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Argyllshire Gathering [ep]

by John Harvey



The source recording was made at the Argyllshire Gathering of the Oban Highland Games, Scotland. It features the sound of two senior contestants for the piobaireachd (literally: pipe playing) championship. The music of piobaireachd consists of a theme or ‘ground', which is repeated, varied, and played in different patterns (often slowly), around which the bagpiper improvises.

During the day of the games, each piper practices the test piece in readiness for its performance before a panel of judges. It is not unusual to hear several rehearsals taking place simultaneously in different parts of the competition field. Each of the soloists plays concentratedly and in isolation, largely oblivious to (and sometimes out of ear-shot of) the efforts of their fellow competitors. Consequently, the casual audient hears a collage of separate renderings of essentially the same piece of music, none of which are synchronous – each being begun and ended at different times to, and played more quickly or slowly and more or less elaborated with musical flourishes, grace notes, and ornaments than, the others.

The album’s two compositions focus upon this phenomenon of desychronicity in relation to a pair of pipers (shown in the album cover photograph) who were playing to my left and right at one corner of the field. The systems or methods used to explore the source recording are outlined under the ‘info’ section of each track.

Often, pipers rehearse the test piece faster than they play it in competitive performance. Here, the speed of their playing is reduced two and half times in order to establish a stately pace and the mood of a doleful lament associated with the slowest renderings of piobaireachd.

Information on the individual tracks can be found by placing the cursor on the title, and then clicking on 'info'.


released April 9, 2013

All compositions ℗ and © 2013 John Harvey.

Personnel: two anonymous bagpipers and John Harvey.

Instrumentation: sound sample extract from a video file captured on a Canon PowerShot G12 camera, and Adobe Audition CS6.

Context: sample recorded at the Argyllshire Gathering of the Oban Highland Games, Oban, Scotland on 25 August 2011.

Engineered and produced by: John Harvey.
Conceived and mastered in Aberystwyth, UK, April 2013.
Cover concept and artwork by: John Harvey.
Cover image: John Harvey, bagpipers, Highland games, Oban, Scotland
Conceived and mastered at: School of Art, Aberystwyth University, 2013.


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John Harvey Ceredigion, UK

I’m a practitioner and historian of sound art and visual art, and Emeritus Professor of Art at the School of Art, Aberystwyth University, UK. My research field is the sonic and visual culture of religion. I explore the sonic articulations of the Christian religion by engaging visual, textual, and audible sources, theological and cultural ideas, and systemic and audiovisualogical processes. ... more

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