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List of Popular Bagpipe Tunes
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History of the Bagpipes
The origin of the bagpipes can be traced back to antiquity. The bagpipes probably originated as a rustic instrument in many cultures because a herdsman had the necessary materials at hand: a goat or sheep skin and a reed pipe. The bagpipes are mentioned in the Bible, and historians believe that the bagpipes originated in ancient Sumaria. Through Celtic migration, the bagpipes were introduced to Persia and India, and subsequently to Greece and Rome. In fact, a Roman historian of the first century wrote that the Emperor Nero knew how to play the pipe with his mouth and the bag thrust under his arm. During the Middle Ages, the bagpipes were heard and appreciated by all levels of society.
Bagpipes have always been made in many shapes and sizes, and the bagpipes have been played throughout Europe from before the Norman Conquest until the present day. Medieval bagpipes usually had a single drone. (As in contemporary illustrations of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales for English single-drone pipes.) Around 1400, most shepherd-style bagpipes acquired a second drone. A third drone was added after 1550. (See paintings by Brueghel and the illustrations in Praetorius' Syntagma Musicum.) The Renaissance period also saw the advent of small, quiet chamber bagpipes such as Praetorius' Hummelchen or the French shuttle-drone models, some blown with bellows under the arm rather than with the mouth.
The construction of the bagpipes allows a continuous supply of air to be maintained. By squeezing the bag of the bagpipes with the left hand while a breath is taken, the flow of air can be kept up in both the drone bagpipes and chanter. Other features of the bagpipes is the mouthpipe and the double reed of the chanter and drone. The mouthpipe of the bagpipes contains a round piece of leather hinged onto the bag end which acts as a one way valve. As the NJ bagpiper blows air in, the flap opens; when the NJ bagpiper stops blowing, the air pressure within the bag of the bagpipes forces the flap shut. The chanter has seven finger holes and a thumb hole, and has a usual range of an octave and one note.
The bagpipes are ideal for solo dances and monophonic music. Bagpipes have been mentioned for use in polyphony, but if so, problems would arise. The drone would preclude the possibility of any change of mode, and the continuous sound would prohibit observance of rests.
During the Renaissance, the popularity of the bagpipes increased and the bagpipes gradually moved from country to court. Both Edward II and Edward III had bagpipers at court. King Henry VIII, composer and music patron, also had an extensive collection of instruments which, according to a contemporary account, included one with pipes of ivorie and a bagge covered with purple vellat. As a rustic instrument, the bagpipes have been immortalized in the paintings of Pieter Breughel and his contemporaries.
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