July 10, 2008


Hmmm, a new piping rag has arrived in the snail-mail. Let’s read the report of this competition that happened three months ago and that everyone has already discussed ad infinitum on the net, watched videos of, and has already said every conceivable thing there is to say . . .

Plonker & District – good uptake to march. Good going here. Top hands a bit iffy in reel? Don’t like the tom-tom tenor drumming. Not my cup of tea. Crap.

Lumberyard & Son – what are they thinking with that opener? Not enough cane in those drones. Squeals hurting this band. Should get new chanters and reeds. Couldn’t smell any seasoning wafting from the circle. Crap.

Bloomers of Cardenden – not as good as I’ve heard them before. Tempi not like I used to play them in 1979. Didn’t like the tartan. Did I see the pipe-major hitch up his bag? Crap.

. . . and so on. That’s a slightly exaggerated parody, but this sort of absolute dreck has been the bane of piping “journalism” forever. It goes on today, even in these supposedly more enlightened times. I said this before, but it’s worth remarking on it again. For some strange reason people think that it’s okay to crack on our very best competitors after the competition is done, as if people can’t listen to the whole thing on the net and judge for themselves. As if anyone even gives a toss what the writer thinks about the competition as a non-player / non-judge.

What’s worse is that these bitter reports are usually by people who haven’t played in a decent band for decades, or been asked to judge a decent band competition, or, I would guess, even been asked to join a decent band.

Not on pipes|drums. Ever.


  1. Exactly. But have seen the movie “High Fidelity”? There’s a scene in it where one of the characters complains about the incredibly unfunny newspaper cartoon, “The Family Circus.” He says that you know it’s there and you know it’s stupid and you know you don’t want to read it but you sometimes just get sucked in. You read it and it’s still not funny and you hate yourself for reading it, once again vowing never to read it again. Kind of like that . . .

  2. I experience a similar phenomenon with cashews. They’re salty. They’re cooked in oil. They’re bad for you. But the sweet, nutty, crispness of them sucks you in every time. You’ve got to have just a taste. But just one of those little buggers, and it’s over – before you know it, half the tin is gone.

    Pretty much exactly the same as the “High Fidelity” scene. Kind of like that.

    Ok, maybe not quite…

  3. Ahh yes! People just LOVE to complain and try to demonstrate their superiority at the expense of others. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to read some positive comments or suggestions?
    Critics should always be ready to offer a solution to a problem that they are pointing out. Either that or keep their venomous observations to themselves.

  4. oh boy…..I think I might spontaneously combust if I were to hear just once, some positive comments about a performance or helpful suggestions from some of the armchair quarterbacks.

    The competitive piping world is teeming with cannibals. We eat our young for sport.

  5. I think this quote from the Godfather says it all:

    “Just when I think I’m out, they pull me back in again.”

    Love the parody, but I think you missed the best comment, “not spot”

  6. I would have to agree with Andrew’s concern. The piping world has always appeared to be top heavy with so called “experts.” In this day and age, it is very easy to expound well beyond one’s scope of expertise sitting in front of a computer screen. I don’t know how to regulate that sort of banter but must say that THIS web site has not been tolerant of dribble. I wish more “moderators” followed pipesdrums’ lead.

  7. Al, I don’t believe Andrew practices any sort of censorship and allows all to express their views.

    Problem with all moderators, is they don’t know what a Moderator is!

    I think all industries have their arm chair critics, why should this one be any different?

  8. Al, John — you’re both kind of correct. There’s plenty of dribble/drivel that’s tolerated on pipes|drums, but one person’s drivel is another’s genius, so it all stands. Reader comments are not moderated. They go live when they’re submitted. But they will only remain if they adhere to the stated policy, which is, essentially, no slander, no really bad profanity, no libel, no lies. Of the thousands of comments posted over the last two years, I have decided to remove maybe five.

    I think that’s testament to the intelligence of pipes|drums readers and the piping and drumming world overall.

  9. Andrew:
    When talking about the snail mail publications, aren’t you really bringing up an issue of journalistic standards that is different from the discussion boards? Isn’t the real criticism in “Sniping” that the reporting isn’t very imformative or insightful, and nothing is being gained by reading the account of the reporter on the scene. For the snail mail reports to have any relevance there needs to be some meaningful information. It strikes me that the reporters are trying to say why the soloists or bands were placed where they were. Since so much of the judging is subjective and the score sheets are not made public there isn’t much to go on. It’s easier to pick out what wasn’t good than to describe what was good. Finding people of recognized stature in the field who can write well to cover contests consistently would help. Then at least it wouldn’t be any worse than reading what a nationally recognized sports or political journalist has to say. From my limited knowledge of the inner workings of the piping print media, the only qualification to report on the event seems to be having been there.

  10. Piping/band contest results are published facts, however the performances are subjective. There is an inevitable collision course plotted in what we do. Many of us feel compelled to elaborate on why the result was either correct or not. Again, a matter of opinion.

    All comments are welcome and take them as you find them, in my opinion.

    Some people write reviews to sound clever, others write because they are paid to, and some just feel that an account has to be given, as the results speak in pure objective terms. It is human nature. Let it be. A lot of it is very good, some of it is misguided.

    The choice to read, or not to read, is in the hands of each individual. Such reviews do not invade our lives, they sit on websites etc and invite perusal. The choice is always ours to make.

    The one thing that does frustrate me is the pontificating types, who write as if all bands can be a FMM if they only had the right attitude, chanters, reeds, drums etc etc. Some of us are more lucky than others with regards to timing, location, tuition, opportunity etc. Some people overlook this when they start bashing away on their keyboard.

    Of the hundreds and hundreds of pipe bands around the world, there are only about 30 of them in grade 1. There is very good reason for this; what we do is bloody difficult! A bit like Golf – they estimate that close to 1 million people take up the game every month or so, yet only a miniscule percentage are good enough to make a living out of it. Those who are good also hit 10,000 balls a week just to keep from going backwards.

    I read some piping reviews and try to imagine the analogy of a club golfer writing for a local contest, and lambasting people for not smashing 300 yard drives like Tiger Woods. Whereas maybe if he/she wrote about how a 150 yard drive can be hit dead straight, people might get more from it. Most good reviewers write in a context where they can see that bands are trying to get the best out of what they have to work with.

    On the whole, most written reviews offer an opinion and a dissection. They are more worthwhile when backed by experience and expertise. However, that does not exclude everyone and anyone from having a view. It is art after-all, and we are no different to many other movements in this regard. People are interested and they want to talk about it. On balance, that’s a great thing.



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