Wednesday, 19 June 2019

GPM Archives: Sounds of the Gaels

           Music and oral tradition was an intrinsic and pervasive element within Scottish culture, which viewed nearly every moment in the day to day life of a Scot as an opportunity for rhythm -where violins, small pipes, and the Highland bagpipes were all played in Gaelic societyFor every task, event, and ceremony in Gaelic culture, there was a tune to be sung in a matching speed and tone, synchronized as a community. Whether they be working or resting - as men rowed in boats and kept in time with their oars, as women passed along cloth to one another in a fulling bee, as cows were milked, as corn was ground, as butter was churned. A male choral song was generally called an iorram, and this was later most specifically applied to rowing songs. The heavily-rhythmic songs that women sang while fulling cloth are called òrain lu(adh)aidh. A song with a group chorus was generally called a luinneag, and these were very popular at gatherings. 

It was a traditional Highland education, in which everyone of all ages participated and had something to contribute. This allowed the collective wisdom and value system to be transmitted from one generation to the next, and it gave a sense of collective purpose and identity to young and old. Another important concept is that people sang songs because they wanted to communicate specific thoughts about their communities and the issues that were important to their communities. The Gaelic poet and performer had a social responsibility to engage with their society and to give it a voice. Songs had a social purpose and were functional in everyday life, they were not prized merely for their aesthetic beauty. 

Music was a kind of life force for the Gaels - lifting every part of daily activity and infusing it with deep emotion, ideas, thoughts, and passion. Having been settled by Scottish Highlanders centuries ago, the cultural influence of Gaelic music can still be found right here in the SD&G counties. The importance the Scottish placed on oral tradition and Gaelic music is preserved through oral histories we have here at the museum. Click on the video below to hear some of the Gaelic songs yourself - directly from our collection! 

English - Gaelic incl., prepared by Ewan Ross

Information sourced from:
An Introduction to the Gaelic Music Tradition

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