Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Myy, time flies! It seems like just last week, I was sitting in my dorm room listening to BBC online when I, no doubt should have been studying. I don't remember what it was I was supposed to be studying, but I do remember I happened to catch the final round of competition for Young Scottish Traditional Musician of the Year. I remember that all of it was enough to keep me on the edge of my seat. There was some lovely fiddling and some insanely good accordion playing that sticks in my mind, and the aforementioned set of puirt. I can safely say that catching that particular broadcast lead, in one way or another, to many of my current interests, linguistic and musical (although I have not yet showed much inclination towards playing the accordion.)
Anyway, it fits in very well with the recent inclinations of this blog towards songs which are related to piobaireachds (as is the first of the set) and mouth music (as is the rest of the set), not to mention last Friday's video. If, perchance, you like it as well as I do, yes, the whole CD is well worth owning.
Monday, June 29, 2009
The pictures I didn't get would just break your heart (oh well, broke mine, anyway!) The sweep of land from the foot of the mountains into Minden itself is largely pasture, very green pasture, veined with small, bright streams. That would be worth the drive to see, but the drive itself was more than worth the drive. I rode down with my aunt and uncle over Highway 88 (Carson Pass Highway). I have never in my life seen the likes of that.
Evidently, the government has decided to categorize roads like this: they are called National Scenic Byways. To say Carson Pass Highway is scenic is like saying that the ocean is a little bit damp. You can see a few photos here.
What you miss in the photos, of course, is the firsthand experience of a piney, granite wilderness that stretched off forever to the south, while to the north, mountain upon fainter blue-green mountain folded up, one on another, to the Canadian border (or so it seemed.) A million small and lovely things were woven continuously over the giant beauty of the mountains. Come around one corner, and you were startled by the red sparks of penstemons growing in a crack of the bank, come around another, and a pool of lupines was splashed across the hillside, or a wild rose bush was bursting into bloom, as fresh as dawn itself.
What I don't know is how my uncle managed to keep watching the road, but, thinking back on the high places, I am eternally grateful to him for doing so.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
The piobaireachd itself I mentioned in passing a few weeks back, but here is a link again to the Captain's Corner, in case anybody is curious. The recording (Willie McCallum, no less) is about halfway down the page at present, in the Metro Cup-2009 article. The second variation starts at about 5:55.
It looks like the first volume of Bonnie Rideout's fiddle piobaireachd project is finished! You can listen to samples from some of the tracks at Maggie's Music. I'm still a bit up in the air as to how well I take to fiddle piobaireachd (I prefer the simplicity of a well-tuned set of pipes), but it does sound like there are some neat arrangements on here--"Dargai," is particularly lovely--and, of course, the fiddle is pure soul!
. . .And, speaking of piobaireachd, I saw this comic yesterday, and was amused.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
"Ss, ss, ss," said Gollum. He had been underground a long long time, and was forgetting this sort of thing. But just as Bilbo was beginning to hope that the wretch would not be able to answer, Gollum brought up memories of ages and ages and ages before, when he lived with his grandmother in a hole in a bank by a river, "Sss, sss, my preciouss," he said. "Sun on the daisies it means, it does." --J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
That was what sprang to mind when I found these flowers in Minden, Nevada last week. I was waiting to meet family and had a couple of hours to spare. There was a little park, or perhaps a border, around a small pond. The landscaping, as you can see, was very nice. There were drip lines under the bigger bushes (mostly currants and Oregon grapes) and the small trees, which were obviously put there on purpose, but everywhere else it looked as though Nevada had been left to fill in as it pleased. And it pleased!
Where was I? Oh, daisies. I have doubly enjoyed the memory of that "eye in a blue face," riddle since taking Old English. At some point, we learned the original form of the word "daisy" was the Old English dæges eage*, literally "day's eye," comparing it, if I remember aright, to the sun itself. Given Tolkien's philological inclinations the good old riddle is likely linguistic as well as picturesque.
