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.

July 06, 2008


Good times . . .

A long time has passed since I recorded a pipe band competition. When I was a kid I would haul around this bulky cassette apparatus to places like Alma, Michigan, to capture the Grade 1 bands. I still have those somewhere. I then progressed to a Sony Professional system, which for a while was state-of-the-art for handheld remote analog recordings.

But I recently picked up a little device that makes very high-end digital audio captures – not really for my own interest, but for yours. I used it for the first time at Kincardine yesterday. Being on the roster of a band, I recused myself from judging the Grade 1 event, which allowed me to record the contest. The files – 128-bit MP3 format – are very good, and I hope pipes|drums readers/listeners enjoy them.

Interesting, too, that in sync with my plans Michael Grey wrote about the change in the speed of piping and pipe band information due to technology. Like him, I remember well the days when news of results from Scotland would come not hours or even days after the event, but sometimes months in the form of the Pipe Band or Piping Times magazines when I used to read them.

To be honest, I felt a bit of a tube being one of the recording geeks, but I think the trade-off is small price to pay. I plan to bring more of these to the magazine as I can coordinate them.

June 11, 2008


I hope that pipes|drums and Blogpipe readers like the new design and all the new features. For various reasons it had to be migrated to a new web developer partner, and I decided that, since all that was happening, then new features should be added at the same time.

That was in November 2007 and it has taken this long to get it done. Recoding thousands of items and migrating data from one language to another, fixing code and such like are things I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But here we are.

Among the things we’re still working on are all the comments posted to the previous version of Blogpipe. Uploading those to the new platform is a work-in-progress, but we’ll get there eventually.

Anyway, I really hope people enjoy the new site. It will always be non-profit effort, which causes some people to ask me, Why do you do it? I wonder about that myself, at times, but I think it’s in the blood.

I grew up with the sound of my history professor dad pounding (and often swearing) away at his Smith-Corona typewriter, writing articles and books and reviews and lectures and letters-to-the-editor. He always had something to say and he would usually say it in writing and he would always sign his name to it.

So, if you want to blame or thank someone for all this publishing stuff, he’s your target.

Personally, I’m thanking him.

June 09, 2008

Navel gazer

Nice navel!I was thinking the other day about the old adage, “No one ever says on their deathbed, ‘Gee, I wish I had worked harder.'”

I wonder if that can be applied to piping and drumming. Do pipers and drummers ever sit there when they’ve retired from the game and think, “Jings, I wish I had practiced more and spent more nights and days and weekends with the band.”

I have met a lot of players who left family behind every weekend and several nights a week for scores or years while they went out to seek their self-centred goals of competition glory. They seem downright wistful when they talk about how their kids grew up and moved out of the house before they knew it.

It’s a huge quandary for many people. For those who have families, who want to pursue their hobby while at the same time being there for the spouse and kids, the best, and perhaps only, solution is to get them involved in the hobby. This strategy works well when the spouse is also a piper or drummer, but, if not, it generally doesn’t work.

I sometimes mistakenly fancy that the practice time that I gave up after “retiring” from solo competition has been committed totally to family. Truth is, I replaced much of that time with working on your pipes|drums, keyboarding away in the basement office, on the deck, in the kitchen, wherever and whenever I can.

Does our hobby / avocation / affliction attract a peculiarly self-centred personality-type? And, if so, are non-self-centred people destined not to be as good at piping and drumming as those who are?


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