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.

Special tweets

Rockin' robin.pipes|drums is always keen to push boundaries and try new things. Tomorrow, April 4th, will be another first for us, when we attend the Toronto Indoor Games, and provide Twitter updates throughout the day from @pipesdrums.

We added a Twitter feed to Blogpipe a few days ago, so any “tweets” (a really twee term, but so be it) are automatically fed to the section of the blog. If you’re so inclined, you can follow the Twitter updates throughout the day either via the blog or directly from Twitter.

I signed up for Twitter last year and didn’t do much with it until recently. I’ve been a Facebook user for a few years, and find that much more interesting. While Facebook engages friends more with pictures and personality, Twitter is more of a push thing, where people and companies can deliver thoughts and links to those who are interested. My Twitter posts are automatically uploaded to my Facebook status, so that’s another way to follow and comment.

I don’t for a second presume that anyone is particularly interested in whatever random thoughts I might have, but, if you are, then so be it. I’m happy to provide them if there’s a chance is prompts useful dialog.

This little experiment tomorrow may be the bomb (as the kids, I think, still say) or, then again, it might just bomb. It does come on the heels of the April Fools story about judges texting and Twittering while competitors play. I won’t be doing that, but will try to provide a little bit of insight into the day. I’ll be interested to see what the reaction will be.

I’ll look forward to your comments and/or your Twitter responses to posts throughout the day. Nothing ventured . . .


Tannoy.A few days ago I posted a tweet on Twitter (@pipesdrums) or status update on Facebook (I can’t remember) that said, “Hilarious how people with so little experience have no problem proclaiming themselves experts before unknowing people.” I was prompted to post that because of the incessant “authoritative” tweets by someone not from the piping/drumming scene who I know has almost zilch experience. She simply does not know what she’s talking about, but says it anyway dozens of times every day on Twitter, Facebook and anywhere else she can get away with it unchallenged.

Ever since rec.music.makers.bagpipe emerged in the mid-1990s as the first piping/drumming “forum,” the scene has been shaken by the fact that everyone can spread their opinion widely, no matter what their level of experience.

As I have said for many years, I like that. Encouraging dialog by pipes|drums and Blogpipe readers is an example of that attitude. Provided comments stay within the stated policy, no matter how discordant or ignorant I may think they are, they will stand.

But I was surprised at the number of people who responded online or in a “dm” (to use the social media parlance) to me personally about my little tweet. Clearly I’m not alone in that thinking.

There are those with seriously little experience and knowledge who see the Internet as a great way to try to carry off an inflated persona, who preach to the even-more-ignorant, and who have strangely built up their reputation in piping/drumming not by what they know and have done, but by what they spew online as gospel. They strive to strike a tone of authority, when they should be realistically deferential and humble. These are the people who “talk a good tune” (an expression that I love and which has been around solo piping circles forever). Because of the net we’ve grown used to all this spew, and, just like everywhere else, it has become an accepted part of the culture.

Around 1990, just before the Internet took hold, a very prominent piper commented to me that he couldn’t stand massed-bands / march-pasts because inevitably there would be one or two near-beginner-level piper-oafs who would wander over to him and other famous people, not to learn something, but simply to be seen talking with him. They would try to discuss high-level topics, name-dropping all the way, and they just would not go away. His pre-Internet peeve is really no different from what happens online, except since the mid-’90s it’s magnified thousands of times over.

On the other hand, there are the majority who choose to learn, who practice humility, whether it’s on the net or at massed-bands. They strike the right tone with what they say and how they say it. In more ways than one, they know who they are.

The people’s band

Hands off.Maybe it was all the bad news mounting. Maybe the pipe band world had had just about enough, thank you, and this was just too much. But public reaction to the apparent threat to the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band was nothing short of phenomenal. The members of the band have been under pressure for the last few years, with new police management seemingly giving them stick for committing too much time to being great musicians, and too much devotion to ensuring the band was a symbol of excellence that was representative of the excellence of the Strathclyde Police force itself.

Friends of the band worked the media to communicate the story of the band’s threatened status, and when news of the dire situation hit on pipes|drums and then the Glasgow Herald the piping and drumming world reacted with a 24-hour PR wildfire. I’ve never seen anything like it. Before Facebook group petitions were even a day old the force had reacted and quelled the angry mob, publicly assuring us that it’s status quo with the band, at least for now. We will hold them to that.

Sponsorships start and stop. Bands come and go. When established top-grade bands go under the response is generally a few days of disappointment and sadness by most, but the issue is generally quickly put out of mind, as other bands become the beneficiaries of the suddenly available talent.

But why was the Strathclyde Police situation different? Perhaps it’s this: Apart from the fact that the band is more than 120 years old and the winner of dozens of championships, the Strathclyde Police more than any other top band is a band that belongs to the people.

Certainly the people of Scotland’s Strathclyde region pay taxes that go to the funding of the police and thus the band, but anyone who has visited Glasgow also has a financial stake in the band. Those who have gone to the World’s or Piping Live! or Celtic Connections or just a visit to see auld auntie Senga in Knightswood have helped to sponsor the band. They may not realize it, but the Polis are truly a band of the people. We all help to fund it.

So when our band is threatened, it’s reasonable that we all get our collective back up and set about the folk messing with our investment. We’ll give you what for.

I saw somewhere online a suggestion that each person employed by the Strathclyde Police force could just give another pound each year to go towards the band. In truth, all of us who have spent any money in Glasgow have helped to sponsor this band. Our vested interest. Our band.

So shall media

Has anyone else noticed that most pipe band videos posted on YouTube are taken by drummers? Almost every one of them is taken from behind the drum section and, if they zoom in, it’s on individual drummers.

Still images, too: I’d estimate that 90 per cent of the pipe band photos that I’ve seen posted to Facebook and Flickr are of drummers taken by drummers.

I’m not at all saying it’s a bad thing, but I’m wondering if anyone has any suggestions as to why this is.


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