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Play Background Music (Scotland The Brave)
Scotland is a Celtic-Germanic country, located to the north of England on the island of Great Britain. Celtic music has survived more strongly in Scotland than anywhere else except Ireland. As of 2003, there are several Scottish record labels, music festival and a roots magazine, Living Tradition.
Many outsiders associate Scottish folk music almost entirely with bagpipes, which has indeed long played an important part of Scottish music. It is, however, not unique or indigenous to Scotland, having been imported around the 15th century and still being in use across Europe and farther abroad. The pìob mór, or Highland bagpipe, is the most distinctively Scottish form of the instrument; it was created for clan pipers to be used for various, often military or marching, purposes. Piping clans included the MacArthurs, MacDonalds, McKays and, especially, the MacCrimmons, who were hereditary pipers to the
Folk and Ceilidh Music
This takes many forms in a broad musical tradition, although the dividing lines are not rigid, and many artists work across the boundaries. Culturally there is a split between the Gaelic tradition and the Scots tradition.
There are ballads and laments, generally sung by a lone singer with backing, or played on traditional instruments such as harp, fiddle, accordion or bagpipes.
Dance music is played across Scotland at dances or ceilidhs. Group dances such as jigs, strathspeys, waltzes and reels, are performed to music provided typically by an ensemble, or dance band, which can include fiddle (violin), bagpipe, accordion and percussion. The major names to know in this part of the musical tradition are Niel Gow, James Scott Skinner, and Jimmy Shand.
There are traditional folk songs, which are generally melodic, haunting or rousing. These are often very region specific, and are performed today by a burgeoning variety of folk groups. Most famous of which is Capercaillie.
Popular songs were originally produced by Music Hall performers such as Harry Lauder and Will Fyffe for the stage. More modern exponents of the style have included Andy Stewart, Glen Daly, Moira Anderson, Kenneth McKellar and the Alexander Brothers.
Military music, typically massed pipes and drums. Major Scottish regiments maintain bapipe and drum bands which preserve scottish marches, quicksteps, reels and laments. Many towns also have voluntary pipe bands which cover the same repertoire.
Folk song collecting
While ballads had been printed for centuries, the 18th century brought a number of collections of Scots songs and tunes. Examples include Playford's Original Scotch Tunes 1700, Sinkler's MS. 1710, James Watson's Choice Collection of Comic and Serious Scots Poems both Ancient and Modern 1711, William Thomson's Orpheus caledonius: or, A collection of Scots songs 1733, James Oswald's The Caledonian Pocket Companion 1751, and David Herd's Ancient and modern Scottish songs, heroic ballads, etc.: collected from memory, tradition and ancient authors 1776. These were drawn on for the most influential collection, The Scots Musical Museum published in six volumes from 1787 to 1803 by James Johnson and Robert Burns, which also included new words by Burns.
Though often derided as Scottish kitsch, the accordion has long been a part of Scottish music. Country dance bands, such as that led by the renowned Jimmy Shand, have helped to dispel this image. In the early 20th century, the melodeon (a variety of accordion) was popular among rural folk, and was part of the bothy band tradition. More recently, performers like Phil Cunningham (of Silly Wizard) have helped popularize the accordion in Scottish music.
Though bagpipes are closely associated with Scotland and only Scotland by many outsiders, the instrument (or, more precisely, family of instruments) is found throughout large swathes of Europe, North Africa and South Asia. Out of the many varieties of Scottish bagpipes, the most common in modern days is the Highlands variety, which was spread through its use by the Highland regiments of the British Army.
The most traditional form of Highland bagpipe music is called pibroch, which consists of a theme (urlar) which is repeated, growing increasingly complex each time. The last, and most complex variation (cruunluath), gives way to a sudden and unadorned rendition of the theme.
Bagpipe competitions are now common in Scotland, with popular bands including colonial groups like the Victoria Police Pipe Band (Australia) and Canada's 78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band and the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band, as well as Scottish bands like Shotts and Dykehead Pipe Band and Strathclyde Police Pipe Band.
Scottish traditional fiddling encompasses a number of regional styles, including the bagpipe-inflected west Highlands, the bombastic style of Norse-influenced Shetland Islands and the strathspeys and slow airs of the North-East. The instrument arrived late in the 17th century, and is first mentioned in 1680 in a document from Newbattle Abbey in Midlothian, Lessones For Ye Violin.
In the 18th century, Scottish fiddling is said to have reached new heights. Fiddlers like William Marshall and Niel Gow were legends across Scotland, and composers like Charles McLean, James Oswald and William McGibbon used Scottish fiddling traditions in their Baroque compositions.
More recently, Scottish fiddling has included a number of styles. Of particular interest is the very traditional style of the Canadian island of Cape Breton. Musicians from Cape Breton, like Natalie MacMaster and Ashley MacIsaac, are renowned in Scotland, continuing a tradition of Cape Breton-Scotland musical exchange that began earlier in the century with touring groups like Buddy MacMaster, Jerry Holland and Scotty Fitzgerald. Other musicians play a more traditional style, such as Bonnie Rideout, and many younger musicians are playing a new style of "Celtic Rock" that blends traditional fiddling with a modern rock style.
Among native Scots, the most notable youngsters are Alasdair Fraser, Pete Clark and Gavin Marwick. Among Shetland fiddlers, Aly Bain deserves honourable mention, as does the young Shetland group Fiddler's Bid. Blazin' Fiddles are a new group of four Scottish fiddlers. Jamie Laval, an American fiddler and winner of the 2002 U.S. National Scottish Fiddle Championship, is considered one of the premier fiddlers of this century.
