Tannoy.A few days ago I posted a tweet on Twitter (@pipesdrums) or status update on Facebook (I can’t remember) that said, “Hilarious how people with so little experience have no problem proclaiming themselves experts before unknowing people.” I was prompted to post that because of the incessant “authoritative” tweets by someone not from the piping/drumming scene who I know has almost zilch experience. She simply does not know what she’s talking about, but says it anyway dozens of times every day on Twitter, Facebook and anywhere else she can get away with it unchallenged.

Ever since emerged in the mid-1990s as the first piping/drumming “forum,” the scene has been shaken by the fact that everyone can spread their opinion widely, no matter what their level of experience.

As I have said for many years, I like that. Encouraging dialog by pipes|drums and Blogpipe readers is an example of that attitude. Provided comments stay within the stated policy, no matter how discordant or ignorant I may think they are, they will stand.

But I was surprised at the number of people who responded online or in a “dm” (to use the social media parlance) to me personally about my little tweet. Clearly I’m not alone in that thinking.

There are those with seriously little experience and knowledge who see the Internet as a great way to try to carry off an inflated persona, who preach to the even-more-ignorant, and who have strangely built up their reputation in piping/drumming not by what they know and have done, but by what they spew online as gospel. They strive to strike a tone of authority, when they should be realistically deferential and humble. These are the people who “talk a good tune” (an expression that I love and which has been around solo piping circles forever). Because of the net we’ve grown used to all this spew, and, just like everywhere else, it has become an accepted part of the culture.

Around 1990, just before the Internet took hold, a very prominent piper commented to me that he couldn’t stand massed-bands / march-pasts because inevitably there would be one or two near-beginner-level piper-oafs who would wander over to him and other famous people, not to learn something, but simply to be seen talking with him. They would try to discuss high-level topics, name-dropping all the way, and they just would not go away. His pre-Internet peeve is really no different from what happens online, except since the mid-’90s it’s magnified thousands of times over.

On the other hand, there are the majority who choose to learn, who practice humility, whether it’s on the net or at massed-bands. They strike the right tone with what they say and how they say it. In more ways than one, they know who they are.

Turn and face the strain

The pipes|drums Polls have been going on for more than a decade now, and they’re all archived here. It’s sometimes a challenge to think of something new, and readers have saved my mind-blank more than once with a good suggestion. I always look forward to seeing the results. Even though the poll isn’t scientific, I’m pretty sure that the results are at least reflective of the overall opinion of the world’s pipers and drummers.

The recent one that asked “How many times should a person by allowed to change bands in a year?” brought another surprising result, with some 56 per cent of people saying that they feel that pipers and drummers should be permitted to switch bands only once in a year.

Time was when changing bands was a fairly major event. As is the case in major team sports, it’s now rare in the pipe band world to find people who spend their entire career with one band. But over the last decade especially the idea of competing in the off-season with a band in the other hemisphere has taken hold with some. Pipers and drummers from New Zealand or Australia might compete with a UK or Canadian band at the World’s, just as folks from the northern hemisphere might hook up with an Antipodean band for their championship, as was the case at least week’s New Zealand Nationals.

It’s all perfectly within the rules. I’ve played with bands that have benefited from such guest players, and I have no particular stand on the issue. But, it appears that a majority of pipers and drummers do. By limiting a person to only one transfer in the year, it means that the back-and-forth approach would be difficult to manage. Once a player changed bands, that would be it for the next 12 months.

If such a rule were enacted, I wonder how it might change things. Would it make the pipe band world more loyal or less fun?

Classic music

world-baseball-logoFor fans the World Baseball Classic is a nice warm-up for the regular season. It’s the second time that the every-three-years event has been put together, and for those in North America who think that the sport isn’t played to any great level anywhere else, the competitiveness of countries like The Netherlands and Australia is eye-opening, even though most national teams have a smattering of Major Leaguers on their rosters, since even an American-born player with a parent or even grandparent from a foreign country can opt to play for the other side.

Could such a fun festival of talent be done with pipe bands? I think so. What fun it would be to assemble an all-star band from every country where Highland pipes have caught on. Each national team could be managed by a few designated accomplished pipers and drummers who no longer compete, and they could go about picking their bands from the cream of the available crop.

Would Scotland automatically win? I don’t think so. Similar to team USA not having anything like a lock on winning the WBC, I would say that the competition between Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland, France, Canada, USA, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand that – at least tonally and technically – it would be a dead heat. Even England could field a top-notch group.

There could be several events, including, say, a national music category, where each band would have to develop a medley reflecting the unique musical style of its home country (advantage: France?). Countries could be encouraged to wear some adaptation of national dress. The possibilities are endless.

Play ball!

Passing notes

Going Home.Yesterday brought bad news of yet more Canadian casualties in Afghanistan. Warrant Officer Dennis Raymond Brown from the Lincoln and Welland Regiment, Corporal Dany Oliver Fortin from the 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron and Corporal Kenneth Chad O’Quinn from the 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group Headquarters and Signals Squadron were killed when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb, one of the devices that they had just finished clearing.

Their deaths bring the total number of Canadians killed in Afghanistan to 111, and each time a soldier makes the supreme sacrifice the media coverage in Canada is widespread. And so too is the sound of the pipes.

Each “ramp ceremony” – the military procedure that begins the repatriation of the fallen – has a solo piper from the Canadian Forces, and always a very good one at that. The Canadian Forces clearly knows that only excellent piping will do when paying allegiance to excellent service. Fraser Clark, a Captain with the Canadian Forces’ Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team (KPRT), Task Force 1-08, wrote about the experience passionately last August in a pipes|drums feature story that I hope everyone reads again.

If there were ever a positive to these sacrifices, it’s the small fact that millions of Canadians are exposed to the sound of the instrument as it should be.


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