Pipe Bands and Political Parties

November 15, 2009 on 5:18 pm by Michael Grey | In Music, Pipe Bands, Tips | Comments Off on Pipe Bands and Political Parties

One of the few purely academic things I remember from my time grinding away at university and studying political science is about political parties; specifically, the definition of political parties. You’ll know political parties are about bringing together like interests, promoting those interests and engaging people to a level that makes political authority happen. Political parties are about aggregating interest. Simply put, political parties are about bringing together people who think the same way.

It strikes me that pipe bands are no different.

A pipe band will attract people who are interested in joining the group because of really basic things: the band’s ability to win a competition, its social makeup and, finally, its musical aspirations. And for most people looking to join a band, I suggest that is the order of importance.

Like political parties, bands rise and fall in popularity, shift their approaches, their ethos and their leadership. The winningest parties represent the will and the perspective of the populist centre. Consistently champion pipe bands are much the same. Strong leadership, a general approach interesting to broad groups of people and sound decision-making (unfettered by any hint of the extreme) are the earmarks of successful political parties – and pipe bands. I suggest “successful” in the context of political parties is forming government and for pipe bands it’s winning.

This past August in Lorient I met up with Mark Saul, the famous Australian composer. Many fine pints aside, we talked a lot. Like me, he’s hugely supportive of any band’s efforts to “do its thing” – we both have a bias for that “thing” when it’s adventurous. We also talked about the risks in moving forward with “adventurous” when that approach isn’t of interest by the mainstream. Political parties never get elected when they take the adventurous, non-mainstream approach – think the Green Party, Canada’s socialist New Democratic Party or Britain’s Liberal Democrats.

Like many pipe band enthusiasts a lot of pipe band judges are not keen on extremes on the musical spectrum. If “adventurous” approaches make winning harder what’s the long-term viability of “adventurous”?

I wonder. It’s a risky business and one that most pipe band leaders tend to avoid.

Mind you, I can tell you I joined one pipe band fringe group many years ago and ended up a member of a World Pipe Band Championship team.

If it happened once, surely it can happen twice.

Here’s to the fringe – parties and pipe bands!


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