second half of your note. If you have an A your preparation will be a B, and then your trill will be BABABABA, going slightly faster as you get towards the end, so there is a little acceleration.



The Number of beats that you do between your preparation note, A, and your real note G, will depend on how long your note is. So if you have a very long note of, say, four beats, the preparation would be two beats and you’d have enough time in the other two beats to get 4 or 5 beats [notes of the trill]. But if your note is much shorter, if it is only a crotchet, then you have a quaver preparation then your beats [notes of the trill] might be only three - from BABABA.

Then in that particular book, the manuscript I’m editing, it gives a development of that trill. If that trill is tied to the last note of a strain, then they give you a little - I suppose it is like a turn. It gives a sort of termination, and occurs in three quarters of the tunes; finishing ex- actly all the same way. So if you were finishing on the A it would be CBCBCB ABA. And that occurs all the time.



And that is a good signal that that particular phrasing has finished.

Absolutely. And in fact this again, as a technique, has got a specific name in Hotteterre, it is called a ‘double cadence’. He describes it as a specific ornament, and he says it’s a mixture of my trill plus these extra notes.


And the vibrato. You had some information on that?

Yes, again the vibrato was described in Hotteterre note by note. He gave a specific fingering for every single note available on the instrument - every sharp and flat - and the vibrato was done with the finger of the note below the note you use. So if you open your finger for the G, then the finger below would be the one you use to do the vibrato [this is of course for covered fingering playing - Ed.] And again the vibrato was to be done with a slight acceleration, so you would start a vibrato slow and speed it up as you went along.

And the principle is that on very long notes your vibrato could be very long and very long and very slow indeed to start with, so it is more like a shaping of your final note rather than a specific note. There’s a big difference between those two trills. In the first trill, you can recognise the two notes, even if they were tied together. On the vibrato, as he described it, all you heard is like a ‘wah wah’ effect I suppose. You should not be able to recognize the second note.

So the vibrato is making the sound of the note and then a series slightly below the note, whereas the trill is making a sound above the note and then the note itself before alternating between the two?

Yes. Exactly.

And what sort of period in French history are we talking about, when these techniques were developed and annotated?

The first serious written evidence is in 1636 when it is already described like that. In fact it is the first example we have in France of a specific bagpipe tune - which is in that book.

And later on in his book on instruments Mersenne gives descriptions of trills, and they are exactly repeated in the first proper method for the instrument by Bojon de Scellery of 1672. And Bojon de Scellery again describes the two sorts of trills and they are done, although he writes them the same way at the back of the book. He specifies them in the method, but not in the writing, and Hotteterre is the one who finalizes the two - what Borjon calls the soft and the hard trill,.

You talked a little bit earlier about playing softly by stopping the end of the chanter on the knee. Was that written in?

No, Hotteterre didn’t tell you how to achieve that effect. The music written for Baroque smallpipes, particularly beyond 1700, has many examples of parts where it actually says ‘soft’ and ‘loud’, and the only way you can produce these effects on the Baroque smallpipe is to place it on your knee - still don’t close it, you just sort of squash the sound. That seem- sto be the only way to produce it. If you also decide to close the instrument completely [the chanter would of course have no tuning holes. Ed] and play with the instrument absolutely closed a pure staccato. Again, some evidence for the smallpipe show us that you could play like this, and it was required very occasionally. Pure complete staccato which can only be done by putting the instrument on the knee and closing the last little finger, very much like the Northumbrian pipes today.


So you don’t have any tuning holes on the chanter?

No, there are no tuning holes.

You had tuning holes on other chanters?

On all the other French chanters which are conical bores they have tuning holes and you can’t do that technique.

You were doing a ‘wah wah ’ effect with your cabrette earlier on.

This was a technique which was preserved by one player on an early version of the cabrette. And he would actually place the bell of the chanter just above his knee, then shake his knee up and down, and produce a vibrato - a very violent vibrato. Hence I describe it as a ‘wah wah’. His chanter was fixed and it was the knee that moved up and down, and corresponded a little bit to the cabrette players who used foot bells to produce-rhythm.

I wonder how much influence these techniques had on the English and Scottish pipers of that day - the Baroque period?

Well I think for smallpipes I think it would have been used, because some of the music does transfer from one country to another. If the music particularly was written with three finger note as your central note [key of D on the Scottish chanter], 75 - 80% of the repertoire for the French smallpipes was like this, so your drones were a 4th below [A] and the construc- tion of the tune is quite obvious. And you can find some pieces like this in very early ver- sions of Playford’s Dancing Master. And they fit the range of the instrument absolutely per- fectly. They were pipe tunes. And there are a few examples which you can find in Hotteterre’s book which can be traced back: there are French versions of ‘Greensleeves’ called ‘Les Manches Vertes’ for hurdy-gurdy and smallpipes.

Is there anything I’ve forgotten to ask you?

No - but I ought to say that this is only the basis of what I have found in the MS I’m editing from around 1680. Later in Hotteterre’s letters, which is like 50 years later, he divides his trills in a far more elaborate manner, so there is another trill which is like a half of the nor- mal trills, and in a case it is used to start a strain of music, or to separate a strain of music from the previous one. And in that case you actually do it with the note below your note, so if you have your trill sign on the G, then you play G F# G. And that is aimed, at breaking a tune down, so that if in the flow of the music and repeats you miss the beginning again of that tune, it puts that little sign to say you must have a little separation here. That’s the next development of the trill that he has. But there is no mention of this earlier on in the other methods.

You are going to be writing on all this?

I hope by next year I can get somebody willing to publish it for me. And have it published for the next Blowout [Bagpipe Society event] in June next year.

I look forward to reading the published version. Thank you very much, Jean-Pierre.