Showing page 2 of 44
Showing page 2 of 44

1 thought on “Editorial: the need for creative change

  1. I feel the clear solution to the creative convergence (everyone sounding the same) is to focus more on concerts and recitals. There are enormous creative barriers in competition, from the restrictive medley and MSR formats to the use of just one (one!!) melody instrument, the bagpipes, which has no dynamics, no rests and a limited number of keys. Without other instruments there is only so much that can be done.

    On top of that, the competition format is almost hostile to a listener – everyone in a circle, facing away from the crowd; time lags between bands; and multiple MSRs or medleys in a row. The chances of hearing Highland Wedding more than once in an MSR contest are approaching 100%, especially as bands seem to be favouring 6 parted tunes for degree of difficulty. Why are we surprised competition all sounds the same? It’s basically by design. Why should anyone not in the scene listen to a pipe band contest?

    Contrast this to the diversity of approaches found in concert. Some of my favourite music happened in concert: SFU’s Field of Gold; Allan MacDonald and SLOTs March of the King of Laos; pretty much anything recorded by the Frasers or Vic Police. Those references date me a bit … Is this music that could gain new listeners and new players – absolutely.

    I’m on the East Coast of Canada. There are fewer pipe bands than when I started playing twenty five years ago. There are half as many highland games. Some of the active bands are just hanging on with close to the bare number of players. Some strongholds of piping no longer have bands, and some bands that are playing barely have schools. The scene here is in trouble, and it sounds like Ontario is also in decline. These are places that have had strong piping scenes for decades and decades.

    Something clearly isn’t working, and the focus on competition is one huge problem. Competition: it all sounds the same and the format is quite dull. Unless you’re an aficionado, why should you take time to listen? At Maxville, where are the big crowds? Not at the grade one or two circle, but at massed bands. Why? Because massed bands is a big, big show. People want to be entertained. I’ve played lots of gigs, and if you take time to talk to people, show them a bit about the instrument and tell them about the tunes, people get really interested and into the music. Musicians have to earn their audience by respecting them, and that generally isn’t what pipe bands do when the compete.

    Without an audience, we will struggle to attract new players. Without new players, we will struggle to keep the scene healthy. We need to broaden our scope way beyond competition.


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