Idiomatica. A bit of a poncie sort of self-conscious name for a medley, isn’t it. But what fun to say – and play. I feel confident saying that the Toronto Police Pipe Band had a great, if not challenging, winter of practice shaping this puppy up (as Pete Aumonier might say). And If anyone had any doubt about the degree of serious intensity most of the pipe band world takes pipe band music you only have to look to the internet. Yikes. Reading a sampling of the voracious and sometimes downright bitter opinion Idiomatica elicited made me think the Toronto Police Pipe Band might’ve had a cheerier response had we marched on the field and pulled a Sinead (publically rip up a photo of the Pope). Either that or offer the world the 7,864th medley that starts with a marchpipe.
Regardless: the crowd on the field was hugely positive. I think moving forward pipe bands will find that matters more and more.
For anyone interested the name was inspired from the score sheet musings of the ensemble adjudicator at last year’s world’s qualifier: he scrawled, “not playing in the Scottish idiom“.
I think, like some of you, that the percussion accompaniment really makes the thing work. And, surprise, regardless of what bubbleicious1989 thinks, I really think the thing works. Drum Sergeant, Doug Stronach, bassist Reagan Jones and the whole percussionista group constructed inspired and appropriate scoring making great use of space.
Most pipe band people like their musical space jam-packed with clearly audible sound; lots and lots of notes – everywhere. Without “content” as I hear drummers call all them notes, there is no viable accompaniment. Like silence between two new acquaintances, rests or, open space (or “open real estate” as the drumming adjudicator wrote at last week’s contest), is generally uncomfortable for pipe bands. I hope that perspective changes.
One of the most common and ill-informed comments heard around is, “I can’t judge it if I can’t hear it” — usually said in reference to percussion rests in performance. Someone said, “silence is the best of all musical states”. Maybe. Maybe not. Regardless, I know silence in performance is not easy. Perfectly placed silence, or rest, is surely one of the most important and difficult elements in music. It takes a seriously deft hand to pick the right points in time to halt sound and accent melody with rest. A thought to be explored another day.
It’s becoming increasing clear to me that had we submitted “Idiomatica” as a group of named melodies – perhaps “sections” would be a less presumptive word since so many felt it amelodic – the performance would have been perceived very differently and less audacious.
Idiomatica is a medley freely assembled in the style of the band’s choosing. Like any other band in the contest, it is one group’s expression of a medley. A medley of melodies, one that starts off in one planned place and ends in another.
In orchestrating medleys, we can rest and be thankful.
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