*It's pronounced approximately "DYE-ess EYE-uh"
Friday, June 26, 2009
A Mhàiri bhàn òg 's tu 'n òigh th'air m'aire,
Ri m'bheò bhith far am bithinn fhéin,
On fhuair mi ort còir cho mór 's bu mhath leam
Le pòsadh ceangailt' o'n chléir,
Le cùmhnanta teann 's le banntaibh daingean,
'S le snaidhm a dh'fhanas, nach tréig:
S e t'fhaotainn air làimh le gràdh gach caraid
Rinn slàinte mhaireann am' chré.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
In News of Grandeur, the online magazine PipesDrums posted this today:
BBC Scotland to stream World's live from Glasgow Green
For those who are not automatically jumping up and down, giddy with delight at this information, "The World's" are the World Pipe Band Championships. The title, by the way, is not exaggerated: the bands you would see in this broadcast truly are the finest. As the article explains, too, this will be the first time the stream has been available outside the U.K. So, write it down, and start counting the days!
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
But the real news of the day: a man named Ross Anderson has (with the permission of the author) posted Allan MacDonald's thesis in its entirety! The title should explain most of the interest: The Relationship Between Pibroch and Gaelic Song: Its Implications on the Performance Style of the Pibroch Urlar.
While you're at it, there is plenty of other interesting piping material (largely historical) to browse through at the same site: Ross's Music Page.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
'Twas a summer's day in winter
And the snow was raining fast
When a barefoot boy with boots on
Stood sitting in the grass.
Much to my amazement I found that I had also copied Stephen Vincent Benet's "The Mountain Whipoorwill," a much longer and very musical poem about a fiddler from the backwoods of Georgia.
Monday, June 15, 2009
P.S. Did you see on the homepage--the Gaelic word for "search" is "rannsaich." That's one of those Old Norse hand-me-downs. In English, we have "ransack."
Sunday, June 14, 2009
The midwest doesn't have the only former-maritime claim, though. Bakersfield, California, (yes, Bakersfield) was once the home of similar large toothy creatures. Here is an example of the toothiness, and an article about the head bone, the neck bone, etc.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Thursday, June 11, 2009
One of the neatest classes I ever took was Viking Archaeology. The teacher, a Dane, by way of Saskatchewan, knew a good deal about all aspects of the life and times of ancient Scandinavians, but the subject that most brought out his infectious enthusiasm was that of boats. One evening he introduced us all to a wealth of new words, like "clinker-built," "strakes," (in a clinker-built boat, the strakes, or planks, overlap somewhat like shingles) fantastic names like Roskilde, where the remains of several medieval vessels were recently found under the mouth of the harbor. He loved good carpentry, and that enthusiasm, too, was terribly contagious.
When it came time to write a paper for that class, I had a notion to do something on the Hebridean/Scandinavian connection. Language, if I recall aright, was my first focus, something generally relevant, such as examining Norse loan-words in Gaelic. But, as I said, the professor's interest in boats was contagious, and I caught it bad. I ended up in a compromise and wrote about birlinns, the longships of the Hebrides. Despite its wonderful subject-matter, it ended up being an inexcusably dry paper. . .but I ramble.
The main point being, although I have forgotten all too much of what I learned in the class, birlinns still hold a good deal of fascination. A good introduction to the subject (in the absence of an enthusiastic professor) is the Comunn Birlinn website. In addition, you can browse through the website for the galley Aileach, a modern birlinn built to old designs.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Which brings us to the promised slow air. If you go to this site, which is a branch of Lismor Recording, you can listen to a track from Hailey's Song, the slow air being "Banks of Lochiel," followed by a couple of jigs.
Here is SFU's medley from last year, where you can hear another take on "Banks of Lochiel," (it's also "Braes of Lochiel" or "Braighe Loch Iall," depending on who you ask) at exactly 3:00. Not to give anything away, but they speed it up into a march, and it sounds pretty neat!
