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Dec 30 2012

Sunday Song: The Bagpipes o’ War

I’m sorry. Yes, I know, there’s a great and noble history, and art, and skill, and all that, but when I hear this line:

“Bagpipers play the tunes of war”

I still burst out laughing. Every time. Something in me can’t accept bagpipes as instruments you’d go to war with.

I suppose they do look martial, for a given value of martial.

A pipe major of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (date unknown). Image and caption courtesy Wikipedia.

A pipe major of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (date unknown). Image and caption courtesy Wikipedia.

Also, it’s not many strange-looking traditional instruments suitable for taking on the march that you can rip pipes out of with both hands and beat people with, so there’s that.

Anyway. Here’s the song that brings on the giggles. It’s not a video that takes itself over-seriously, which is one of many reasons I love it.

I love it when metal bands get metal fans to star in videos. Hilarity ensues. A good time is had all round. In fact, such a good time that I didn’t at first notice how damned talented Van Canto are. The kind of music they’re doing here – it’s not easy stuff. So for technical genius and all round good times, I tip my glass their way.

Due to the fact that I cannot stop laughing at the idea of bagpipes playing tunes of war, I buggered off to YouTube to find some of those tunes of war. Some of them are really damned good. I can now see why military bagpipers are a thing. There’s something that sends chills down the spine a bit. I think I’d lose just a bit of my nerve if I heard that coming at me just before a battle.

Here’s “Black Donald’s March to Harlaw.” I couldn’t find one with actual clans actually marching, so I substituted a video with some delicious Scottish geology instead.

That’s yummy. Also, there is “The Green Hills of Tyrol – The Battle is O’er.” Well, I certainly hope it is, because I want to go get my hammer on that seaside strata. It is hawt.

Okay. I’m ready to march to Scotland now. ZOMG.

Also, Hansi Kürsch in a kilt. Every argument from now on forever is invalid.

Thank you, Scotland, for inspiring such things.

26 comments

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  1. 1
    Avicenna

    In other news…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?hl=en-GB&v=Z93SdirnzTw&gl=GB

    (Watch it… Trust me…)

  2. 2
    Avicenna

    If you fancy Geology…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skye

  3. 3
    cope

    Thanks for the memories. I spent four summers studying/teaching geology in Scotland in the early ’70s, mostly in the Highlands. I recognized The Pap of Glencoe, Eilean Donan Castle (in a couple of shots) and Castle Urquhart on Loch Ness in those first two videos.

    During one of my Scotland summers, were were at a rural pub on the 4th of July, a boisterous, rowdy lot of American students and the locals celebrating emancipation (ours) from the English Crown. The local constable had his pipes in the pub and his mate, a drum. They began playing and I was overcome with a feeling that I would, if need be, gladly and proudly follow those sounds into any kind of brutish, bloody battle. Now, no doubt these intense feelings were fueled by a combination of my youth, a strong sense of identity with my Scottish ancestors, uncounted pints of heavy and an entheogen I had consumed earlier in the evening. However, it remains a compelling memory of a unique time in my life and I thank you for a post that took me back to then.

  4. 4
    Acitta

    Bagpipes are best when combined with that other much-loved instrument, the accordion:

    Fiamma Fumana .

  5. 5
    Paul Schofield

    The most obvious modern and media representation of bagpipes as an instrument of war would be Piper Bill Millin, who lead his regiment onto the beaches at Normandy playing the pipes. He was shown in The Longest Day and the Sword Beach landing scenes from that film are fairly memorable.

  6. 6
    Beefeater of Wackywoo

    Corvus Corax stepped out of the dark ages to play music- the sound quality here isn’t the best but the song *kicks ass.*

  7. 7
    kraut

    I loved the pipes (as a german kid) from the first time I heard them. If you want to get a sense of why the pipes are for war: look at the Tattoo that is held in yearly Edinburgh.
    Play it loud:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=QjsTcVoJ5E0

  8. 8
    Rowan vet-tech

    The pipes are definitely one of my favorite instruments. I’m so glad that my father took me to every ‘local’ (within 3 hours drive!) highland games while I was growing up. And I, of course, cannot now help but appreciate the sight of a bouncing sporan and a kilt swaying about the knees. My Scottish ancestry definitely approves. :D

  9. 9
    rq

    I’m pretty sure the bagpipes were an instrument of war to frighten the enemy. Especially at a distance, when they couldn’t see how encumbered the other party was with this strange-looking, clumsy instrument that did not allow one to swing a sword. :)

  10. 10
    Gregory in Seattle

    One of the best bagpipe war songs I know: The March of Cambreath by Heather Alexander.

  11. 11
    Lithified Detritus

    Something in me can’t accept bagpipes as instruments you’d go to war with.

