Piobaireachd / Pipe Music is the stunning new solo recording by piper and multi-instrumentalist Fraser Fifield. It features a collection of tracks recorded following Fifield’s deep re-examination, during lockdown, of what he calls “that ancient, slightly mysterious music associated with the Scottish bagpipe.”
This is Fraser Fifield's will be his 13th album release after arriving on the world music scene in 2001. Although deeply steeped in Scottish Traditional music he has collaborated with musicians from India, Bulgaria and Argentina and is able to mix Jazz and classical music into his compositions & improvisations.
Despite his talent across a range of instruments - whistle, saxophone, clarinet and kaval - he has remained loyal to his first love the Bagpipe which he started playing at the age of 11, taking lessons from his GP Dr Jack Taylor in Aboyne in Aberdeenshire.
Whilst in lockdown, Fifield began to re-explore and re-imagine ancient tunes, including The "Flame of Wrath" for Squinting Patrick, from the 17th century and attributed to Donald Mòr MacCrimmon, and "The Lament for the Old Sword."
The haunting track "flame of Wrath," which commemorates an act of terrible retribution, features soprano saxophone, clarinet and whistle played in improvisation around the bagpipe melody perhaps reinterpreting traditional piobaireachd variations.
When and where Piobaireachd first emerged is unknown but the MacCrimmon family, from Skye, who were hereditary pipers to the MacLeods of Dunvegan have been described as its inventors and were certainly its most respected upholders. A piobaireachd consists of a theme, or ground, moving through progressively intricate variations before finally restating the opening phrases.
Fifield is convinced that Scottish piping once involved much more improvisation than it does today. He says: “I have a theory that improvisation is simply inherent to the human musical experience and I would posit an improvisatory route to the music we now call piobaireachd,“ he continues: “I suppose it might be impossible to prove but it makes sense to me and I’m happiest when creating afresh – that interesting mix of performer and composer at the same time.”
The album also features Fifield's own compositions, including "Being in Time", a Border pipes, saxophones, whistles and kaval multi-tracked odyssey in dedication to his late friend, the pipe maker Nigel Richard, and "In Regard to That Matter", which was commissioned from the RareTunes Scottish music archive and composed in the spirit of the album.
"Improvisation on Whistle" is a magical acknowledgement to both the alap of north Indian ragas and the urlar, or ground, of a piobaireachd. This reflects Fifield’s experience of playing with Indian masters including Zakir Hussain and his conviction that Scottish piping once involved much more improvisation than it does today.
About Fraser Fifield:
He was born in London, Fraser Fifield moved with his family to Aberdeenshire as a child and began taking chanter lessons at the age of nine. Now one of Scotland's most distinctive instrumentalists, he has played low whistle, saxophone, bagpipes and kaval with musicians from across the world and from innumerable musical disciplines, including Capercaillie, Nedyalko Nedyalkov, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Zakir Hussain, Gilles Coronado, Benjamin Flement, Walther Castro, and Quique Sinesi. He has been described by the Sunday Herald as “one of today's outstanding talents.” He now lives in Fife, Scotland.
The word ‘piobaireachd’ literally means pipe playing or pipe music but is now used to describe the classical music of the Great Highland Bagpipe. It is also known as ‘ceòl mór’ (meaning the big music) to distinguish it from marches, reels, jigs and strathspeys, which are referred to as ‘ceòl beag’ (the little music). When and where piobaireachd first emerged is unknown but the MacCrimmon family, from Skye, who were hereditary pipers to the MacLeods of Dunvegan have been described as its inventors and were certainly its most respected upholders. A piobaireachd consists of a theme, or ground, moving through progressively intricate variations before finally restating the opening phrases.
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