Before I leave you in peace for the day, I would like to somewhat change the subject, and return to the Lismor Recordings site. It's a very neat collection of music, and they make certain that you know that. Quite a few of the albums let you sample entire tracks! Indeed, some of the albums, such as those in the World's Greatest Pipers series (Willie McCallum has another great album in #14 of the series), will let you hear each and every tune in its entirity. I am very big on the idea of buying tracks or albums, as you need them, but I very much like to know what I am buying, so this setup is optimal! (The 30 second clips on iTunes are inevitably the 30 seconds you were least curious about.) Their search feature is likewise very user-friendly, allowing you options for searching for an artist, an album, or just a single title. I should add, it's by no means all piping--with fiddling, singing, and plenty else, there should be a little something for everyone over there. By all means, take a look!
Monday, June 8, 2009
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Saturday, June 6, 2009
By WWII the playing of pipes in battle was prohibited (having a piper play under fire, as seen numerous times in WWI, while an undeniable inspiration for the surrounding men, was unusually dangerous for the piper). Lord Lovat knew when an exception was in order; he ordered his piper, Bill Millin, to play the troops ashore on Sword Beach. But be sure and listen to the link above--it's much better to hear the piper himself tell it!
Here is a wee bit more on the episode, along with a photograph.
Friday, June 5, 2009
Thursday, June 4, 2009
One thing I do not expect to miss is my smoke alarm. A smoke alarm is supposed to serve mankind, to save lives and property, not to lurk on the ceiling, winking its one green eye and plotting as to just how it might drive the human mind squealing over the brink of insanity. Most smoke alarms know their place, and keep it. My smoke alarm, however, is unprincipled.
The first day I was in the apartment was in November. I don't remember whether it was so early that I was fixing coffee, or whether it was late enough to warrant tea, but what I do remember is that I put a pot of water on the stove. Water. And the smoke alarm went off. My culinary skills are not exactly Cordon Bleu, but I had, until that time, prided myself on being able to boil water without burning it.
And that is how it has been ever since. The smoke alarm crouches on the ceiling so quietly, that I think it is asleep, and sometimes, perhaps, it is, but it is impossible to tell just when it might awaken, and pounce. I can understand if it complains about my using whichever burner has received the latest overflow of oatmeal, rice, or potatoes, but if I use a clean burner--a clean stove--why the attack? It has no morals, I tell you.
I am quietly cooking my supper, adding various ingredients to a pot of chicken broth. Work is behind me for the day. Time has slipped into a deep stream of silence that is only heightened by the occasional drum roll of sleet against the windows. I like cold weather very well, but it has been a long day, and I am looking forward to loosing myself in the soup. I add a handful of broccoli. The wind howls through the back yard. I toss in some noodles. The smoke alarm, which I had foolishly turned my back on, suddenly screams itself awake.
In apartments all around me, I can feel unknown neighbors putting on their shoes, grabbing axes and St. Bernard dogs, getting ready to beat down the door and rescue me. The fire department is suiting up, and calling in reinforcements from Bakersfield. In a single graceful motion, I wrench open the back door (the sleet is beating on the screen), bruise my knee on the corner of the counter, grab the desk chair, stumble over a couple of books, and leap up (nearly tipping the chair over) to the level of the alarm. It is winking at me ghoulishly. I, however, am a human being, a master over any mere collection of plastic and wires. I press "Reset," and the screaming stops. I look down, suspiciously at the stove. A bit of steam, but nothing more catastropic. It looks like a very normal, unburned pot of soup to me. There does not seem to be any smoke in the air. I look (unkindly) at the smoke alarm. It winks once, very sleepily.
I close the back door, put on an extra sweater, and begin to chop some ginger. I get a handful of green beans out of the freezer and add them to the soup. The alarm turns over in its sleep, takes a deep breath and begins to exercise its little electronic vocal cords again. It has a strange power over me. Just a word, and I panic (and so do the firemen, who, down the street, are hurrying into the jackets they just took off. They call for air support to stand by). There goes the door again, the knee in the counter, the desk chair (wisely, I had not moved it back to its place), and my finger on the reset button. This time, I make sure. I leave my finger there until my arm is stuck in a position permanently over my head, while icecicles three feet long form on the kitchen ceiling, and the sleet drifts across the soup, which has frozen solid. Then it is safe to come down.
