The pipes. The soul-shaking, sacred clamour of the sweet shrieking pipes. A voice of the gods.
I had the great good fortune of working with piper Nancy Tunnicliffe when I recorded Feather and Bone, and continue to bless the day the other pipers referred to me never called me back. She is the best I have ever heard, and I'll gladly tell you why. It's simple: tuning – her pitch is dead-on accurate; time – her tempi never waver; tone – in this raw raucous instrument, the Great Highland Bagpipes, she finds both the sweetness and the bray.
There are bagpipes all over the world, pretty much wherever there were goats, the original design featuring an empty goat and some reeds. Featured in the photo above are Asturian pipes, from northern Spain. Some pipes are sweeter-sounding than others, and more "house-broken" (i.e. not so bloody loud). In fact, when we see Great Highland Bagpipes on a movie screen, we're often hearing the smaller Irish Uilleann pipes, which offer film score composers more flexibility.
I have always been mad for the pipes – predictable, really, in one who has Scottish, Irish and French blood, and also loves the banjo, which is like unto bagpipes but lo! with strings instead of pipes, (and a gourd added to the goat). Even so, eleven pipers piping would be quite the noise in this studio apartment. One will do.
So here is a clip of Nancy Tunnicliffe (with her name spelled wrong in the credits, and don't I know how that feels!), playing a medley to set your toes tapping.