The Power of Pibroch: Emotion and the Classical Music of the Scottish Highland Bagpipes
In Gaelic, the term piobaireachd (anglicised as pibroch) literally means piping, or what pipers do. However in recent times the term has come to represent the classical music of the Scottish Highland bagpipes, traditionally known as Ceòl Mór. Today pibroch still holds its literal meaning, but is widely used in bagpipe culture to refer to Ceòl Mór. Pibroch has a hazy history, but is thought to have been a musical style for the Scottish Highland bagpipes for over 500 years. Pibroch was a music historically written for and performed within contexts of celebration, mourning, victory, or warfare (amongst others). As a result individual pieces have associated stories that allow people to interpret emotion during a performance, and some of these stories come to be seen by some as highly emotional and ‘moving’. Today, significant changes have affected pibroch: where the highland clan system no longer exists; where there are now international enclaves of pibroch performance; and where romanticisation, editorialising and ‘empire’ have led to diverse interpretations of bagpiping and pibroch. As a result, the performance contexts of pibroch in contemporary society have also changed. Today pibroch is a music mostly maintained in competitive performance cultures, especially strong in Scotland, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, the United States of America, Australia, and New Zealand. This presentation will focus on the interpretation of emotion in association with pibroch performance, and the role that this process plays in maintaining pibroch cultures, particularly within Australia and New Zealand.