The harp, or clarach, has a long history in Scotland, rivalling even the bagpipes for the position as national instrument. Triangular harps were known as far back as the 10th century, when they appear on Pictish carvings, and harp compositions may have even formed the basis for pibroch, the folk bagpipe tradition. By the 18th century, however, the harp was no longer popular, and it was not revived until the 1890s. The 1931 formation of the Clarsach Society kickstarted the harp renaissance. Recent harp players include Savourna Stevenson, Maggie MacInnis, and the band Sileas.
Modern Scottish music
In the 20th century, collections like Last Leaves of Traditional Ballads and Ballad Airs, collected by Reverend James Duncan and Gavin Greig, helped inspire the ensuing folk revival. These were followed by collectors like Hamish Henderson and Calum McLean, both of whom worked with American musicologist Alan Lomax. Earlier, the first Celtic music international star, James Scott Skinner, a fiddler known as the "Strathspey King", had gained fame with some very early recordings.
Among the folk performers discovered by Henderson, McLean and Lomax was Jeannie Robertson, who was brought to sing at the People's Festival in Edinburgh in 1953. Across the Atlantic, in the United States, pop-folk groups like The Weavers, Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie were leading a folk revival; the singers at the 1951 People's Festival, John Strachan, Flora Macneill, Jimmy MacBeath and others, began the Scottish revival.
Like many countries, Scotland underwent a roots revival in the 1960s. Folk music had declined somewhat in popularity during the preceding generation, although performers like Jimmy Shand, Kenneth McKellar, and Moira Anderson still maintained an international following and mass market record sales, but numerous young Scots thought themselves separated from their country's culture. This new wave of Scottish folk performers were inspired by American traditionalists like Pete Seeger, but soon found their own heroes, including young singers Ray and Archie Fisher and Hamish Imlach, and from the tradition Jeannie Robertson and Jimmy MacBeath.
Scottish folk singing was revived by artists including Ewan MacColl, who founded the first folk club in Britain, singers Alex Campbell, Jean Redpath and Dick Gaughan and groups like The Gaugers, The Corries and The McCalmans. Folk clubs boomed, with a strong Irish influence from The Dubliners. With Irish folk bands like The Chieftains finding widespread popularity, 60s Scottish musicians played in pipe bands and Strathspey and Reel Societies. Musicologist Frances Collinson published The Traditional and National Music of Scotland in 1966 to surprising popular acclaim, as part of the burgeoning Scottish folk revival. Still though, until the end of the 60s, Scottish music was rarely heard in pubs or on the radio, though Irish traditional music was widespread. The Corries had established a fanbase, while the English band Fairport Convention has created a British folk-rock scene that spread north in the form of The JSD Band and Contraband.
Music had long been primarily a solo affair, until The Clutha, a Glasgow-based group, began solidifying the idea of a Celtic band, which eventually consisted of fiddle or pipes leading the melody, and bouzouki and guitar along with the vocals. Though The Clutha were the first modern band, earlier groups like The Exiles (with Bobby Campbell) had forged in that direction, adding instruments like the fiddle to vocal groups. Alongside The Clutha were other pioneering Glasgow bands, including The Whistlebinkies and Aly Bain's The Boys of the Lough, both largely instrumental. The Whistlebinkies were notable, along with Alba and The Clutha, for experimenting with different varieties of bagpipies; Alba used Highland pipes, The Whistlebinkies used reconstructed Border pipes and The Clutha used small pipes alongside Highlands pipes.
Bert Jansch and Davy Graham took blues guitar and eastern influences into their music, and in the mid-1960s, the most popular group of the Scottish folk scene, the Incredible String Band, began their career in Clive's Incredible Folk Club in Glasgow taking these influences a stage further.
The next wave of bands, including The Tannahill Weavers, Battlefield Band, Ossian and Alba, featured prominent bagpipers, a trend which climaxed in the 1980s, when Robin Morton's A Controversy of Pipers was released to great acclaim. By the end of the 1970s, lyrics in the Scots Gaelic language were appearing in songs by Nah-Oganaich and Ossian, with Runrig's Play Gaelic in 1978 being the first major success for Gaelic-language Scottish folk.
1980s, 90s and 21st century
In the 1980s, Edinburgh saw the emergence of Jock Tamson's Bairns emerge with a style called Scots swing.
Most recently, Scottish pipes have included a renaissance for cauldwind pipes, which use cold-dry air as opposed to the moist air of mouth-blown pipes, while small pipes and Borders pipes have gained currency. The accordion also gained in popularity during the 1970s, due to the renown of Phil Cunningham, whose distinctive piano accordion style was an integral part of the band Silly Wizard.
Numerous musicians continued to follow more traditional styles including Andy Stewart, Glen Daly, and the Alexander Brothers.
More modern musicians include Shooglenifty, innovators of the house fusion acid croft, The Easy Club, a jazz fusion band, Talitha MacKenzie and Martin Swan, mouth musicians, pioneering singers Savourna Stevenson, Heather Heywood and Christine Primrose. Other modern musicians include the late techno-piper Martyn Bennett (who used hip hop beats and sampling), Hamish Moore and Gordon Mooney.
You may also be interested in other Scottish Music on this site:Robert Burns Collected Works Songs and Lyrics (700+) items with PDF versions.
Many Scottish tunes are included in the following Folk pages:Folk sheet-music and guitar tabs 10,000+ tunes with Scores, Guitar Tabs, midi and PDF files