Yet Another Discovery – Peter Reid, Crahinin and Cadences

Look at this beautiful score:

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It is the Urlar to PS 200 – Lament for Mackintosh.  You probably haven’t seen anything like this before, have you?  Bar lines only at the end of full phrases. Dotted quarter notes that seem to have flags added to them later. Fermata everywhere.

It looks a right mess, doesn’t it?

But it’s not.  Not at all.

Take another look.  It is the most remarkable attempt at literal transcription of this tune that we have.  And if you play it, you hear extreme musicality.

Here’s a quick practice-chanter recording to give you a little glimpse of what’s going on; it’s not perfect, but it will give you an idea that it is possible to read and perform this piece as written, and that there is musical insight behind it (it’s not gibberish):

I believe this is well worth pondering deeply, lovingly:

  • Here is evidence of Allan MacDonald’s assertion that crahinin, in the right context, were very fluid, very expressive.  In fact, he asserts they were mimicking voices choked and sobbing with grief.
  • There is no standardization of crahinin rhythm here.  There is no set pattern.  There musicality and expression.  Donald MacDonald reflects multiple patterns, but even in his manuscript you begin to see the germs of standardization that eventually Angus MacKay anchors down in his book.
  • Also – note the varying rhythms of the cadences, musicality at its highest:

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I would give anything to hear this performed on stage.

And I’d bet, many judges and audiences would, too…


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