April is the month of Earth Day and Fashion Revolution Week! Fashion is the second biggest polluter behind the oil industry due to several factors, one of which being textile waste. Did you know that most people only regularly wear 20% of their wardrobe and throw garments away after less than 30 wears? I was to shut down stigmas that surround wearing clothing over and over again! Last week I wore this dress styled in different ways for the next 5 days to highlight the value and versatility of one piece of clothing! I reached out to thredUP and they graciously gifted this secondhand little back dress as the star of the show. I had so much fun being creative with this mini challenge!
Here’s my first day wearing this little black dress! Today I was invited by SOKA University to talk about my passion for sustainability and environmental justice! Because of the talk I styled the dress in a semi-formal manner with a cotton button up from Crossroads Trading.
Today I was in the office so I pulled a vintage pleated pencil skirt over the dress and threw on a preloved polka-dot blazer! I inherited this blazer from my older sister and got the skirt from the Assistance League thrift store in Orange County.
I wore a colorful sheer secondhand Betsy Johnson dress I found at Savers (one of my fave thrift-find moments) and wore the thredUPdress over it! I like this look because the frilly fringe of the Betsy Johnson dress peeks out from the bottom, changing the visual dynamics of the outfit. I paired it with secondhand sunnies from the Salvation Army and a vegan leather bag by Canopy Verde!
On Thursday I threw a kimono over the little black dress and cinched the waist with a belt! For a little variety I also tied my hair into a curly high ponytail. The tassels and draped fabric of the kimono gives new shape to the straight neckline.
I wore a hand-me-down long sleeve, secondhand jewelry, ad a beautiful red tasseled shawl! It’s kind of perfect for Friday because you can ditch the shawl and head into happy hour in it!
I got so many compliments this week! Due to the mini challenge I dressed up a little more than usual. Although, I have to say, that I didn’t feel like I was putting in more effort than usual. In fact, I felt like I was putting in less effort because it was SO easy getting dress every morning knowing what I was putting on! I found success in wearing the dress for professional environments (an office and university), but also for silly environments, such as for random errands and Friday night fun!I decided to do this this week because I wanted to show that it’s possible to make a variety of cute looks from onedress that look different from one another! I also wanted to see how easy it could be…and it’s honestly really simple with a little forethought! Now when I look at this dress I don’t see it strictly as a cocktail dress like I did which I initially received it. Now, I see a medley of cute chic outfits for several occasions!
The post Wearing One Little Black Dress for 5 Days! appeared first on Sustainable Daisy Blog.
Welcome to the Post Status Draft podcast, which you can find on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, and via RSS for your favorite podcatcher. Post Status Draft is hosted by Joe Hoyle — the CTO of Human Made — and Brian Krogsgard.
Brian and Joe discuss many of the factors that are a part of maintaining a website for the long term. They discuss it both in the sense of when you own the site (like Brian with Post Status), and when you are doing long-term client work (like Human Made with retainers).
There are several things to consider, whether it’s in your own code, or the decisions you make on which third party developer’s tools to use.
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Dorothy figured out to get out of her crib last night, which means Ana will learn tomorrow. She climbed out, went to sleep on Teresa’s bed, then nearly fell out of bed if we didn’t catch her. She had found her water bottle and it fell off the bed, which led us to investigate just in time before she would have rolled off. The era of child captivity is over.
We all seek freedom in one way or another. But in the end, we live in an age where none of us know what true freedom feels like. We’ve never lived it beyond our mind and flowering imagination. Although I don’t know what…
I really dig micro.blog and what I think it will lead to. I’ll fiddle some—I like post titles, but using them truncates the content on micro.blog as is. Probably make a quick plugin to make it work nicely together.
Well this is a sad little shelf compared to the others so far. Rather than being stuffed full or having a few tag-alongs stacked on top, we’ve got some leaners, and a couple of pretty dull ones in the mix too.
We start with more Lethem. Motherless Brooklyn is sort of a noir book that I enjoyed, though it’s not my favorite Lethem by a pretty long shot.
The Melville biography is actually quite good — a really nice mix of literary criticism and biography and a must-read if you have more than a passing interest in Melville or in Moby-Dick. It is very readable, and I’ll almost certainly at least re-skim it in the next decade or so.
I tried reading Catch-22 some 15 years ago and couldn’t get into it, but I tried again in the last five years and loved it. What a mix of hilarity and gut-punching.
Next up, we have the last Mitchell from before he went kind of rogue with the weird pseudo-sci-fi horology stuff. I recommended The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet to some coworkers a few years ago before remembering that it opens with a really grisly complicated birth scene complete with diagrams, which isn’t usually the sort of thing it would occur to me to recommend to coworkers. In any case, this really is a lovely book about the Dutch East India company opening a trade route to Japan, with a little bit of the mysticism that leads into the catastrophe that is Mitchell’s followup The Bone Clocks. Maybe we can consider the gap between this and the next book sort of a moment or space of silence or void in honor of the book Mitchell could’ve/should’ve written next.
I didn’t absolutely love every moment of Barnes’s History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters, but there was surely some good stuff in evidence, and in general I’m hanging onto Barnes, as I believe he’s smart and important and is somebody I’ll want to keep reading and rereading.
Wallace of course was inevitable (something by, about, or somehow pertaining directly to him has been found — unintentionally, I assure you — on every compartment of the shelves so far), and this issue of Sonora Review focuses on his work. I keep it because I’m a near-completist.
I rarely read nonfiction. When I do, it tends to be about things like art forgery or the classical concept of swerve as a way of understanding the universe — basically stuff that teaches me about art or literature or culture — but a couple of years ago, I was forced asked to lead a team at my company, and as a result (since I was more of an “I’ll just get this done” person than an “I’ll help others get this done” person), I read a few books on leadership. I still do kind of pinch my nose and wade through a book of this sort every once in a while (I’m in one now called Thanks for the Feedback). This one in any case was pretty interesting. Although it read very much like a consultant-authored book, it read a lot less like an infomercially “I am just going to pontificate at you inspirationally” book than others because they backed it up with lots of data. The authors looked at a lot of teams that had been successful and tried to extract data about things that correlated with that success, and there was plenty in this book to highlight and think about. It’s a little dry, and I highlighted and took notes about all the good bits, so I suppose I’d recommend asking me for the highlights over reading the book, if you’re in the market for such stuff, but I’ve kept it because my company paid for it (so selling it back feels inappropriate) and because I could well imagine flipping back through it sometime.
