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Colin MacKay
Hornpipe composed by Reay S Mackay
colin mackay

Colin Mackay notes (videos below)

Part 1
bars 3-4 are the same as 1-2 but a tone higher.  This is a common composition technique for piping. It is logical to try to interpret these two phrases the same way, mimicking the rhyhmithcal structure of the first phrase in the second, as far as possible.

This means that the third repetition, in terms of good musical continuity as per Lawrence Kramer's ideas, should not actually repeat, but go somewhere else, if it is to create a sense of satisfaction and comfort. This is what happens here.

Watch out for the doublings on low G and low A being open enough, as well as marking the same rhythm in the strikes in bar 6. To achieve this the strike on B will need to be very light. The throw at the end of each part also needs to be super light.

Part 2
The same developmental process is used here like in the first part - taking a phrase and moving it by a tone, but this time down a tone. In Kramer's terms, the continuity and interest is provided by varying the embellishment structure here, plus typical piping language asks for this embellishment style. In such a case it is important to mark out with big gracenotes the first note of the phrase in order to emphasise the composition approach taken. If you are of the generation that talks about 'pointing', which means holding slightly longer on one note and even sometimes going as far as make the beats uneven (called rubato in other traditions, so ok), then this is something that would be highlighted also through pointing.

Again...instead of a third repeat or very near repeat, the continuation is different, and also adds irregularity and something to extend the form in this place, as the triplets are unexpected. Please be aware not to add any extra gracenotes in the triplets.

Also, the grip is used to break the repeating structural patterns before they become a negative element.

Part 3
This represents a development of the motifs above using fragmentation of the phrase, taking the idea of a falling third and moving it around the scale. Bar 1 and bar 2 are essentially separated by a mental pause and a further tiny pause (at least a mental one) can be added at the end of each beat in bar 2. The next bar is a development of bar one and is not rhythmically identical, with the final B belonging to the next phrase (pause on the D doubling but it doesn't need an extra big High G gracenote on account of its position in the beat). Bar 4 refers to the continuing phrases earlier but is original, and the whole bar should be payed such that it holds together as a single sub-phrase.

Bar 5 is a variation of bar 5 from part one (look carefully and you will see this) and this represents a way of thinking about composition in pipe tunes that was popoular in the 2nd half of the 20th century  to make part 3 a variation of part one and part 4 a variation of part 2.

The penultimate bar is asking for a special semiotic trick (showing the end of the part...) which would be to treat the two cut notes (low A and E) as not equal in length but as a triplet, which gives extra spring and power into the cut E, thus strenghtening the effect of an ending.

Part 4
This is unusual for a pipe tune as it combines all the preceding parts and varies an average of them, thus making it a true summary of the tune. The two bars phrase as somehow being related to each other (it is obvious in sound and sense but harder to put into words briefly). It is useful to put mental breaks between these phrases to make the narative and structure extra clear.

The ending is a reptition of the third part ending, which makes sense in this being a summary.


How to play...the details:

This tune can be either higher tempo or a very relaxed, low tempo. This advice is for the low tempo.

The high A gracenotes and high G gracenotes that lead into every first beat of the bar are in the proportion 2:1 (so a triplet) with the preceding notes. This gives them extra strength and clarity, makes it a 'big' gracenote. This is also true before D and E doublings (the high G gracenote is a 'big' gracenote) and in the first part, the low G in bar 2 (which is in fact a doubling spelled out), and the corresponding place in bar 4 etc. The bar 4 spelled out low A doubling has been made more open by putting a tiny amount of extra time between th two low As (with the hel of a triplet). This has been done in order to show the middle of the part.

Bar 6 the high A gracenote is very big. The throw in bar 8 is super light, with the low introductory low G in the proportion 2:1 with the C. The strike in the throw is in the proportion D7:C1...super light.

In the second part the grip to E, followed High A,  marks the end of the phrase and there should be a mental pause. This is achieved in the midi file by using a triplet (E2:A1 proportion). The grip has also been turned to a 2:1 relationship between the C and the grp itsef to give the effect of opening up slightly, in line with the laid back nature of this interpretation.

The embellishment triplet in the last part should have all strikes shortened too to make them as light as possible and give extra emphasis to the fct that the big notes, not the gracenotes, are giving rhythmical and motivic meaning here.

C-A tachums, the proportion betwee the note and gracenotes are C3:D1. For some reason this does not seem as neccessary with the B low G tachums, which are 1:1

Youtube Examples

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High pitch half speed



High pitch quarter speed




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