Bass culture in Scottish musical traditions …

… is a 3-year AHRC-funded research project involving the Universities of Glasgow and Cambridge and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. It seeks to challenge the assumption that British and European folk musics are based on melody, through an examination of the bass cultures which are represented in the historical sources of Scottish fiddle and pipe music.

The project will produce a substantial web resource of sources and their interpretation, and engage with musicians working in a number of traditions to develop a variety of historically-informed practices. The aim is to enable creators of music in all traditions to have access to an understanding of the structures that underpin Scottish fiddle and pipe music, and to empower the traditional music community to develop its distinctive character through a deeper, more widespread appreciation of the diversity of its roots.

Questions we are trying to answer:

  • What is the essence of a tune in transmission, and which of its elements are variable?
  • In British folk music, is the most traditional part necessarily at the top of the texture?
  • Has the traditional music community lost touch with its bass and structural traditions?
  • What were the most prized qualities in 18th– and 19th-century performances?
  • Can historical data from before the recording era be meaningfully incorporated into living musical traditions?
  • How does reflexive interaction with experienced practitioners and emerging professionals enhance our understanding of the source material?

Outputs of the project:

  • An online resource comprising critical facsimile editions of 20-25 key sources, with commentary and comprehensive searchable metadata
  • Recordings, public performance and broadcasting, including a 2CD collection containing recordings of the historical repertoire, and contemporary developments from it
  • PhD thesis (Barnaby Brown) – ‘Scottish Bagpipe Music: Re-envisioning an Aristocratic Craft, 1670–1750’
  • conference papers on key topics and sources
  • journal articles

In the meantime … the team will be posting discoveries, questions, audio and video to this blog. Use the speech bubble on the blog page and get involved!