    Read up on The Ladies from Hell.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Watch

  12. 12
    Lithified Detritus

    Sorry for OT, but is it just me, or is the formatting strange in preview now?

    1. 12.1
      cope

      Yeah, I noticed paragraphs don’t show up in preview with an empty line between them (just jumps to the next line) but they do show up in “Submit Comment”. There may be other issues as well but I have not yet encountered them.

    2. 12.2
      Lithified Detritus

      HTML is acting weird, too. I tried to embed the above link, but it showed up in a larger size, and any text I tried to type in to go in front of it showed up after, and slightly above.

      Even when I pasted the link in directly on the line after my comment, it showed up in preview right-justified.

  13. 13
    evilDoug

    Some other Scottish and English (well, at least sort-of) bagpipes:
    Scottish small pipes
    bellows-blown Scottish border pipes
    Northumbrian small pipes

    There are also mouth-blown border pipes.
    The Northumbrian pipes have a closed-end chanter, which allows the staccato play.

    Unfortunately, the audio quality of most of the Youtube videos is pretty poor, which makes all of these instruments sound harsher than they really are.

    By far the most complex bagpipes are the Irish uillean pipes – a chanter that can sound over 2 octaves, 3 drones and 3 “regulators” which have keys played with the edge of the hand or sometimes fingers. They can only be played while sitting.
    To avoid possibly getting held in moderation for too many links, if you are interested search Youtube for
    Liam O’Flynn – Dark Slender Boy – Uilleann pipes

    and Finbar Furey explaining something about uillean pipes; search Youtube for
    Finbar Furey on the pipes 2011

    And for stringed bagpipe fans (well, OK, not bagpipes), look for
    OTW Hurdy-gurdy concert by Bouffard & Chabenat
    (starts kind of slow, then gets into what instrument can really do)

    1. 13.1
      Lithified Detritus

      Liam O’Flynn – Dark Slender Boy – Uilleann pipes

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMvBnEvuBuA

      Wow! Thanks for that!

  14. 14
    Rob

    Ah bagpipes, kilts, geology and a good single malt. Doesn’t get much better.

    1. 14.1
      azportsider

      Salmon fishing too!

  15. 15
    Karen Locke

    I like bagpipe music. I’ve also heard and liked Northumbrian small pipe music (there’s a CD around here somewhere.) I’ll have to follow evilDoug’s links, but at the moment listening to pipe music is interfering with hearing the oven timer… and I’d be really sad if the salmon were overcooked.

    I’m not sure why I’m so enamored of pipe music, but it just lifts my mood. (Which is often in need of lifting.) Go figure.

  16. 16
    Dana Hunter

    I give up. “Nobody will pay any attention to this post,” I said. “Outside of a few already-Van-Canto-Fans, no one will care,” I said. “At least I’ll be amusing myself,” I said. And then it turns out pretty much everybody here is a bagpipe fan.

    I give up. I’m never going to try to figure people out again, I’m just going to do stuff and marvel at what tickles people’s fancy.

    Thank you all for the lovely songs – Avi, you in particular hit the spot with that first suggestion, but I love them all – and I think we shall have a follow-up post with your selections here shortly, because not everyone reads comments.

    Also, I know the preview is horrid – it’s one of the ten trillion things being worked on by our overworked web person. Hopefully, within a few months, all the various kinks and weird things will be worked out, just in time for folks to decide it’s time for another site redesign. Whee! Speaking of which, things will be fiddled about with on FtB for a while yet to come, so brace yourselves. You can mention any problems at any time in any thread, and I will forward them on if they’re not already being addressed.

    Right, then. Back to yer bagpiping, ya freaks. :-)

  17. 17
    Karen Locke

    Thanks, evilDoug, I enjoyed your links.

  18. 18
    bad Jim

    Isn’t Scotland where geology comes from?

    Pipes aren’t that much of a stretch for twentieth, twenty-first century ears. It’s not that everything sounds good – far from it – but anything weird deserves at least a listening, and, for some odd reason, things that thousands of people have liked for hundreds of years are likely to retain some attraction today.

    Oh, and thanks to everyone for the tunes. Happy Hogmanay!

  19. 19
    Lithified Detritus

    And for stringed bagpipe fans (well, OK, not bagpipes), look for
    OTW Hurdy-gurdy concert by Bouffard & Chabenat

    evilDoug -

    Thanks for this too. I had heard of the hurdy-gurdy, but knew essentially nothing about it. Very unusual & fascinating instrument.

    For others like me, here is a link that explains how it works:

  20. 20
    Lithified Detritus

    Guess which nation is #2 in bagpipe production…

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-20876096

  21. 21
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Thanx for the distraction.
    And everything is better when somebody wears a kilt.

  22. 22
    Mobius

    OK, I now have that line,

    “Bagpipers play the tunes of war”

    running over and over in my head.

    And it’s all your fault.

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