If it were only a matter of recognizing the defects inherent in a bunch of wires and plastic, I wouldn't mind the whole problem, but the fact is, my smoke alarm is something more than wires and plastic, something more evil and calculating.
A couple of weeks ago, I was warming up corn tortillas in a frying pan. This was after I had started packing to move up north, and the house at large was, to put it quite mildly, a mess, with books stacked all over everything, and everything stacked all over books, with more books and everything on top of that. But I was hungry, so in the midst of this confusion, I was standing at the stove, eating tacos as fast as I could warm the tortillas, when from somewhere in the wilds of the books and everything, there was a monstrous sound. The smoke alarm was going off. The shrill insistence of the thing--it was like having a five pound mosquito nesting in your head--sent me into a panic. Still, my reflexes were good, as they kicked in. The door was thrown open, the knee was bruised, the desk chair--! The desk chair was buried under everything, with some books on top, with everything around it, and some more of everything on top of that. Even in my agitated state, I could see it would probably take me a couple of months to dig it out.
"Hee hee! Hee hee! Hee hee!" said the smoke alarm. This infuriated me. I grabbed the tallest thing that had the least amount of books on it, which was the bar stool. I am not good with heights. I dislike standing on the desk chair, so you will understand, this was a drastic measure. I dumped the books on top of everything on the floor. "Hee hee! Hee hee! Hee hee!" the alarm chortled. The mosquito in my head seemed to be attending a homecoming game, at least there were now several thousand more of them in there with her.
I thrashed around the floor under the alarm, trying to clear enough of everything away to give the stool a place to stand. "Hee hee! Hee hee!" It is a fairly tall stool, and I was hoping kneeling would bring me within reach of the reset button while still allowing me to keep my balance. "Hee hee! Knee knee!" the alarm taunted me. My fingers were just short of reaching the reset button. To make up those few inches I would have to stand up on that ungainly bit of furniture. I thought about how it would be when they found me with a broken neck among the books and everything. This idea pleased the smoke alarm. "Hee hee! Hee hee! Hee hee!" it said, realizing its evil machinations were close to their goal. "Hee hee! See See! See See!"
I stood up, quivering, slowly, and felt the reset button touching my finger, "Ye See! Ye See! Ye See!" the alarm screamed defiantly.
"You are only a machine," I said, and pushed the button.
"See--!" And the horrible, taunting voice was dead. The 3,796 mosquitoes in my head were suddenly gone. It was quiet, oh such a quiet! Still shaking, I climbed down from that Everest of a stool. Oh, silence is golden! Is platinum! Is diamonds! Is--
But why that awful echo that still whispered, "Ye See! Ye See!" with such calculated clarity? I looked up at the alarm, which was silent, smirking at me. Smirking, because when I looked at the stove, I did see. When I had gone out to battle the smoke alarm, I had left a tortilla in the frying pan, and now the tortilla was smoking.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Anyway, being fairly new (?) to the finer points of blogging and all, I'm always a little confused on whether everything on YouTube is up for grabs. I figure, if it was taped at a show, then it's already public anyway, but this being solo and all, I thought I'd double-check with Mr. Levinger himself before posting it. His words: "I post these videos to make other people happy as I am when I listen to these tunes."
If that is so, I think perhaps we are a little luckier than Mr. Levinger--I'm willing to bet that no matter how good the tune sounded the first time he heard it, it was not so rich as what we are treated to here:
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Monday, June 1, 2009
Anyway, the video is not only an informative window into the behind-the-scenes work done by a pipe band, but a perfect introduction to some of today's greatest solo pipers.
Footnote: A couple of weeks ago, I was talking about the way a lot of players tend to use their own particular dialects of canntaireachd as a sort of extension of their spoken word. There at the very beginning of the video, you can see an example of Roddy MacLeod singing to establish the tempo of the set in very fine pipe-majorly style.
I embedded the video here since I thought it might be easier just to click and watch/listen, rather than following an extra link, but the restrictions of the blog cut a bit off the right side. You can watch the trailer bigger and better here, at the film's website: On the Day.