October 20, 2009

Facebook TMI

FB TMIIf a generation’s label lasts five years these days, then this must be “Generation Facebook.” A recent blog-post by Michael Grey prompted me to think, as his writing (words and music) is prone to do. It seems that much of the piping and drumming world, just like much of the world in general, is “on” Facebook.

I’ve been at it for three years or so, and don’t tend to do too much with it, except follow friends, link p|d stories and tweets. My interest in FB tends to rise and fall.

But lately I’ve noticed some late-adopters to Facebook from the piping world. Some of these, I’ve also noticed, are quite prominent pipers and drummers who are still active, to be sure, but whose glory years were maybe back in the 1970s and ’80s – well before Generation FB.

I wrote a few years ago about venturing to Scotland for the very first time (as a piper) in 1983, and heading to the Skye Gathering at Portree, and seeing the late, great John D. Burgess. Yes, he, too, was human, although his playing to me was super-human. It was a thrill to see and hear him, Iain MacFadyen, Pipe-Major Angus MacDonald, John MacDougall and others after years of reading about them and listening to their recordings.

To some extent, I’m finding that Facebook is sapping the mystique from superstar pipers and drummers, especially when they post stuff that portrays them as the regular people they really are. On one hand, it’s great that they can connect to the mortals but, on the other hand, the excitement that I felt in 1983 of actually seeing and meeting these people is irreplaceable. For me it was like finally seeing Bob Gibson pitch and Lou Brock steal a base after forever gazing at their baseball cards.

I don’t know. Something just doesn’t quite sit that well with me seeing the legends of piping and drumming carving turkeys or sitting around in their jammees with their family on Christmas day on their Facebook page. It spoils a mystique.

There’s a lot to be said for maintaining an air of mystery, and some of the greatest figures in piping and drumming history were, not coincidentally, some of the most enigmatic. There’s a fine boundary to be drawn between modesty and TMI.


  1. Andrew

    As in normal in these circumstances – there is more than one way of looking at this development.

    I agree with you in terms of mystique and the thrill when you meet someone and experience their personality. This isn’t limited to older people. I can remember the first time I met Terry Lee – I felt honoured and thoroughly enjoyed listening to him.

    The opposite is the real legacy that can be experienced by developing pipers and drummers when “legends” record their lives in mediums like facebook.

    I am sure many people would benefit from hearing and seeing archives of Strathclyde Police Pipe Band and hear how Ian McLellan structured medleys. This may be even more important now given recent stories.

    In many ways the interviews you facilitate on PipesDrums gives us an insight to the thinking and devotion that is required to perform at the highest level and other aspects relevant to the interview..

    As celebrity status continues to apply to piping and drumming I believe enthusiasts demand access to the people they admire.

    There seems to be a desire to know what these people do on a minute by minute basis.

    It’s all about balance.

    We have unparalleled platforms to provide information in an almost real time basis.

    The challenge is how should these platforms be used for the continued good for all.

    Paul McComish

  2. I’ve been fortunate to have met a number of the elite pipers and drummers over the years and, although I now consider them my friends and call them by their first names, my sense of awe has not diminished and, possibly, has increased knowing that they are all down to earth people who, besides being friendly and approachable, are more than willing to share their knowledge and experiences.

  3. I have to disagree about the “legends” being some mythical person we read about or just listen too. One of the things that I have always felt and loved about this hobby is that the top pro’s, and even legends, are so friendly and available. The piping forums are another example. I can’t imagine the classical music equivalent of Roddy McLeod, Gavin Stoddard and others sitting around in a bar having a drink with some small town symphony player, yet I and many of us have had that experience with our greats. The camaraderie between players of all levels within this genre is one of the things I love about it.

  4. I’m all for a bit of sharing. Don’t really know how to use Facebook ‘properly’ yet, being new to it, and forgetting to look at it all the time. One thing I notice is that people seem to ask ‘famous’ piping people to be their friends. I’m not sure why they do that. Is it out of a genuine wish to gain access to these peoples’ pages, to learn more about piping and drumming? Is it that they hope these ‘famous’ people will come visiting their own pages? Or is it to let others know how important they are ‘look who my friends are’ kind of thing. No idea. Maybe I’m too old, long in the tooth, cynical —- but I know only too well that the great and the good have their issues like the rest of us. In fact, just to turn it on its head, great piping or drumming can be used in some cases to conceal insecurities, conflicts, and anxieties. I’m trying to say, I like the equalising opportunities that the likes of Facebook offers. We’re all in one big melting pot afterall. I used to have people up on pedestals, until I realised they were actually my equals. Having said that, I’m still plucking up the courage to ask a few people to be Facebook Friends.

  5. I think the benefit of e.g. Gold Medallists, World Champions, and the like showing themselves as regular folks is that it goes to show us all that anyone can be as good as them, regardless of the rest of their lives.

  6. I think everyone has made a good point. I like knowing a wee bit more thanks to facebook about my pipe band friends. I also like your “TMI” point. I don’t know why people, no matter who they are, feel that they have to tell us there supper, or that they can’t decide what to have for lunch, or there plans for big trips or whatever Its bloody painful, especially if they are ‘friends’ on facebook. Jim

  7. RE: Facebook
    “Dear Diary: Here is all of my personal information, includng confessions to past & upcoming criminal events, along with my banking information political affiliations, various sordid affairs and some embarassing information that could get me fired….”

  8. “It’s evolution baby….” Get on board or get out of the way. It is crucial to humankind that each generation strive to exceed the accomplishments of the ones that went before. Getting over the “mystique” hang-up might go a long way in giving the next generation some confidence in getting after the music and technique rather than getting hung up in a state of sycophancy. After all, they are just pipers and drummers. They eat, sleep, get their credit and prostates examed just like the rest of us. I have always thought it strange that so much “aura” surrounds these folks, as some of them lack respect, decorum or social graces in the same proportion as the general population. No free passes or red carpets in my mind. “great tune and incredible bagpipe you played there sir, now move your a$$, it’s my turn at the bar.”

  9. I find it even more amazing that the people who are the “legends” in our piping world, are real people. I think it makes them and their accomplishments even more memorable and amazing. Things like the www, chat rooms, email and face book only make our little piping communitee stronger and more vibrant.




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