The book on computer programming is dry and horrible, and my company bought it for me and I’m ashamed I haven’t read it. A developer I admire recommended it a few years ago, and I got to page 11. I hang onto it out of shame and should really pass it along to a developer on my team or elsewhere within the company.
The first Roth I read was Portnoy’s Complaint, and boy was it hilarious. There’s good stuff in Goodbye Columbus too, but it’s probably not worth keeping. I read one other book by Roth a year or two ago. I’m kind of meh on him. He seems pretty funny but kind of a shithead. I’m putting this book in the sell-back pile now, and I suppose I’ll really need to start stocking up on dark blue or purple books to round out this shelf.
I ran across Jodi Angel in the little magazine one story(which I really love, though I have a backlog of about two years to wade through), and this was a really solid collection. She writes often enough from the perspective of teenaged boys, and much better than I’ve ever managed to write even though I once was a teenaged boy and a fair few bits of the little writing I’ve tried to do over the last 20 years’ve been from the perspective of or about the experience of a teenaged boy. I’ll definitely revisit these, and other work by Angel.
We finish strong as we head into the browner tones with Ozick. Well, we finish strong in that we finish with Ozick, though this is very far from my favorite of the books of hers I’ve read. I think she’s great, but this was very meh for me. Still, when I find an author I really like, I tend to hang onto their books.
Next time we’ll get to a real humdinger. It’ll take me probably 3,000 words to get through writing about the Pynchon, Byron, Barth, some of the shorter works of Wallace (who will be nine for nine on my shelves), Delillo, Pinsky, the agrarian poets, and um the whole of of art history.
By Joseph Camilleri‘Pilgrymes are we alle’ (William Langland, Piers Plowman)
Most of the computers in our offices sport screensavers portraying distant lands and exotic destinations. Although it is hardly surprising that we yearn to escape our humdrum, everyday lives, I often wonder whether this reveals a more deep-seated and atavistic urge to travel; a suppressed legacy, perhaps, from our nomadic ancestors.
The world’s great religions certainly seem to have recognised Man’s wanderlust and given it a spiritual dimension. Indeed, the practice of ‘pilgrimage’ – what we may call a ‘holy journey’ – is encouraged in the major faiths. A pilgrimage is first of all an act of homage, having as its final destination a sacred place or shrine held dear by adherents to a particular religion. But the journey itself is deemed a prayer, a form of cleansing, a penance from sin. It is also metaphor for life itself, for the journey of our existence – il cammin della nostra vita – to paraphrase Dante.
In An Intimate History of Humanity, Theodore Zeldin suggests that ‘travel began as pilgrimage’, singling out Islam as the religion which codifies this practice most systematically. In this article however, I will focus on pilgrimage in the Christian tradition and the influence it has had on Western music. As we shall see, in the Medieval period, well before the advent of mass tourism, holy journeys provided an impetus for far-flung travel, leading to cross-fertilization between different cultures. During their travels, pilgrims entertained themselves by telling stories and making music and, their journey completed, they sang hyms and sacred songs which expressed their simple yet profound faith. This led to the composition of new works and the compiling of some of the earliest surviving musical codices. Even when the practice of pilgrimage waned with the Reformation and the rise of the secular society, the concept of the ‘spiritual journey’ remained a potent metaphor and a source of inspiration to artists and composers.
Urbs beata Jerusalem – Journey to the Holy City
Christian Pilgrimage was encouraged by early Church Fathers such as Saint Augustine (354-430) and Saint Jerome (347-420) who, in his own extensive travels, visited Jerusalem and Galilee, eventually settling down and dying in the vicinity of Bethlehem. The places connected with the life and ministry of Jesus were the earliest pilgrim destinations – the first Christian ‘travelogue’, the Bordeaux Itinerary (named after the anonymous ‘Pilgrim of Bordeaux’ who penned it) describes a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the years 333 and 334. Journeying to the Holy Land received a boost with the support of Constantine who, as the first Roman emperor to embrace Christianity, had imposing edifices constructed on sites which were already popular with early pilgrims. Thus, in Jerusalem, Constantine built a basilica on the site of the Crucifixion and a rotunda around the Holy Sepulchre and, in Bethlehem, he built another church over the cave reputed to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ.
It is no coincidence that Jerusalem is dubbed the ‘Holy City’. Within its ancient walls, the claims of the three Abrahamic religions jostle, and pilgrims of these faiths congregate to see and touch the sites special to their respective traditions. Medieval maps show Jerusalem as the navel of the world, with Europe, Asia and Africa – the continents then known – pictured surrounding it. To this day, it is a city which holds its visitors in thrall. Just as ‘Stendhal’s syndrome’ explains people’s psychotic reaction to a surfeit of artistic beauty, so does the term ‘Jerusalem syndrome’ refer to the temporary religious mania which grips some otherwise level-headed individuals when visiting the city.
Jerusalem must have exercised a strong pull on believers for them to set out on the gruelling journey leading to its gates. If in the age of the global village, a trip to the Holy Land still presents challenges, just imagine what it must have meant in the Middle Ages. When the Roman Empire was still unifying the Mediterranean states, pilgrims were at least assured a common political rule throughout the countries they travelled through, but the road and sea journeys still involved daily dangers caused by weather, bandits and disease. Following the Christianisation of Hungary around 1000 CE a new land route became possible through the Balkans, Bulgaria, Turkey and Syria and then on to Palestine. Again, the trek was arduous, sometimes taking over a year and passing through countries with wildly different cultures.
In a joint recording for the Naxos label, early music outfits Ensemble Unicorn and Ensemble Oni Wytars, under their respective directors Marco Ambrosini and Michael Posch, recreate such a journey through an imaginative programme combining European art-song, Sufi music and traditional dances from the Balkans and Near East. The Holy City is evoked by a setting of the 8th century hymn Urbs Beata Jerusalem by Guillaime Dufay, where Jerusalem becomes a metaphor for the heavenly city glimpsed by St. John in the Book of Revelation.
The recording features Near and Middle Eastern instruments such as the oud and the chalumeau. In the Middle Ages, some of these instruments, which are still used in the traditional music of the area, were brought back to Europe from pilgrimages and Crusades, subsequently influencing the development of Western instruments.
