One of the best CDs I’ve purchased in the past few months is Fiona Apple’s Extraordinary Machine. It’s understated and different, but still completely listenable. Looking at her you’d assume she’s a gum-popping popstar, but she’s far from it.

She apparently had run-ins with Sony Music over the content of her stuff. They wanted her to conform, and the CD is full of lyrics fighting conformity, like from “Please, please, please:”

Give us something familiar
Something similar
To what we know already
That will keep us steady
Steady, steady
Steady going nowhere

But what’s really interesting about the recording is that more than half of the songs are written in 6/8. Pop music generally churns out songs in common time, and few artists stray to compound rhythms. I’m frequently attracted to songs in 6/8 (e.g., REM’s “Everybody Hurts,” The Beatles’ “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” . . .).

I’m also drawn to pipe tunes in compound time and I don’t think bands use 6/8, 9/8 and 12/8 enough in their medleys. When played on the beat these tunes roll, especially, obviously, in jig time. Some bands that are masters of jigs interestingly are usually not so great at 2/4 marches and strathspeys.

It’s always nice to be positively surprised by new music, especially when it makes you think about how it can be applied to your own experiences.


The Corrections

On October 31 of last year I put together a story entitled

Scotland’s Joint Committee meets

. It was based on information supplied by several people, including at least one person who was actually at the meeting.

I used to be a dedicated reader of the Piping Times. I’ve mentioned before that my dad when I was kid actually collected them for research purposes, and I poured over them as an adolescent in St. Louis trying to soak up everything piping. I have the entire collection up until about 1998 when I just couldn’t be bothered to read it any longer. It had changed too much for me to want to follow it.

Occasionally, though, friends will copy bits from it and e-mail them to me. So it was yesterday that I was sent a particularly embarrassing (for it, not me) piece in what I gather is the most recent issue. An anonymous writer “corrected” the story above, taking various bits out of context and seemingly twisting the meaning of several lines in the Joint Committee meeting article.

In a style so typical of the bitterness that often spews from the little Glasgow digest, the publication tried to find the negative just to be negative. The amusing list of “corrections” seemed to be another ploy to draw people in to an argument, thus lending credibility to the whole affair. It’s not happening.

I will say that the anonymous writer was correct in his or her first point. I did get the name of the arcane “Joint Committee” wrong in that I called it the Joint Committee for Piping. I amended the story so that it lists the name of the group correctly, as the Joint Committee for Judging.

But what can you say about a publication that thinks it has a “duty” to try to correct other publications, and then can’t even get its own corrections correct? Is it worth the energy to engage it in a pissing match? No. If I’ve learned anything in my 18 years of work on the Piper & Drummer it’s that people just don’t care about that kind of stuff. It’s petty and puerile.



I like making New Year’s resolutions. We can all get better, and, as I learned from Winton Marsalis via a Starbuck’s cup, “The humble improve.” Good thought. (But why can’t Starbuck’s make better coffee?)

I joked the other day to a piping friend that my resolution is to exercise less. But really it’s to telephone more and e-mail less. Done.

Resolutions are a bit like wishes, and my wishes for the piping and drumming world are resolute:

  • That bands stop opening and finishing their medleys with hornpipes or reels. Just for one year. See what happens.

  • That the World Championships’ artists who make the CDs and DVDs and whatever other products possible get a share of the proceeds. Maybe even just enough to buy one kilt or pay one airfare. Not too much to ask, is it?

  • That no dads, uncles, aunts, father-in-laws, etc. judge immediate family members in any contest no matter what the size or importance of the event. Even the impression of nepotism makes a joke of your decisions.

  • That no more great pipers and drummers leave us before their time.
  • Those are a few of my wishes for the piping and drumming world. What are yours?



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