Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bagpipes with a different sound: Seudan

These days, the Highland pipes are most often heard playing military music, and even when they turn to laments, the pitch and timbre of the pipes tends to be quite bright and piercing, just because that is the way most modern pipes are constructed. This music is often quite melodic and stirring. There is an older sound of the pipes, though, with a bit of a different pitch and a different take on rhythm, and that is what the group Seudan offers on their self titled album.

Seudan (that is pronounced shayt-tan and means jewels in Scottish Gaelic) is pipers seudan highland pipes album coverCalum MacCrimmon, Angus MacKenzie, Fin Moore and Angus Nicolson. Each of the four men plays a set of pipes made by Fin Moore and his father Hamish, pipes which are matched copies of 18th century Black sSet of Kintail pipes in the Inverness Museum. The pipes are made of ebony and with mounts in silver.

When they went to set up these pipes, they found that they play naturally at a lower pitch than the brighter sound which has evolved over the centuries as Highland pipes were found increasingly in military and exhibition situations. The men decided to take the sound of the pipes back to an earlier time in another way, as well, playing music which focuses on the rhythms of dance and Gaelic speech rather than march time pieces.

There are lively pieces which are part of and support the rhythm of quick step marches, step dancing, waulking songs with their work driven beat, and melodies which reference the nuances of Gaelic song and the sound of the sea. Many of these pieces come from the Western isles in Scotland, and a number of them come also from the island across the sea, Cape Breton in Atlantic Canada, where traditions of Scottish music have been handed down as strongly as they have within Scotland itself.

It is a program well worth the hearing all the way through, and more than once. Highlights, though, inlcude The Rock, which is a set of Cape Breton tunes, and Tha Mulad, which is a set of songs. Guests who sit in with the band include Mac Morin on piano, Donald Hay on percussion, and Allen MacDonald and Kathleen MacInnes, singers.

you may also wish to see

Bagpipes & bluegrass: Outlands from Fred Morrison
MScotland & Cape Breton: tradition and innovation
Celtic Connections 2011: images, part two

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


Anonymous Living Large said...

There's nothing more beautiful and haunting to me than music with bagpipes.

8:28 AM  

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