Lonely Planet, Field of Stars
Those who could not make the journey to the Holy Land or were not in a position to pay somebody else to complete the trip on their behalf, could make do with a visit to a destination closer to home. In the Medieval period, faith was often given a very physical and ‘place-based’ expression. Thus, an area where a holy person lived and worked, or where a saint’s relics or remains were venerated, was considered as particularly holy. This led to a proliferation of shrines around Europe – some more famous than others. In his Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343 – 1400) famously uses a pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket in Canterbury as a narrative frame device, implicitly highlighting the communal aspect of pilgrimages which brought together people from different classes and walks of life. Other ‘local’ shrines whose fame spread throughout Europe were the ‘Holy House’ at Walsingham in Norfolk, which became a major centre of pilgrimage in the 11th Century, and the shrine of the Three Magi at Cologne Cathedral (which Chaucer’s ‘Wife of Bath’ claims to have visited).
In the first half of the 9th Century, another European pilgrimage site emerged in Spain where Bishop Theodomar of Iria (d. 847) claimed to have found the remains of Saint James the Greater, one of the Apostles of Jesus. The discovery is shrouded in mystery and coloured by legend. It is said that on a clear night in the year 813, a magnificent shower of stars and the sound of an angelic choir drew the hermit Pelayo to a forgotten tomb in a field in Galicia. Amazed, Pelayo reported the matter to Theodomar who decided to investigate further. The field was dug, and a sarcophagus was found, together with an inscription identifying it as the resting place of ‘Jacobus, son of Zebedee and Salome’. Theodoric and Alfonso ‘The Chaste’, King of Asturias, had St. James declared patron of Spain. By 865, the area was already known as a site of peregrination, with early visitors reporting astounding miracles.
It often happened that initial enthusiasm about a miracle-working shrine waned after a few years or decades. However, the cult of Santiago de Compostela (or ‘Saint James of Campus Stellae – Field of Stars’) grew from strength to strength. A number of walking routes to the shrine (collectively known as El Camino or, the ‘Way to Santiago’) were developed, winding their way between monasteries and frugal inns and hostels. In La Vita Nova, Dante claimed that ‘none can be called a pilgrim save he who is journeying toward the sanctuary of St. James’ and in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Ophelia sings of a pilgrim’s ‘cockle hat and staff/and his sandal shoon’, a reference to the scallop shell often found on the shores of Galicia and adopted as a symbol for pilgrims to the shrine.
The growing importance of the cult of St. James is evidenced by the so-called Codex Calixtinus, or Compostellus, a collation of five volumes and two appendices kept at the Cathedral of Santiago which appear to have been compiled into one manuscript between 1138 and 1145. Purportedly prepared at the behest of Pope Callixtus II, its compiler is probably the French scholar Aymeric Picaud. The Codex presents a melange of legends, liturgical texts and a biography of Charlemagne but its strangest part is the fifth book, a sort of Medieval ‘Lonely Planet’ or ‘Rough Guide’ for pilgrims which shares with its modern counterparts the same impish sense of humour: ‘in this country there are evil toll keepers […] may they be utterly damned […] these people dress repulsively […] and eat with their hands’.
Of particular interest to musicologists however are Book I and the appendices. These include several musical works associated with the local liturgy of St. James, comprising music for the Mass (Missa Sancti Jacobi) and Office of the Saint, in which the pilgrims would have participated on their arrival. Whereas Book I presents the liturgy in monodic form, the appendices present around two dozen polyphonic settings, in which the original chant is decorated with a florid counterpount above it. One of the most famous and controversial of the pieces is the conductus (an early form of non-liturgical, sacred motet) Congaudeant Catholici. The manuscript provides two contrapuntal lines to the chant, leading some musicologists to claim that this is the earliest known example of three-part polyphony. Other scholars, such as Richard Taruskin, dismiss this, arguing that the contrapuntal lines are alternative and have been added at different times.
Incidentally, Congaudeant Catholici is also the first known musical piece whose source credits the composer – one ‘Magister Albertus Parisiensis’, cantor at Notre Dame. This is, in itself, an indication of the strong French influence on the Codex, also confirmed by the notation used, which is typical of central France. Clearly, it was not just the pilgrims who travelled – musical styles travelled with them. It is a journey which is musically reconstructed in The Pilgrimage to Santiago, a double album recorded by Philip Pickett with the New London Consort.
Pickett varies the programme with early music taken from other Medieval collections with strong cultural links to the Camino, including the Cantigas de Santa Maria (songs of praise to the Virgin compiled by Alfonso X ‘El Sabio’) and the Codex de las Huelgas found at a Cistercian convent in Burgos, on the way to Santiago:
Another codex from the same cultural period and milieu is the Llibre Vermell de Montserrat or ‘Red Book of Montserrat’, so named after the red cover in which it was bound in the 19th Century and the mountaintop monastery of the Virgin of Montserrat in Catalonia, where it is found to this day. Montserrat was itself a major pilgrimage site. The Llibre Vermell contains a Canconiero Musical with ten pieces of music which provide an interesting contrast with the Codex Calixtinus. Indeed, whereas the works in the St. James codex were meant for performance in a liturgical context, the Montserrat pieces were composed as a sort of sacred entertainment, giving the music an earthier traditional feel, as helpfully explained by the manuscript compiler:
Because the pilgrims wish to sing and dance while they keep their watch at night in the church of the Blessed Mary of Montserrat, and also in the light of day; and in the church no songs should be sung unless they are chaste and pious, for that reason these songs that appear here have been written. And these should be used modestly, and take care that no one who keeps watch in prayer and contemplation is disturbed.
The music of the Llibre Vermell has been widely recorded, including by Catalan early music superstar Jordi Savall, who intersperses the pieces with colourful improvisations aptly tinged by folk music:
I have also enjoyed a recent album issued on Brilliant Classics, in which the Llibre Vermell songs are presented in the context of a programme depicting ‘an imaginary coming together of pilgrims from various places, who meet en route and head to Montserrat to attend Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve’.
All Roads Lead to Rome
After the Holy Land, Rome was the main destination for pilgrims in the Middle Ages. Sites popular with pilgrims included the Scala Santa (or ‘Holy Stairs’), reputedly the steps leading up to the praetorium of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem where Jesus Christ stood trial, and which, according to legend, were brought to Rome by St. Helena in the 4th century. The Roman-era catacombs were also a strong crowd-puller, a reminder of an age when Christianity was still an underground, persecuted faith. Traditionally, Medieval pilgrims to Rome also paid visits to Le Sette Chiese – or ‘seven pilgrim churches’. These were the four major Roman basilicas (St. Peter, San Paolo Fuori le Mura, St. John in Lateran and Santa Maria Maggiore), San Lorenzo fuori le mura, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (with its relics of the Holy Cross) and San Sebastiano fuori le mura. The custom was subsequently revived and codified by St. Philip Neri in the 16th Century.
