Today, the Alt Pibroch Club reached a major milestone. The most significant musical notations and published research on every pibroch notated before 1841 are now online, under one roof, comprehensively cross-indexed. The early sources have never been so accessible – in fact, there is only one more source to add before we can say that all pibroch notations from before 1841 are online: Sir John MacRa’s manuscript (c. 1824).
The MacCrimmons would probably be shocked and mortified – this tradition is no longer a closed shop. Our digital library, Musical Materials, presents 24 sources by 17 individuals. These contain 843 settings of an Ùrlar or more and 71 fragments. This makes a total of 914 ‘primary sources’ which I currently resolve to 313 pibrochs, although this number could change. It is contingent on perception. Many boundaries are blurred because the pieces all intermingle, consciously and accidentally flowing into one another.
I’d like to extend heartfelt thanks to my close collaborators in this enterprise. David Hester made it all happen and did most of the grunt work. Allan MacDonald recorded many fascinating discussions of cultural context as well as beautiful pronunciations of 367 Gaelic titles. The Gaelic scholars John MacInnes, Ronald Black and Colm Ó Baoill threw significant new light on some of the most obscure pibroch titles. And Keith Sanger has energetically and generously filled many gaps, both in the images and in my knowledge. The lion’s share of the credit, however, must go to the late Roderick Cannon – his comprehensive productions gave David Hester and I a monumental framework of content to build on. The end result brings to fruition decades of his scholarly work, and there is more to come. Much more!
For most of the PDFs, we are grateful to the movers and shakers who first made pibroch sources available online, years before the Alt Pibroch Club was born: Allan Speedy, William Donaldson, Steve Scaife, Jim McGillivray, Ross Anderson, Roderick Cannon, John Dow, Robert Wallace, Jack Taylor and Peter Cooke. We also owe Frans Buisman a great debt – his unpublished concordance tables (shared with me in 1995) were indispensable in sorting out identifications for the last three sources: O, SC and Y3. Last but not least, it has been a pleasure to deal with the libraries, archives and owners of this material, all of whom have gone out of their way to remove obstacles and make it universally accessible for non-commercial uses. Thank you!
The Musical Materials site has been around 98% complete since October 2015. The impetus to finish phase 1 was provided by two things: a donation from the Louis Sterne Trust covering reprographics costs, received a few weeks ago; and permission from the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland to make available images of Y3, received a few days ago.
At last, links to all notations of pibroch from before 1841 are live, with the exception of John McRa’s. This will come in due course, but other developments are higher in our priority list…
What next? This is just the beginning. Our next big project is History & Imagination – the stories, people and places associated with this music. We’d also like to work our way forwards in time, from 1841 to the present – a more difficult task because the ground is not so well tilled. While we develop plans with partners for these sibling sites (and set up multiple fundraising initiatives), every page of Musical Materials can be made better. For this, we’d appreciate your help. If you find something that doesn’t work, doesn’t make sense, or is missing, please let us know by leaving a reply on the relevant page (or via the Contact Us form).
This resource has been a collaborative enterprise from the beginning. Like the music itself, it is the work of many hands – each element passed on and refashioned with reverence, respect and the fiery flames of human spirit. May it inspire great music making!