Taorluath Gearr – a very tricky subject.
Today, it is routinely performed like this:
However, in Hannay-MacAuslan and Donald MacDonald, it is written like this:
You could say that you see how their scores may reflect an early mistake in notation. After all, MacKay, about 20 years later, wrote it as follows and it certainly looks like evidence that this species of taorluath should be played as short triplet to longer theme note:
But there are two problems with this conclusion. First is: Joseph MacDonald writes it in the same way, and he is no slouch when it comes to capturing rhythm. He calls it, “a most Martial and Beautiful Executions…”
Not definitive, but interesting.
The second problem is – both the anonymous transcriber and Donald MacDonald are perfectly capable of identifying and notating triplets:
In addition, in Salute to Young George, the taorluath gearr is very interesting: while it may be possible to play this as a triplet, it is very awkward. And when you try to play it up to today’s speed, it is, in fact, impossible to play.
These two problems might suggest that the taoluath gearr was not performed the way we think it was, necessarily. William Donaldson and Allan MacDonald have both suggested otherwise in other contexts.
I’m not sure what I think. I am more inclined to play it rather straight-forward, very percussively and driven. Some rhythmic imbalance exists, due to wanting to place a bit more emphasis on certain notes in the phrase, so it is not deadly, woodenly consistent. Something in between a triplet and what they are suggesting.
Again, this is idiosyncratic. But what is just as important: the score itself is surprisingly unexpected in its ambiguity. The silver lining is: it offers the performer a chance to interpret and bring new insight into this motion and cycle.
Here’s what I’ve done. What do you think?
More to follow…