The popularity of Rome as a pilgrim destination meant that a number of routes leading to the city were developed. One of the most ancient and best-known ones was the Via Francigena, a route which led from Canterbury through France and Switzerland on to Italy. This route is first described in the Itinerarium sancti Willibaldi of 725, a travel-diary of sorts kept by one Willibald, bishop in Bavaria and is first named as the Via Francigena in a parchment of 876 known as the Actum Clusio.
In 1299, thousands of believers converged on Rome at a time when Europe was being ravaged by famine and disease. This led Pope Boniface VIII to issue a bull declaring ‘the most full pardon of all their sins’, to those pilgrims who fulfilled certain conditions. 1300 was, in effect, the first Christian ‘Jubilee’, a periodical festival which would further entrench Rome as a leading pilgrimage destination. Among those who are recorded as pilgrims of that first Jubilee are Dante, Cimabue and Giotto. In later centuries it became customary for Jubilees to be marked by, amongst other events, celebratory concerts featuring premieres of major musical works. Rappresentatione di anima et di corpo by Emilio de’ Cavalieri (c. 1550-1602), often cited as the first oratorio, was performed in the Jubilee year of 1600 in the presence of over forty cardinals. The ‘Holy Year’ of 1700 witnessed new works by several composers then active in Rome – Mario Bianchelli, Pietro Paolo Bencini, Severo De Luco, Francesco Mancini, Carlo Cesarini and Francesco Grassi.
The Roman pilgrimage also inspired later composers. In Wagner’s 1845 opera Tannhäuser, the eponymous protagonist joins a band of pilgrims to Rome, to cleanse himself of the lustful excesses of the Venusberg. The Pilgrim’s Chorus – balm to the soul of Tannhäuser – is also a default choice in any self-respecting ‘best of … opera’ compilation.
The Jubilee pilgrims also make an appearance in Ottorino Respighi’s tone poem Feste Romane, where their steady march towards the Holy City is evoked through a reworking of the 12th Century German Easter hymn Christ is erstanden.The Grand Tour – A Secular Pilgrimage
From the earliest times, ‘place pilgrimage’, that is, actual travel to a holy destination, was generally seen also as a symbol of ‘moral pilgrimage’ (the Christian’s journey to salvation) and ‘interior pilgrimage’ (inner spiritual growth). In the late Middle Ages, some writers started to be critical of the practice of place pilgrimage, questioning whether this was really conducive to moral and interior pilgrimage. The narrative poem Piers Plowman by William Langland (c. 1322 – c. 1386), considered one of the highlights of Medieval English literature, attacks pilgrims to Rome and Compostela as ‘liars and hypocrites’ and presents as the authentic pilgrim the Christian who lives a life of daily obedience and service to the community. The Reformation was in the air. In the 16th and 17th Century, following Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries and with Reformist zeal at its height, pilgrimage was one of the practices banned in Protestant states as ‘superstitious Popery’. As a result, pilgrimage sites in England and the Northern countries were suppressed or at the very least discouraged. This meant that whereas pilgrimage remained an important practice within the Catholic tradition, it more or less died out in Northern Europe. Apart from this, travel became more widespread and the centrality of ‘pilgrimage’ as a spur to cultural exchanged waned.
This notwithstanding, ‘pilgrimage’ remained a potent literary and cultural metaphor. Indeed, there are clear parallels between the concept of ‘pilgrimage’ and the ‘Grand Tour’ which became popular with upper class English and Northern European young men from the 17th Century onwards. The final destination of the Tour was generally Northern and Central Italy, particularly the cities of Venice, Rome and Naples, although more intrepid travellers went on to Southern Italy, Malta and even Greece. Significantly, the Roman leg of the tour, besides taking in the sites of Classical remains, generally included a visit to the Pilgrim Churches. The main element which the Grand Tour shared with the Christian notion of pilgrimage was the idea that travelling could be an edifying ‘rite of passage’, leading not only to knowledge but also, more importantly, to self-discovery.
This concept was particularly dear to Romantic authors. It is no coincidence that Lord Byron’s epic narrative (and autobiographical) poem about a melancholic young man who seeks distraction in foreign lands is named Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. This work inspired Hector Berlioz’s Harold en Italie Op. 16, a four-movement symphony with viola obbligato which draws loosely on Byron’s poem and the memories of Berlioz’s own peregrinations in Abruzzo. Quite appropriately, in the second movement, Berlioz has his protagonist join a band of pilgrims on their march:
Another quintessentially Romantic figure, Franz Liszt wrote his piano cycles Années de pèlerinage as a diary of his travels. The title refers to Goethe’s coming-of-age novel Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre (Wilhelm Meister’s Journeyman – or Pilgrimage – Years), but a number of the pieces in Book I (Premiere annee: Suisse) are prefaced by extracts from (again!) Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage:
One of the pieces in Liszt’s collection – Le mal du pays (Homesickness)– is an important plot element in a recent bestselling novel by Haruki Murakami whose title also references Liszt. Unsurprisingly, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimagedescribes a protagonist who sets out on a journey to come to terms with his past. Tsukuru is introduced to Liszt’s work through a recording by Lazar Berman (which actually exists and sold out soon after the novel was published):
Ralph Vaughan William’s lifelong quest
One of the major literary works inspired by the concept of a spiritual journey is John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, sometimes referred to as the first English novel. It is the tale of a traveller called Christian, who sets off on an incident-laden journey from the City of Destuction to the Celestial City atop Mount Zion. This work fired the imagination of English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams who, time and time again, turned to Bunyan’s Christian allegory for inspiration.
Indeed, Vaughan Williams’s involvement with Bunyan’s text can itself be seen as a lifelong pilgrimage, one that would reach its culmination in the 1951 premiere of his opera ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ at Covent Garden. In a prologue, four acts and an epilogue, The Pilgrim’s Progress was in many ways the summation of the composer’s oeuvre, combining the folk-inspired simplicity of his Pastoral Symphony, the ecstatic mysticism of the Tallis Fantasia and the more angular and dissonant world of the Fourth and Sixth symphonies. Vaughan Williams preferred to call his work a ‘morality’ rather than an opera but was equally adamant that it should be performed in an opera house and not in a church setting, possibly to distance it from established religion. Similarly, he renamed Christian ‘Pilgrim’, universalising the work’s message. Unfortunately, The Pilgrim’sProgress has not managed to enter standard operatic repertoire. Hubert Foss, who contributed an enthusiastic essay-length review about the ‘morality’ in Music 1952 (an annual then published by Penguin), describes the audience’s perplexed reaction to the work:
At the end curtain […] the audience hardly dared to applaud – a bewildered but deeply moved audience. Vaughan Williams had (it was palpable over three hours of presence) transformed the Covent Garden theatre into a place of worship; the audience knew it, and was blushfully ashamed about what should be their new behaviour. A lady told me, after a later performance, that she thought at the closing curtain that she had been at a Church service. Listeners who have talked to me have recounted their enthralment – some a little shame-facedly, as if it were not respectable thing to be absorbed in one’s one home by a new and unconventional operatic production.
