Bagpipes are a sonorous and ceaseless instrument. Almost comically so. The traditional Scottish Bagpipe is the loudest unamplified instrument known to man. Decibel levels range upwards of 110, which puts them far closer to thunderclaps and power tools than pianos and oboes. And if the deafening sound doesn’t get you, then the constancy of its noise certainly will. The chanter of a bagpipe is open, which means that once a piper has used the blow stick to fill the bag, the instrument cannot (and will not) be silenced until all the air is released. The spectacular implacable multi-dimensional soundscapes made by a stand of pipes are typically more unleashed than controlled. In fact, it requires technical playing to create an allusion of articulation and tone accents. In essence, the player bends to the will of the instrument, not the other way around...its the anti-Theremin. As James Reid, Bill Millin, and John Cale can all attest, the bagpipe is a fierce musical weapon. The power seems to be a tempting inclusion to engorge the depths of songcraft, yet, there have been so few popular musical artists who have attempted to integrate bagpipes into their songs. Even fewer used bagpipes on a regular basis.

In today’s episode, we are going to explore the tenuous relationship between the sack and the song. To find the brave souls who marched into the mainstream with nothing but pipes, pride, provocations, and piercing pandemonium. We are going to lift the kilt on one of the world’s most maligned and misunderstood music-makers. So, take a deep breath and blow as hard as you can, squeeze your bag tightly, finger your chanter nimbly, and don’t stop until you or your audience passes out….because we are startin’ to tartan. Today, bagpipes in popular music. 

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