What is Traditional Music? [hint: It’s big. It’s bouncy. And it’s spectacular.]

March 13, 2018 on 5:31 pm by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag, Music, Random Thoughts | No Comments

I think it was this past January when it came to me. It was one of those crisp, cloudless and cold sunny days, a kind of winter’s day so familiar to those of us who live in my part of the world. The sky was screaming an indescribable deep blue. And why? Why blue? A short simple question – surely the archetypal young child’s question, one asked just as a glimmer of awareness of the world beyond the back garden begins to show itself. Blue sky? Something to do with refracting light, I thought. Why blue? And this blue? Um, the temperature. Yes, it is the cold temperature and the universal prism…

At the time I didn’t know, really. I had an idea and could babble out something that might shut a kid up and get a C- on an elementary school test. Maybe. In the off chance you don’t know NASA tells us “blue light is scattered in all directions by the tiny molecules of air in Earth’s atmosphere. Blue is scattered more than other colours because it travels as shorter, smaller waves.”

Phew. When you start thinking of all the questions that might easily be asked of the common things around us it is awfully humbling to acknowledge what you don’t know. There are not many questions more fraught and charged with potential risk and fall out from a faulty answer than the simple: why or what? Why is it that at street crossings the man is green – when he’s not red? Why do we sometimes say “noon” for 12 o’clock? Why do things like fingers and toes wrinkle when left in water?

Again, we look to one of the brightest to ever live to remind us. Einstein: if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t know it well enough.

Aligned with my blue Ontario sky was a grey January Glasgow visit and a panel talk on piping innovation – and tradition. Dr Gary West facilitated the discussion – one where I was very happy to be a participant. The talk was lively and left me with the sad realisation that I’d again be the fair recipient of a C- if anyone asked me the simple question: what is traditional music? Or, even, what is “traditional” piping – which is more precisely the question I am talking about today.

Read the rest of the story here.

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