It seems that modern audiences are no less confounded by the ‘morality’s’ strange mix of the sacred and profane, as was evidenced in reviews to ENO’s recent revival. This is a pity, as it is a work which meant much to the composer and contained some of the his best music.
The journey which led to the 1951 premiere had a number of stations along the way. In 1906, for his edition of the English Hymnal, Vaughan Williams had set the Bunyan text To be a Pilgrim or He who would Valiant be to the Sussex folk melody known as Monk’s Gate. He would turn to Bunyan again for the motet Valiant for Truth.
More substantial Bunyan-themed works were the incidental music Vaughan Williams wrote in 1909 for a dramatic performance of The Pilgrim’s Progress at Reigate Priory (later expanded for a 1942 BBC production) and the ‘pastoral episode’ The Shepherds of the Delectable Mountains, for six soloists, chorus and small orchestra, which would be incorporated largely unchanged as Act IV, Scene 2 of the opera. However, the work which is possibly closest to The Pilgrim’s Progress in spirit and inspiration is Vaughan Williams’s fifth symphony. Written between 1938 and 1943, it draws heavily on music which the composer had already written for his operatic project. The third-movement Romanza, which strikes me as the emotional core of the work, uses themes which eventually resurface in Act 1, Scene 2. The score was originally headed by a line which is sung by Pilgrim in the opera: ‘He hath given me rest by his sorrow and life by his death’. The moving gravitas of the music seems worlds away from the self-declared ‘cheerful agnosticism’ of its composer.
The journey continues
Within the Catholic tradition, pilgrimage has never died out, with Marian destinations such as Lourdes and Fatima remaining particularly popular. However, past decades have seen a surprising resurgence of interest in the practice of pilgrimage in other quarters, and not just ‘religious’ ones. In an unexpected cultural shift, many young people – and not-so-young travellers as well – are rediscovering the Medieval routes and retracing them, in a bid to experience the spiritual fulfilment sought by early pilgrims. El Camino de Santiago was declared a European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe in 1987 – the first in the Council’s history. From around a few thousand yearly visitors in the 1970s, the Camino now attracts a staggering quarter of a million pilgrims annually. In 1994, the Via Francigena was also designated a ‘Cultural Route’, with its status upped to ‘Major Cultural Route’ in 2004. In November 2009, on the initiative of the Region of Tuscany and with the cooperation of the Vatican’s Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, the Italian Government announced a project to revive the Italian leg of the via ‘not only in spiritual and religious terms but also in terms of the environment, architecture, culture, history, wine and cuisine and sport’.
Meanwhile, in the UK, the British Pilgrimage Trust seeks to promote ancient pilgrims’ routes such as St. Hilda’s Way. Its website takes pains to distance itself from any particular religion, advocating a vaguely new-agey ‘bring-your-own-faith’ attitude. Yet, the advantages of spiritual travel which it lists on its website, including ‘rediscovering your relationship with self and nature’, the blessing of ‘companionship […] kindness, friendship and hospitality’ and ‘experiencing birth to death in a walk’ are goals which would have sounded familiar to the earliest pilgrims. It doesn’t stop here. Last month the UK National Lottery announced a funding of £399,000 to develop the Fife Pilgrims Way, a 70-mile route that will travel from Culross and South Queensferry to St. Andrews. On Easter Sunday, the 900th Anniversary of death of St. Magnus (known to many music-lovers through the works of Peter Maxwell Davies), a new pilgrimage route in his honour was launched in Orkney amid calls to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to recognise the role of pilgrimage in spiritual life, thus reversing centuries of hostility towards the practice.
Given this refound enthusiasm for the practice of pilgrimage, it is hardly surprising to find Arvo Pärt – possibly the best-known living composer of sacred music – writing a ‘Pilgrim’s Prayer’. What might be more unexpected (especially to those who consider Pärt a mere purveyor of meditative pieces) are the dark, dense textures of his Ein Wallfahrtslied. A setting of Psalm 121, it suggests the world-weary tread of the People of the Way, as much as the solace they seek.
A different sort of journey is provided by Andrew Norman’s virtuosic work for string trio The Companion Guide to Rome, a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Music. It is inspired by the year spent by Norman in the Italian capital as a recipient of the Prix de Rome and it consists of an idiosyncratic itinerary of his nine favourite Roman churches. Admittedly, the work is closer in spirit to the secular Grand Tour than to a spiritual journey in the conventional sense. However, its arresting gestures and use of unconventional techniques effectively convey the sense of wide-eyed wonder evoked by the sacred spaces portrayed.
For me, the work which best represents the reawakening of interest in pilgrimage is Joby Talbot’s Path of Miracles. Talbot composed this choral a cappella work in 2005 for the vocal ensemble Tenebrae Choir. Their critically acclaimed recording has just been reissued, coupled with Footsteps, a companion piece by the young choral composer Owain Park, newly commissioned as part of the ensemble’s fifteenth anniversary celebrations.
Path of Miracles is a representation of the journey to Compostela, each movement portraying a major ‘stop’ on the route from Roncesvalles to Santiago, via Burgos and Léon. Talbot resorts to a panoply of influences and vocal effects, from techniques borrowed from the Taiwanese Bunun people to Medieval chant, from dense clusters to haunting ostinatos mirroring the onward trudge of the pilgrims. The libretto by Robert Dickinson is similarly wide-ranging, using texts from the Psalms, Roman Catholic liturgy and the Codex Calixtinus sung in Greek, Latin, Spanish, Basque, French, English and German. Its intriguing combination of the familiar and the innovative, and the way it expresses the rich vein of Medieval tradition through a 21st century language, will certainly strike a chord with contemporary pilgrims who set off on ancient paths, seeking answers handed down from a common, half-remembered past.
Joseph Camilleri is an amateur organist and occasional chorister. He regularly writes articles and programme notes to accompany concerts, opera productions and CD recordings. He has presented radio programmes on classical music and for a number of years served on the Board of Directors of the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra. When not musically occupied, he can often be found reading books, generally of the ghostly type. He tweets at @joecam79.
