I am in sympathy with he points expressed above, but I also believe
the matter is a bit more subtle. It's not a question of drone music
versus harmonic music.

Pipe music - the type we're talking about here, not the
fiddle-repertoire-on-pipes type - has, to my senses, a foot in both
camps. To take two extremes, Indian classical music is based on a
fixed drone with a great deal of variety and subtlety in the intervals
of the scales which are played over that drone. There is no sense of
harmonic progression (chord pattern), it is harmonically static, and
it's not trying to be anything else.

Much jazz and much modern  'serious' or 'classical' music is based on
shifting harmonies and an equal tempered scale which has no
subtlety because the intervals are the same everywhere. Most of this
music is based on harmonic direction - you're in a key, you move away
from it, a little or a lot, and you go back to it.

Pipe music is like neither of these. There is a fixed drone and all
the chanter notes have to be in tune with it (however you define or
perceive 'in tune'). But there IS a harmonic element, in that the
melody, in the Dixon-Peacock-Bewick class of pipe tune, has a sense of
being 'in' or 'out' with the drone. An example to make sense of it -
the tunes Berwick Billy, Lads of Alnwick and All the Night I Lay with
Jockey are all built on the same harmonic pattern, 3 bars 'on' the
drone and 1 bar 'off', in NSP terms G, G, G, A minor (A, A,
A, B minor in 'Border' terminology). There is harmonic movement, but
not much, and from a 'classical' point of view the interesting
feature is that the tune does not end on the tonic, or 'on' the
drone. Other tunes which are otherwise similar may indeed end on the tonic
(Dixon's Mock the Soldier's Lady), and have the samae chords in a different
sequence, but the underlying aesthetic is the same - the label I give to
this aesthetic is 'harmonic proportion' as distinct from the more
conventional Western 'harmonic direction'.

There is a 'system' at work which, in the Dixon tunes, can become very
sophisticated, but is nevertheless distinct from the sophistication of
conventional Western harmony. It was, I believe, understood by pipers
and fiddlers up to the end of the 18th century, either because it was
taught and handed on, or because it worked and was absorbed, or both.
I personally find it such an attractive aesthetic that once I became
immersed in it I lost interest in (for example) the chromatically
inflected hornpipes which are so popular among NSP players.

My background before this was the one John Dally may have implied as being in
an opposing camp. If so, I defected long ago, and where John and I have had
disagreements in the past, I suspect that it was because I was trying
to argue that a particular tune (you know which one, John!) did
not conform to its OWN aesthetic, not that it should be conforming to some 
externally imposed aesthetic.

Peace and love
Matt



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