c. In suibhal variations and in taorluath breabach variations, the Cameron piper will tend to play those variations “up the way”. There are a number of exceptions to this (see Campbell 1984 page 13 and Campbell 1948, page 19 for Archibald Campbell’s list) but the trend is clear.
Connell expressed to me that the melody lies in the varied upper notes not the drumming low A’s or low G’s. These lower notes are the loudest of the scale and can be used to good interpretive ends, but used in a repetitive way they become percussive and robbed of their special effect. Percussiveness is to be minimized. Give the lower notes good weight but move to where the melody and flow lies.
Following this “rule” can result in rhythmic contrast between variations, a contrast that is embraced amongst so much other consistency and repetition.
For example the first variation of “Corrienessian’s Salute” has repetitively accented or held low A’s. In the taorluath breabach variations, on the other hand, the analogous low A’s are shortened to throw emphasis to the second note of the breabach “kick”.
The staff examples below are from the Connell instructional material:
CORRIENESSAN’S SALUTE: stressed low A’s in First Variation
CORRIENESSAN’S SALUTE: unstressed low A’s in Taorluath Variation
Musical interpretation is based on two contradictory principles: repetition and variety. Repetition creates unity, familiarity and a sense of expectation, but a performance that is too repetitive becomes boring. Variety adds spice and interest, but a too varied performance seems erratic and unsettled. Often the balance of repetition and variety is where the taste and style of a performance lies.
12. Cameron style playing exhibits preferences for certain notes and their sonority vis a vis the drone accompaniment.
a. The notes of the chanter may be viewed as falling into three groupings: (1)the notes of consonance, (2) the notes of dissonance and (3) the “singing” notes.
The notes of consonance are the A’s, E and C. These are the fundamentals and notes that make simple, pleasant harmony with the drones These notes take care of themselves. I do not recall ever being advised to extend a C or E because they make such a fine harmony with the drones. The A’s are the fundamental and the low A is a note of repose and resolution. These should not be severely cut.
Then, there are the B and the G’s. These are notes of dissonance. I do recall being advised by Connell never to be afraid of the low G and never to “snatch at” high G. A well tuned low G, in particular, is a rich and resonant note that ought to be appreciated.
Of a character all of their own are the notes F and D. These two notes have the least harmonic support from the overtones of the drones and they tend to sing out in an insistent way. Connell often noted how Reid would prolong an F at the expense of the note before. I call these the singing notes.
Cameron stylists relish the dissonant notes (B and G) as well as the singing notes (F and D). They love to hold those notes delighting in their richness against the drone accompaniment. High G might also be called a singing note, but its song is rather more of a wail. It too should be embraced, especially as it lacks volume
(Please note that this classification of the notes of the chanter is purely mine for didactic purposes)
b. The idea of tonal sensitivity extends to gracenotes. The initial low G gracenote of the D throw is given good weight. Reid taught the first low G on the darodo movement with a similar and balancing low G. This was particularly a feature of Reid’s interpretation of “The Bells of Perth” where the D throw and darado were meant to echo each other.
c. The low G is the loudest note on the chanter, so a note accented by a low G gracenote must be of particular melodic importance. For example, it is the role of a cadence phrase to be a pause that reinforces in the listener the organizational structure of the tune. It is a musical sign post (see below).
A common cadence phrase (what Reid called a “cast off”) begins with an introductory E then moves to a graced middle note and concludes with a low G gracenote to low A. It comes to rest on the fundamental, the low A. Below shows these cadences as conventionally presented and approximately as played by the Cameron influenced piper. The length of the introductory E varies; sometimes it nears the duration of the other two notes of the motif. The convention of using that low A as a bridging note and thereby shortening it would be anathema to a Cameron stylist as it defies the logic of the notes sonority and the strength of its low G accent.
Campbell commented on this effect in the opening motifs of “Lament for Donald of Laggan” and the danger of shortening the low G graced low A. (See Campbell 1984, page 12). Another conspicuous example can be found in the tune “Kinlochmoidart’s Lament” as interpreted by Andrew MacNeill and noted in the previous Overview section.
d. The love of the Cameron style for these dissonant and singing notes of the chanter scale extends to their use as phrase endings. Pipers of the Cameron style have no compunction ending a passage or phrase on a prolonged D, B or even a low G.
While examples are many, two tunes will suffice. The first is Robert Reid’s interpretation of “I Got a Kiss of the King’s Hand” available on the College of Piping CD “Classics from the College, Volume One”. The following staff notation is the first line using conventions I employed in revisions to Connell’s instructional book.
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