APC Approach 1: PS 171 – End of the Great Bridge (Part 4)

Here are a few other things for your consideration, things you have never seen before (unless you’re a visitor to this site).

First, half grips used as light D-throws:

Second, whatever in the heck these are:

Additionally, this edre to high-A, which has long since been changed to an embari to high-G (following MacKay’s score):


Finally, a couple of thoughts about the taorluaths and crunluaths:

I’ve come to realize that, by respecting the scores, an interesting and new musical dimension to the performance is introduced.  It’s one that others may have thought of before, but it was only recently that it dawned on me: a very distinct new phase in the performance is introduced when the compound time structure of these movements is played against ]the earlier, most often common time structure of variation cycles such as the dithis and siubhal.

Just take a look:

This effect is simply lost in modern (read 20th-century) taorluath  and crunluath movements.  Played as they are today, the variations effectively continue the common time feel of the previous movements.  This is not “refinement” (as some have argued).  This is repetitive-ness.

Particularly when no urlar returns are played to break up the monotony (not “intensity”) of the unfolding structure, which comes across to audiences as nothing more nor less than increasingly more complex finger exercises.  No wonder we are told, “All pibroch sounds the same”: it does.  The fundamental rhythmic structure is carried through the entire cycle of motions: it’s all common time.

Rule 6* – Play the urlar refrains

When the compound time structure of the traditional (formerly known as “redundant-A”) taorluaths and crunluaths is maintained, a refreshing change is introduced.  Coupled with the re-introduction of urlar refrains, and a truly different experience is encountered, where the audience is taken on musical journey of much greater variability and breadth.

You will see this when I play this pibroch for you.

More to follow…


4 thoughts on “APC Approach 1: PS 171 – End of the Great Bridge (Part 4)

  1. Are the “redundant” A and compound timing linked in this way? I agree that you are right that a taorluath and crunluath duinte should have a 3/8 feel too it (I realized recently, in my transcription exercises that I was doing that) but you can do that with today’s version of the movements just fine.

    It is interesting how the timing changes in breabach tunes. The crunluath stays more or less the same, with an extra two notes, for 5/8. The taorluath though, does not simply get another note and turn into 4/8, instead it gets stretched out to 6/8 and the extra time provides for the distinction of playing “up” or “down”. I think that’s how it works, anyways.

    I think the redundant A is a separate thing that you can either do or not do. It certainly is useful for controlled, rich, crunluath technique to think of the movement in two parts, a grip and an edre, rather than a succession of beep beep beep grace notes that can easily go off the rails.

  2. I agree that the traditional style (aka “redundant-A” – a judgmental phrase) is something that can or cannot be done. But I find that, musically, the shift form common to compound-style timing that the taorluaths and crunluaths brings an interesting new dimension to the performance.

    It seems from many of the manuscripts I run into that they rather frequently, if not perhaps even consistently, shift the timing of the measures from 4/4 to 6/8 when the taorluath and crunluath motions come along. I’m not sure of “link” being sought, but what seems apparent is that the traditional style performance of these movements were thought of as compound and written this way.

    Whether we choose to play them this way, or feel compelled to, is another matter. But I certainly am enjoying them. And: when performed this way, suddenly the low-G taorluath and crunluath rhythms make sense, whereas when played in midst of modern style movements, they stand out as odd.

    1. It may be that “redundant” is somewhat pejorative, but “traditional style” is also problematic. This came up in another discussion recently where I was, justifiably, accused of mis-using the word “modern”. One way or another, there is now a tradition of at least 100-150 years of playing taorluaths and crunluaths without the extra A, and of playing shakes with a quick first, and long second strike and an emphasis on the last note. Calling a practice that has been going on for at least a century “modern” is a little bit strange, and at this point both ways have a claim to be “traditional”. Our problem now is that we are lacking words that will satisfy everyone.

  3. In the long history of pibroch, the empirical evidence shows that the “redundant-A” style was in effect much earlier and (in the absence of evidence, I can only assume) for a lengthier period of time. In that context, what took hold in the 20th century is, comparatively, “modern”. Neither label is meant to be an ethical reflection, unlike the current pejorative “redundant” label. In that respect, I feel comfortable sticking with these terms. Of course, that doesn’t mean other terms can’t be explored!

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