Primary sources are required.
What does this mean?
- It means we recognize that while all other sources may be interesting from the perspective of stylistic evolution, they are secondary and full of accretions. Later sources reflect the styles of later periods and editorial hands. This is particularly true of the Piobaireachd Society and Kilberry Collections, both of which are the idiosyncratic product of a particular person on a personal mission. They are interesting as a way of witnessing the development of the song’s* performance over time. But secondary sources are late, and what we want to do is get at the earliest core behind the score to help us understand what we will be interpreting.
- It means, regardless of whether you decide to review and eventually perform the secondary, derivative materials, you start by getting back to the the primary sources, contrasting and comparing them with each other and with these later sources. This will help you understand the development of the pibroch over time. It will also help you get familiar with the family characteristics of style that certain manuscripts and editors represent. It will help you interpret these stylistic choices, and begin to sensitize you to the extent and breadth of the living aspect of musical performance that has been lost due to notational fundamentalism and interpretive orthodoxy.
- It means that after you review the many sources to a song*, you work with (and not against) the scores to respect and appreciate the particular interpretive approach that the transcriber captured. This will bring you new musical insights that will inform your interpretive choices and eventual performance.
- It means that when you choose modern primary sources (e.g. Donald MacLeod, John McClellan, Bruce Gandy, etc.), you pay for their tunes and get them from legitimate sources. Sometimes these sources are written. Sometimes they are performed, only. Regardless, you give the composer their due and your respect. (On the other hand, you needn’t slavishly mimic the composer’s interpretation of the tune – the composer is simply one interpreter of the score s/he created.)
In every case, you set aside the accretion of secondary editions and their editorial hands and you experience and let confront you the earliest origins of the tune you have available, as a matter of developing your own musical and interpretive education.
Otherwise, it would be as though one were an artist or art historian who found it acceptable going to a museum and seeing a poster of a third-party reproduction of the Mona Lisa: no matter the excuse, but you haven’t actually seen the real thing, until you have.