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Monday, July 14, 2008

Highland Bagpipers, a recent thing?



I couldn't sleep last night and so I spent some time banging around the net. I found an interesting article on a blog called the Ochophobist. It was in the April '08 posting, about half way down and titled Stage Highlanders, Triumph of Cheap Cute. As I read the article, the author is proposing that today's "Bagpipers" are a homogonized, "Disneyfied" invention of the Victorian era. My first thought was that this was bunk, but then I began thinking, how is it that bagpipers EVERYWHERE look so very similar? Why is the music so rigidly interpreted? It seems that the major difference between performances is skill and execution, rather than artistic interpretation. For example, if you were color blind how different would any two bagpipe bands in the world be? Food for thought. Why is it bagpipers wear kilts, how does that impact the music? It seems a little strange that a tradition supposedly going back 800 years, originating in extremely rural and remote glens and valleys would produce such a uniform and standard product. Now the author's assertion that bagpipes themselves were not invented until the Victorian era is clearly in error as there are historical references from much earlier periods. I'm willing to bet however that those Bagpipes and the GHBs we see today were very dis-similar. I'll bet the music was also.

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