March 31, 2001

Groundbreaking Series on the 2001 Set Tunes

We announce an exclusive, breakthrough series by Dr. William Donaldson of Aberdeen, Scotland, on the Set Tunes for the major solo piping competitions at the Northern Meeting at Inverness and the Argyllshire Gathering at Oban.

18 Tunes: an exploration of Piobaireachd will run over the next three months. Visitors to the site will be able to download Donaldson’s exhaustive research into manuscripts and collections only recently made available by the university libraries of Aberdeen and Glasgow, the Mitchell Library in Glasgow and the National Library in Edinburgh.

The series shows examples of the piobaireachd heritage that may surprise many. Players in the last century clamoured, largely in vain, for the old sources to be published. Dr. William Donaldson has transcribed key examples of manuscript sources for electronic media so that for the first time in more than a century players can consider a tune with direct access to the leading stylistic features of the master players and editors in the tradition.

The series marks an exciting new departure in piobaireachd and in piping as a whole. A number of things will happen for the first time: texts based on the old manuscripts and printed collections are being posted to the net in electronically transcribed versions prepared by a leading writer on the subject with accompanying notes and comments, extensive extracts from the most important sources are brought together for each tune on the 2001 Senior and Gold Medal lists in a way impossible with traditional print media because of the expense of printing and music typesetting. For the first time, the modern player can directly access the leading stylistic features of many of the most important masters when considering a tune, or preparing it for competition.

“It is fitting that this should happen with the support of this publication, said Donaldson. “It is the best designed and most frequently visited in the field, showing its flexibility and the breadth of its interest, and also the ability of this new medium to handle every aspect of the piping scene. The paperless pipe-box just got a step closer.”

18 Tunes: an exploration of Piobaireachd is a truly groundbreaking series,” said Andrew Berthoff, editor and publisher. “We are thrilled to be chosen as the exclusive outlet for Dr. Donaldson’s investigative work. A prime objective of the publ,ication is to encourage intelligent conversation on piping and drumming, and this series provides a meaningful and permanent contribution to the art of piobaireachd.”

Dr. William Donaldson is best known for his brilliant and controversial book, The Highland Pipe and Scottish Society, 1750-1950 (Tuckwell Press, East Linton, 2000). This thorough history of the evolution of piobaireachd to what we it is today is one of the most important academic works ever on the Highland bagpipe. Donaldson was taught piobaireachd for many years by Robert Nichol, one of the famous “Bobs of Balmoral.”

Dr. Donaldson’s series focuses on the piobaireachds set by the Piobaireachd Society for the 2001 Gold Medal and Senior competitions. The set tunes are selected each year as a test for the world’s top pipers, who spend months learning them and examining their various available settings in preparation for the Gold Medals, the Clasp and the Senior Piobaireachd at Oban and Inverness.

The series will commence this week with “The Prince’s Salute.”


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