By Kejhonti Neloms I’m not too bothered by shea moisture being owned partially by Bain capital. I feel that all of the things I enjoy are usually anti-me&you, so I’m not unfamiliar with that kind of cognitive dissonance. I’m still shook about Shea Moisture being #AllLivesMatter, though, and I can’t really place why.I should have predicted it. Not because I’m an economist or a psychic or something wild like that, but because I was happy–for once–that a product that was supposed to be friends with my hair just moved into the Walgreens right up the street from my house. But it’s a damn shame that my hope in Shae Moisture was all I needed to tell me that this product-that-made-it would eventually be used against me. Any time black people get something good, capitalism takes a shot at it. Sometimes, the company remains with the people. But most times, the company betrays us.
I’ve long given up hope in most companies purporting to be FUBU, but I was thoroughly shocked when I saw the above advertisement. Flabbergasted. Shook. Appalled. I’ve thought long and hard about why I was caught off guard. After a couple of days in deep thought with my ratchet ass friends, I still don’t have the answer, but I do have a few ideas. Maybe I was shook because I just spent like 30 dollars of my hard earned coin on their products at the recommendation of natural beauty guru Ashanti Waybriel. Maybe I was surprised because I loved the smell of Shea Moisture products so damn much. Maybe I was surprised because Shea Moisture, like Shaun King, was my first foray into wokeness™.Every negro has like 7 different hymns of adventure, loss and triumph concerning their hair. My sister Ashanti touched my hair once, and then just looked at me like, “Oouu no baby what is you doin???” My hair felt like Jesse Williams: Trifilin.Long story longer, after much push and pull, I found myself with Ashanti in the beauty aisle of Walgreens. She recommended Shea Moisture for “extremely ashy hair.” It was just my luck that it was buy one get one 50% off. So, being bad and boujee on a budget, I got everything (read: 4 items). The curl enhancer smoothie? Throw it in the bag. The curl activating conditioner? Throw it in the bag. The deep conditioning shampoo? I’ll take 2!I should have known there was some funny business because, after shampooing, I would put the conditioner in my hair, and I would be feeling like I just got a fresh conk. But then the VERY NEXT day, my hair would be even DRYER than when I started. So I would simply grab more conditioner, and repeat the cycle almost daily. It wasn’t until my FB timeline informed me that my experience with this product was not unique that I knew I had been betrayed. In fact, hundreds of black women have expressed that, after being loyal customers to the brand for years and years, the product is no longer working for their hair texture. Pause.A product, built for dark skins with thick, coarse-grain 4c hair, founded in 1912 by a West African woman, changed their formula to be all-inclusive. Where have we seen this before? #AllBeautyMatters, huh? Inclusivity is a not-so-code word for white accessability. It’s amazing to think that, what with all of the beauty products specifically designed for the minority that is white people, Shea Moisture would have the audacity to alienate the nappy headed niggas responsible for their glow up. They fronted us, sis.I’m typin’ on an Apple computer right now, wearing underwear from J. Crew, so it’s definitely not being a bedfellow with racist ass corporations that has me in my feelings. I think it’s that I let this product get way close to me. I’m used to being betrayed by Facebook, or Nike, or Panera Bread, but I felt safe with Shea Moisture. I let them into my bathroom. Shea has seen me naked.I know that capitalism is a global phenomenon, and I know that we are all unwilling participants in its maintenance, but damn! Why they gotta do me like that? So close and personal of a betrayal, while also not failing to reflect the pitfalls (inherently anti-me&you) of a free market economy.And really, Shea’s move is about the free market–and how the ‘free’ market always tips its hand against your black ass.It’s evident that the product line wanted to make more coin, but for what reason did it have to move at the expense of their loyal customers? The answer is obvious: Black People Can’t Have Nothing Nice and For Themselves, lest reverse racism. Philly wants to have an all-black BLM chapter meeting? Reverse racist. Greenwood, Tulsa? Cancelled. MOVE? Bombed. A hair product exclusively for people who can’t find a brand to meet their specific needs? #AllHairTexturesMatter. I’m truly glad that the internet exists. Not 2 hours after the advertisement had been posted, black femmes descended upon Shea Moisture like hood kids at the public pool on Memorial Day. Here are a couple quick reviews: There’s something truly remarkable about a company trying to stunt on us, only to be brought down from a 5 to 3 star rating in a New York minute (I’m sure it’ll be down to two stars by the time you read this). What’s not so surprising is how the Hoteps claimed that “there are more important issues to focus on than beauty supplies.”
So yall don’t want 2 boycott businesses like:
*Asian nail shops that beat up BW
*Companies that support Trump
But Shea Moisture is the issue
— Tariq Nasheed (@tariqnasheed) April 24, 2017
This is staunchly ironic, because it’s these same hotep niggas constantly running their mouths about Weaves, Make-up and Nails, but I’m sleep, though.I am usually exhausted by yt supremacy. I don’t even want to talk about it in depth. I actually have a hard time being shocked or surprised by anti-blackness. My reactions are often condensed into the same exact replication of an emoji that I would place on the brief headline of so-and-so black person being shot to death by white police today.Lately, I’m kind of like an eraser that has worn out, but instead of it being a wooden pencil–with a metal ferrule that would cut deeply into the paper–it’s a mechanical pencil, so it just has this dull, plastic, ineffective awfulness about it. But this has me bitter. I’m bitter that this hair product was supposed to work wonders for my naps, but I came too late to the party. I’m annoyed that both Caroline’s Daughters and SheaMoisture was EVERYONE’S first Natural Move, only to both eventually be bought by a yt corporation. I’m bitter because I saw that stupid ass advertisement with those yt people and that poor lightskint girl.I’m bitter because I still have like a whole ass bottle of both the curl enhancing smoothie and the Shampoo. I’m annoyed that the brand still carries a label that says founded in 1912, along with a story about a the matriarch of the family (no doubt with 4c hair) starting the company in West Africa, and breaking her back to make it into what it is today. I would bet if Sofi Tucker was alive, half of the products offered by her descendants wouldn’t even work on her black ass!I’m bitter, and how I assuage my bitterness is being messy as fuck. So, here is a list of small black-owned companies that are not owned by venture capitalists (yet), who offer products specifically for your melanated self, and who you should check out and see if it’s the right fit for you!: Naturally Me Khemistree Naturals Taliah Waajid Camille Rose Naturals Cantu Beauty The Mane Choice Maui Moisture Lottabody As I Am Jireh Hair Care Products Aunt Jackie Oyin Handmade: Natural Products for Happy Healthy Hair Alikay Naturals My Honey Child Afroveda Qhemet Biologics Uncle Funky’s Daughter LUV Naturals Coconut OilKejhonti Neloms is a queer student/teacher at JCTC. He has dreams of starting a community center for black queer kids.
