January 31, 2008

Updated: William Donaldson’s 2008 Set Tunes Series to begin on pipes|drums

The eighth Set Tunes Series by Dr. William Donaldson of Aberdeen, Scotland, will feature detailed and ground-breaking analysis of 16 piobaireachds set by the Piobaireachd Society for this year’s Gold and Silver Medal competitions. As with the previous seven series, the 2008 Set Tunes will be available for free in pipes|drums’ Music section.

Entitled “What are the neighbours up to?” Willie Donaldson presents detailed text and sound files that review and compare numerous historical piobaireachd sources. In a fascinating Introduction, which will appear later this week, Donaldson explores the implications of recent research in classical, traditional and jazz music for the Highland bagpipe and its culture.

Tunes in the 2008 Set Tunes Series:

Gold Medal

  • “The Blind Piper’s Obstinacy”
  • “Sobieski’s Salute
  • “The Stewarts’ White Banner”
  • “Clan MacNab’s Salute”
  • “The King’s Taxes”
  • “My King has landed in Moidart”
  • “The End of the Great Bridge”
  • “The Park Piobaireachd” (no. 2)

Silver Medal

  • “Hector MacLean’s Warning”
  • “The Rout of the MacPhees”
  • “Lament for the Castle of Dunyveg”
  • “The Little Spree”
  • “The Massacre of Glencoe”
  • “I Am Proud to Play a Pipe”
  • “Corrienessan’s Salute”
  • “Kinlochmoidart’s Lament”

“Dr. Donaldson’s eighth Set Tunes Series, as with the seven that preceded it, is absolute an absolute must for anyone who plays or enjoys piobaireachd,” said Andrew Berthoff, editor of pipes|drums. “We are all truly indebted to Willie Donaldson for contributing this massive amount of work to the piping world. This is pioneering stuff.”

According to Donaldson, the Set Tunes Series, published annually in serial form, taken together is building towards the world’s first real “variorum” edition of piobaireachd.

“It’s an attempt to use the power, flexibility and above all cheapness of the Net to do something that would be prohibitively bulky and expensive if attempted using print media,” Donaldson commented. “The idea of a variorum edition has been around for a long while: basically it attempts to present all the significant scores of each tune with some kind of commentary, hopefully useful. With the Net you can do this kind of thing; in print you cannot. Piobaireachd is an extended form: think how many folio pages it used to take Donald MacDonald to handle a single tune. Later editors such as C.S. Thomason invented all kinds of clever ways of abbreviating the notation and thus saving on space and cost.

“But even so, presenting a piece of any great stylistic or constructional variety as it appears in the Set Tunes series might take as many pages for a single tune as would occupy a whole Piobaireachd Society volume usually containing 12-to-16 titles. It’s not just a case of a new medium being able to do the job of an older, only bigger, faster and cheaper; it also extends the range of the possible, enabling things – such as presenting audio files in addition to notated scores – in a way that simply can not be done in print. And there is no theoretical limit to the scale of the enterprise. The collection is already a large one that, when the 2008 season is completed, will contain upwards of 130 tunes.”

William Donaldson is one of the world’s foremost authorities on Scottish music and is the author of the seminal work, The Highland Pipe & Scottish Society. He received more than eight years of ongoing instruction from Robert Bell Nicol, and is a lecturer with Scotland’s Open University.


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