Who are we?

About Us

Altpibroch.com brings together the work of many, many individuals. Its goal is to facilitate the study of pibroch by making the latest research and most significant source materials more accessible. Co-edited by J David Hester and Barnaby Brown, published by J David Hester, development of this site began in August 2013.

J David Hester, PhD

J David Hester started learning the bagpipes at the age of eight, after witnessing a “show and tell” at his 3rd grade elementary school. Much to the chagrin of his parents, he decided then and there to learn the bagpipes. (At the same time he began to learn violin, which he continued to play through college, performing in quartets, chamber orchestras and with the University of Redlands Symphony). He joined the MacPherson Highlanders of San Bernardino, under Pipe Major Jock Wilson, and continued playing with them until he was 20. After that, for the next 25 years he never really played again, only occasionally picking up his 1972 Lawries (with cane drone reeds and L&M ELK hide bag) to see if he remembered anything.

In 2010, he decided to return to music and after connecting with Jori Chisholm, began his journey back into piping. His interest was in pibroch, as it reminded him of the complexity and challenge of theme-and-variation works in classical music. He was fortunate enough to stumble across the Set Tunes Series by William Donaldson, and when he saw the wonderful variability of expression and performance captured by the pre-1840 manuscripts, he understood exactly what happened in the modern era of pibroch (it’s called “canonization” and “orthodoxy”). Thus, he began his research into how pibroch’s early sources could inform modern performance, and he began reaching out to and connecting with other souls who were similarly excited.

David received a PhD in Religious Studies from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, specializing in rhetorical theory and the rhetoric in and of biblical texts and interpretation. David has edited many collections of articles into book form, contributed to many conferences on religion and rhetoric, and has been published in journals of medical ethics, biblical studies and rhetorical theory.  He also has a monograph entitled Academic Contraints in Rhetorical Criticism of the New Testament (T & T Clark, 1999). He founded and co-edited the international online journal of rhetorical theory, Queen: a journal of rhetoric and power, and co-founded and led the international interdisciplinary conference series “Rhetoric of…” at the University of Redlands, exploring sex & gender, healing, religion and other contemporary topics.

He received an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship grant to the University of Tübingen and the Interfakultäres Zentrum für die Ethik in den Wissenschaften, where he studied with Prof. Dietmar Mieth researching into the constraints introduced by physician and medical rhetorics upon clinical cases of hermaphroditic children.

He was executive producer of the seminal underground record album Dark City, a compilation of four underground bands, including his own, in San Francisco in the 1980s.

In short, he’s been doing a lot of different things, even musically, for a very long time.  And now, he has founded and edits the Alt Pibroch Club website.

Barnaby BrownBarnaby Brown - pipes 2011

Born and raised in Glasgow, Barnaby Brown learned his Highland piping in two stages. The first, aged 8-13, involved weekly lessons from Thomas Pearston, Seumas MacNeill and Fred Morrison (senior) at the College of Piping. The second, aged 25-31, involved regular visits and recording sessions with Donald MacPherson, culminating in the publication of A Living Legend in 2004. Between these two stages, Barnaby was principal flautist of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, studied music at the University of Cambridge, took up the baroque flute, sang with the Choir of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, and was a primary classroom music teacher in Rome.

Barnaby is the first Highland piper to apply the principles of the early music movement to pibroch. He began measuring historic instruments with Julian Goodacre in 1998 and plays a reproduction of a chanter from c.1680. His historically-informed performance style led to three appearances at the Edinburgh International Festival and numerous invitations to festivals abroad. His broadcasts, recordings, articles and editions have helped to revolutionise the way pipers approach the sources of pibroch (1760–1850), enriching the tradition beyond the legacy of the competition system. Many of these are available at www.barnabybrown.info/publications.

His quest to revive the northern triplepipe, the bagpipe’s predecessor, led to six years in Sardinia and the formation of Band-Re with guitarist Gianluca Dessí. Their debut album, Strathosphere (2006), draws on an eclectic range of traditions to inspire original compositions and refresh historic Gaelic material. Between 2006 and 2012, Barnaby was a lecturer at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, leading the modules “Composing & Arranging”, “Listening Skills” and “Historical Studies” on the BA (Scottish Music) course, “Teaching Musics of the World” on the BEd (Music) course, and “Dynamic Voice” introducing all 1st-year students in the School of Music to a broad spectrum of musical traditions and notations.

Barnaby’s recent intercultural projects include reviving the silver pipes of Ur (c. 2450 B.C.); composing works for gamelan and Highland pipes; developing the “Music of 5 Nations” with Mick O’ Brien, Pauline Cato and François Lazarevitch; forming the ensemble Swagatam; and co-directing the Scottish Government commission “Yatra” for the Edinburgh Mela, combining Japanese Taiko, Indian dhrupad, and Scottish traditions. His research interests include the craft of composition with only 4–6 pitches, historical intonation and canntaireachd (the vocal substitute for Gaelic piping). He is currently writing a PhD thesis on the Campbell Canntaireachd at the University of Cambridge, funded by the AHRC project “Bass culture in Scottish musical traditions”.