The post How Shae Moisture fronted on us, and my messy list of alternative brands for your melanated selves appeared first on RaceBaitR.
By Chris Bissell
The word piobaireachd is literally the Gaelic for ‘pipe playing’ or ‘pipe music’. The term (often anglicised as ‘pibroch’) is now normally restricted, however, to the classical music of the Great Highland Bagpipe. Another name for it is Ceòl Mòr, meaning the Big Music (that is, ‘art music’), which distinguishes piobaireachd from other forms of pipe music (marches, reels, jigs etc.) which are referred to as Ceòl Beag – the Little Music (‘light music’).
Ceòl Mòr has its counterparts in Scottish and Irish fiddle and harp music, and is also related to the Welsh genreCerdd Dant (literally ‘string music’).
Bagpipes have been known in countries throughout the world, and are still used in folk music in many rural areas. We know of early bagpipes from depictions both in unsophisticated woodcuts and from classical paintings by the likes of Dürer and Breughel. But the origin of the emergence of the pipes is obscure, and old instruments in museums are difficult to date. At least one Scottish family (the Menzies Clan) claims to be in possession of instruments dating back to the fourteenth century – in this case the remnants of a pipe carried in the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 – but the claim is extremely unlikely to be true.
The traditional view is that the Great Highland Bagpipe was developed about 1600, but recent scholarship, particularly by Hugo Cheape, has called this into question, and has demonstrated the complexity of the historiography of the instrument. What is certain is that as early as 1760 Joseph Macdonald published his Compleat Theory of the Scots Highland Bagpipe, the first treatise/tutorial on the topic. The particular musical form piobaireachd or Ceòl Mòr is highly stylised, often slow in tempo, and tends to celebrate famous figures or events in lament form. It is normally performed while the piper processes slowly, often in a circle in the open air, especially in piping competitions. The playing of piobaireachd is now followed with enthusiasm other parts of the world, especially in areas with close Scottish connections such as Glengarry and Guelph in Canada; British Columbia and other places in the USA; and in Australia and New Zealand.
Construction and sounds of the Great Highland Bagpipe
A set of Great Highland Bagpipes is constructed of four main parts: the blowstick, the bag, the chanter and three drones. The piper blows through the blowstick into the bag, filling it with a constant air supply. The bag is first filled by the piper before playing starts and is continuously refilled as it continues, thus allowing the piper to create continuous sound. The drones are tuneable, and each contains one reed. The chanter, also provided with a reed, produces the tune by the piper covering and releasing finger holes, rather as in a recorder. Owing to its construction, a bagpipe generates an unusual scale.
Technicalities, notation and structure of piobaireachd
There are a number of technical problems in the notation of piobaireachd, partly due to the characteristics of the instrument, but also because even a fairly strict interpretation of a tune almost always displays significant individual variations between pipers, particularly in the often highly complex ornamentation.
Tonality and notation
This deceptively simple basic bagpipe scale hides a number of difficulties. First, although the pitches of the drones and the tonic note on the chanter are referred to as ‘A’, they are actually much sharper than this on the modern Great Highland Bagpipe (indeed, higher than B♭). Measurements have shown that modern chanters tend to tune between 470 and 480Hz instead of the standard 440Hz. For this reason, tunes are sometimes written with a D or even an A key-signature containing the accidentals for the benefit of non-pipers trying to reconcile bagpipe tuning with conventional classical notations. Second, the pipe scale is far from equal temperament: the nine notes available on the chanter are fixed, but not in the same relationship as in classical, Western instruments, and there is even still some debate as to precisely what they should be.
The Campbell Canntaireachd
In the early 1800’s the Highland Society of Scotland staged a competition to encourage the writing of piobaireachd on the stave. A number of pipers submitted proposals, but one competitor – Colin Campbell – came up with a radically different approach now known as the Campbell Canntaireachd [Gaelic for ‘chanting’]. His document, containing 168 tunes, was written in about 1797; instead of representing the music in staff notation, a form rather reminiscent of the sol-fa system was adopted – as if the tunes were being sung. Images of the tunes in the manuscript can be found on the Ceol Sean website. The story goes that Colin Campbell was taught (sung to) by his father Donald, who himself was a pupil of the piping dynasty the MacCrimmons. The distinguished piper and musicologist Barnaby Brown has reported his own experience with the canntaireachd technique in aninteresting projectsupported by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council.
The following example is paraphrased from the Campbell Search website. The beginning of the tune called Lament for the Viscount of Dundee appears in handwritten manuscript canntaireachd form as below.
This is more easily read in the transcribed version:
Himotra hahohioem hodinhiotra chelalhodin hiharara chehodroe hiharara hahohioem
Anyone learning this today from a teacher of piobaireachd, is likely to have the music written on the stave:
Note there are gracenotes which appear small, and some of these are meant to be longer than one might assume. For example the tiny E which is a gracenote at the very beginning of the line, might last up to half a second long, depending on the performer. A teacher of piobaireachd would sing the music to his/her pupil, using the canntaireachd syllables, to demonstrate how long these little notes should be.
The following figure shows three common types of such gracenotes.
From 1959 onwards a series of highly influential piobaireachd books was published by Roddy Ross called Binneas is Borereig [loosely translated as ‘Sweetness of the Pipes’], using a different notation format, probably closer to the real expression of the music. Bar lines and time signatures were omitted, to render the phrases more easily seen, and the long E notes at the beginning of tunes (such as in The Viscount of Dundee) were expressed as normal notes:
A classical piobaireachd tune starts with the ground/urlar, which usually follows a regular pattern – for example with three lines of music, the first two being six bars long, and the last line having only four. In the so-called ‘primary’ pattern, the ground is composed of two two-bar phrases, A and B, played in the following order:
There are, however, several other forms the ground can take.
Some modern musicologists have criticised the traditional, rather simplistic, urlar structure given above. Their approaches are too complex to be discussed further here, however, and require a good familiarity with piobaireachd; indeed, typically, hundreds of tunes were analysed in order to come up with the more elaborate schemes.
