A compositional conversation between the Piobaireachd tradition, voice and drum. A collaboration with Laurie Pitt, recorded by Stevie Jones and filmed by Simon Worthington.
A short film of this piece premiered as part of the Counterflows live events series on the 9th of April 2021 and the piece was made available on Cafe Oto’s Takuroku Label on the 19th.
Commissioned by Cafe Oto’s Takuroku Label, this piece builds on the work I was exploring during last year’s counterflows exploring the vocalisation of piping traditions. Working in collaboration with Laurie Pitt on snare drum, is an exploration of the solo voice in dialogue with the compositional structure of the Piobaireachd.
The word ‘piobaireachd’ literally means pipe playing or pipe music, but is now used to describe the classical music of the Great Highland Bagpipe. Another name for it is ‘ceol mor’, the ‘big music’. A piobaireachd consists of a Urlar, theme or, ‘ground’, with variations which vary in number and complexity following that theme. The Urlar for this piece is a Scots translation of the traditional song May no man steal your thyme.
This classification of Piobaireachd takes in the categories as follows: Laments — Descriptive pieces, Gatherings — Marches, Battles and Salutes — Farewells. The song has both meanings- its lamenting, but also a kind of call to arms. So in this piece we are using the voice to express the Lament and the drum to Gather.
We both begin with the Urlar, and build in complexity. Myself by adding vocal references to the Canntaireachd (Scottish Gaelic for ‘chanting’ – a vocal method of notating Piobaireachd), and Laurie by incorporating a set of drum sticks that I wove from willow, that refer to each section of the work by the number of sticks incorporated in them and the sounds they create.
While the piobaireachd tradition is now quite ‘static’ or relies heavily on a canon of pieces performed in a competition setting, the original development of the pieces was likely to have been informed by cross pollination between pipers and singers. And it is in this spirit that Laurie’s playing was informed by my singing, and visa versa.