On Hannay-MacAuslan: Movements

J David Hester, PhD

Below is a collection of unfamiliar movements that appear throughout the scores of the Hannay-MacAuslan manuscripts, including brief  audio clips to help you hear and familiarize yourself with them.


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See our article on the proper expression of cadences.  These should generally be played as acciaccatura “trickling stream cadences”, but may effectively be performed as appoggiatura “E-cadences” to emphasize the following note.  However, unlike the modern predilection to turn the E-cadence into a melody note itself, every cadence (of whichever style) should serve the melody, not become the melody.


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Two important things to note about double-beats: First, double-beats appear in places of H tunes where modern scores place echo phrases.  The rhythm of double-beats, however, is opposite of that of the echoes: dot-cut to a 1/4 note, whereas echoes are cut-dot to 1/4 note.  Additionally, double-beats do not have a held grace note, whereas the chief characteristic of a pibroch echo phrase is its held second low A grace note.

Second, girls so note exist in H.  Instead, low A double beats are used.

The impression of a double-beat is that of a phrase that rhythmically sustains the main melodic line, whereas echo phrases are virtuosic disruptions of the main melodic line.  It is reasonable and interesting to consider echo phrases as virtuosic elements, playing double-beats brings a fascinating structural integrity to the tune that has not been heard until you play them.


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Both light and heavy are represented in Hannay-MacAuslan.  It is interesting to note that the transcriber captures exactly the grace note cluster of a heavy D throw.  While it is true that heavy D throws were favored by Donald MacDonald, Angus MacKay’s book favored the lighter.  With respect to H, it is fascinating to see where and when the heavy-D throw machine a tune, and to note that modern light throws show up very rarely (the lighter D “roll up” being the more favored version, as it appears in the D double-beat.


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This is a strange and unfamiliar movement to most pipers.  It is only found only in H in the urlar of End of the Great Bridge (PS 171).


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Grips as we know them today do not make an appearance in H.  Where a grip is written stands a two-gracenote combination that avoids the final low G we would expect.  Even in taorluath and crunluath movements, a low A is favored over that of the low G.


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Note how the transcription of the bubble movement on B suggests a performance opposite to what we are inclined to play today: Today we view the low G “melody” notes broken by a B grace note. H suggests it is the B that is the melody note, with the low Gs being the less dominant grace note sounds of the movement.  This is in keeping with H’s general avoidance of low G grace notes, giving a dominantly lighter feel to movements and, therefore, to the melody overall.


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The same characteristics noted for the bubble movement on B are shown here with the darado: it is the low G that is the grace note between the dominant melody notes of D-C-B.

Edre and Dari

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Note yet again the insight into performance of the edre and dari that H brings: the main melody notes are E-F-E and F-G-F, respectively, with low A grace notes in between.  This is opposite of the way we have to taught to think of these movements. These, too, lend to the generally lighter impression of tone and melody which is characteristic of H tunes.

High G Gracenotes from High A

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It is routinely assumed that high G grace notes from high A cannot be played.  This is simply not true.  The half cadences that make their appearance in H after high As are quite possible to perform, and and a lovely opportunity for expression.


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There two things to consider when playing the standard taorluath: the expected half-grip we’ve seen elsewhere, and the unexpected but extremely beautiful redundant A which gives the entire movement a much more rolling, musical feel.  It is worth noting that today’s taorluath movement was introduced as late as 1907 with John McLennan’s collection; thereafter the Piobaireachd Society adopted it.

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Fosgailte crunluaths are a puzzle, until you realize that the periods of Late Baroque and Early Classical music was dominated by the genius of the musical performer to bend and shape rhythms and even melodies (e.g., cadenzas) according to her or his own interpretive understanding of the tune.  What we see here in H are the origins of what became two different types of fosgailte crunluath: the now dominant triplet (note how in MacKay it is 1/8th notes, not 1/16th notes):

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and the long dormant dot-cut-cut-dot:

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Neither is indicated in the score, but musical interpretation, once made and passed on, created accidental, different trajectories of performance.

Finally, among taorluaths comes this unique movement (from MacLachlan’s March PS 067):

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This movement is extremely difficult to play, much less to play well.  It is so puzzling, that later collections did not know what to do with it: simplify it to a 1/6th note triplet fosgailte taorluath, or transform it to a modern taorluath.  Stick with what you see, and when you get the hang of it, the result is remarkable in its musical impact.


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As with taorluaths, the same two characteristics apply to H crunluaths: Note the initial grip ending in a low A (a redundant A crunluath, eliminated in Piobaireachd Society publications by the 1920s, though still performed well into the late 20th century), and note the transcription emphasizing the melodic emphasis upon the high Es and Fs.

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One more, and perhaps the most fascinating and important crunlauth captured in H. It is a crunluath to a dari.  Although this crunluath is unique to H (Sword’s Lament PS 172), the interpretive and compositional implications of this beautiful movement are enticing: shifts in key in final variations could take place by the simple replacement of the edre with the dari.  A remarkable new beauty be brought into existence.


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As different from today’s crunluath-a-machs as can be, they nevertheless continue the rolling melodic rhythm of the H crunluath variation before it.


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These appear in the second variation and its doubling in Too Long in This Condition (PS 161).  A couple of things to note: First, because we see these indicated as triplets, we know that fosgailte taorluaths in Hannay-MacAuslan were not triplets; otherwise, they would have been clearly indicated as such.

Second, it is possible to explain how from this the current intepretive expression of Donald MacDonald’s version of this variation is played, but the opposite is not true.  If it were originally played as we do today, we could in no way have derived a triplet pattern as it’s basis.

Hence, take the triplet pattern seriously, and any expression you may wish to introduce could be respectful of it.


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This puzzling, extended edre on high A is found in End of the Great Bridge (PS 171) where today is played a bari to high G.

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Performers today play the first movement of this phrase in Donald Grummach (PS 102) according to a tradition captured by Angus Mackay in his manuscript.  Be careful to avoid allowing the MacKay interpretation to affect your performance.