The initial urlar is followed by a number of formal variations, some of the most important are the taorluath (related to the Gaelic for ‘noble’ or ‘free’), and the crunluath (probably meaning ‘crowning movement’) which follows the taorluath in a piobaireachd tune. To complicate matters even further, each can be doubled, or exist in a number of sub-forms! Dublachadh, ‘doubling’, is a quicker version of a variation, played in strict tempo (comparable to the use of the term in a Baroque dance suite).
The ‘classical’ repertoire
The majority of the piobaireachd repertoire to this day consists of the ‘classical’ corpus of tunes, largely collected and printed in the 19th Century. The most important of these was Angus MacKay’s 1838 Collection Of Ancient Piobaireachd (illustrated below) although more recently some have questioned its historical and musicological accuracy. The National Library of Scotland holds many relevant manuscripts, easily found by searching for piobaireachd in the National Library of Scotland Manuscript Collections.
A useful fourfold classification of titles / themes is:
Salutes, laments, marches and gatherings
Names reflecting musical characteristics of the piece
Quotations from song lyrics, usually the opening words
Names of places, people and events
Detailed lists of Ceòl Mòr titles can be found in the Piobaireachd Society’s online library and on Ceol Sean’s Website. These fall overwhelmingly into the first category above: for example, 159 out of 252 in an analysis by Roderick Cannon.
In addition to MacKay’s book, a slightly earlier publication by Donald MacDonald (1820/1826) is the other major source; for reasons that remain obscure, serious collecting appears to have ceased soon afterwards.
One of the characteristic features of the piobaireachd repertoire is that, like many other musical traditions, great pride is shown by players in their ‘piping genealogy’ as a series of master-pupil relationships. Indeed, many, if not most, of the distinguished players of recent times trace their piping ancestry to the great piping families the Camerons, the MacPhersons and the MacCrimmons. (Again, however, Hugo Cheape has criticised this ‘tradition’.)
As is the case in many genres of highly-skilled traditional music,competitions play a large part in the social life, the maintenance of identity, and the education and training of piobaireachd players. The most prestigious of the piobaireachd competitions is probably the Northern Meeting, held in Inverness, but there are also many local competitions and performances at local and national Highland Games, as well as another celebrated national annual event in Oban and the North American Winter Storm gathering.
Competition rules have become stricter over the years, and are now characterised by (usually mandatory) repertoires, expert adjudication, and long preparation by the contestants.
Listening to piobaireachd
To the beginner, approaching piobaireachd as an art form is often problematic; it is certainly truer of piobaireachd than of many other genres that some knowledge of form and structure is vital.
The embedded video is a full performance of Donald Duaghal Mackay’s Lament played by the distinguished piper Roddy MacLeod at the Glenfiddich Championship of 2016 (the recording is introduced by some interesting remarks given by the Master of Ceremonies).
Experienced musicians may find the full score of interest. Such musicians will find this extract straightforward to follow initially (apart from a very different approach to the ornaments in the performance), but as the piece goes on it is easy to get lost even for those skilled in reading a score. There is no very obvious distinction between the various structural elements and melody, and ornaments are often difficult to disentangle (often modified by the performer); if one’s attention wanders it can thus be difficult to pick up the reading. For this reason, it is better for a novice interested in piobaireachd to be introduced to the art by attending an event, preferably with a knowledgeable companion, in order to experience the social context of piping performances as a whole. As with many other musical genres, listening to piobaireachd requires active engagement, rather than simply passive exposure.
By the beginning of the twentieth century piobaireachd was in decline: difficult, unfashionable, and often backward looking. The establishment of various specialist and interest-groups, however, such as the Piobaireachd Society (formed in 1903), and The College of Piping (founded a few decades later in 1944, and devoted to pipe bands as well as piobaireachd) played a vital role in putting the form on a sound musicological basis, thus ensuring the future of the genre. The original aims of the Piobaireachd Society were – and remain – clear and simple: ‘to encourage the study and playing of piobaireachd’. To this end, the Society has collected and published many important available piobaireachd manuscripts, and has a well-designed and comprehensive website including audio files, texts, images, and much else. While many documents and recordings are restricted to members, a significant proportion is freely available to users. Nevertheless, the Society is largely conservative, concerned above all with the preservation and editing of the classical piobaireachd tradition. Even the so-called piobaireachd ‘revisionist’ movement is concerned with re-interpreting such tunes in the light of rigorous modern research and scholarship.
Many younger pipers, however, have experimented with highly novel approaches, such as composing and playing music with a ‘fusion’ ethos or in unusual ensembles. For the latter, the tuning issues of the bagpipe must be addressed. If all the instruments can be appropriately re-tuned (predominantly strings) there is no problem. Barnaby Brown, Allan MacDonald and Matthew Welch are some names to watch, incorporating other genres such as jazz, eastern music, and so on.
Using a bagpipe with a whole range of orchestral instruments, however, is always problematic. Peter Maxwell Davies’s entertaining An Orkney Wedding with Sunrise is a case in point: the drones and chanter have to be tuned to a standard A of 440 Hz – that is, the pitch must be lowered by about a semitone, an enormous modification for a bagpipe. It is possible to buy a special chanter (expensive if used only for rare performances) or modify an old one (difficult except for music technicians). The resulting, modified, instrument feels and sounds very different, and depending on the auditorium and the position of the piper, it might be necessary to ‘lead’ the orchestra by a significant amount.
The more avant-garde and revisionist modern attempts, on the other hand, have not been universally well received in the piping community. Barnaby Brown has noted in a blogpost the absence of a review of the newly released and (in some quarters) widely admired Dastirum in Piping Times; when he queried this, the editor is said to have explained, ‘I don’t have a good word to say about it. It would lead people astray’ – in other words, it’s not ‘real piobaireachd’.
The bagpipe is one of the great cultural symbols of Scotland, known the world over and popularised by drum and pipe bands, the military connection, and the romanticised image of the ‘solitary piper’. In spite of such romanticisation, and the many myths surrounding the bagpipe, the classical music of piobaireachd is a complex and highly-developed art form, understood, performed, listened to, and appreciated by a small minority of Scots. Nevertheless, its circle of enthusiasts is probably greater than ever before, with societies large and small, and activities ranging from the most modest local events to the great piping meetings in Scotland, North America and the Antipodes.
Chris Bissell is about to retire from nearly four decades as an academic at the Open University, where he has taught mathematics and technology, and researched the sociology and history of these areas. He has also had a long-standing interest in music, and is currently a student of the Open University MA in Music. This essay derives from his Master’s studies; thanks are due to his tutor, Lucy Cradduck, for her perceptive comments.