contribution to piobaireachd and his musical ideas. Today’s scores look they the way they do because of General Thomason.
While his impact on modern scores is perhaps not widely recognised, it is acknowledged in the excellent introduction to Piobaireachd Society Book 1.As far as I have been able to establish,CST was the first to present tunes in parts on the stave, i.e. urlar and variations portrayed separated, the first to use abbreviations in printed piobaireachd scores, the first to classify structure – he discusses structure in terms ofA and B phrases, a concept which I think he must have introduced himself. Only the Campbell Canntaireachd had laid out tunes in distinct lines and parts, but not, of course, on the stave. (I am fairly sure that CST did not have access to the Campbell Canntaireachd.) Joseph MacDonald described tunes being in four fingers a century before, but he didn’t take that approach on the stave; Glen is inconsistent. General Thomason, therefore, appears to have been the first to produce structured piobaireachd scores on the stave.At the time of the Piobaireachd Society’s publication of Roderick Cannon and Keith Sanger’s book about Donald MacDonald’s manuscript, I was fascinated to hear PS President, JackTaylor, on the BBC’s ‘Pipeline’ programme, commenting how the modern presentation of Donald MacDonald’s manuscript shows structure, which the original manuscript did not, indicating that Thomason even influences how we now see the works that preceded his own Ceol Mor.
Thomason wanted to produce a handy sized book with lots of tunes and his
abbreviations were primarily a practical solution to producing that sensibly sized book, but he realised his scores didn’t just save space. By clearing the clutter of gracenotes (think of all those crunluaths written in full), Thomason’s abbreviations enabled illustration of the structure of tunes and a clear visual display of the theme, producing an image that matched the music we play. Before CST,most of the scores is taorluath and crunluath variations, for example in Angus MacKay’s printed score for the Massacre of Glencoe, the Urlar and Thumb, which are not particularly affected by having gracenotes in full, take up two thirds of a page. The remaining third of the page, plus two more whole pages are taken up with taorluaths and crunluaths. Abbreviations had been used by
others in their hand written scores, notably Angus Mackay and the authors of the MacArthur-MacGregor MS, though theirs are really devices for reducing effort in writing out scores