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College Lecture


rather than for saving space. In practice,however, the General overdid it and the abbreviations were difficult to grasp. I suspect he had the sort of mathematical mind that saw what he portrayed easily, whereas for most of us it can be hard going. Modern scores do not use abbreviations to the extent Thomason did; equally, though,we haven’t gone back to what came before. There’s more to it, though. Once


he had produced his structured scores, he realised their value in aiding musical interpretation. ‘I very soon came to the conclusion that the piobaireachd was the music of poetry and not of prose.’ Preparing tunes in the format he required for Ceol Mor showed CST that piobaireachd was music of poetry with structure, the tunes portrayed with urlar and variations as separate entities, akin to having poems in verses – though we actually see that better in the modern derivatives. CST suggested that piobaireachd, like poetry, has metre, defining metre as number of bars per line e.g. 6,6,4. With CST’s format and its


derivatives, the subsequent PS style and the Kilberry book,we are guided in our interpretation of the music. CST saw the poetical structure aiding expression, indicating where there might be what he termed ‘pauses’ and he also felt that poetical presentation aided memory. In essence, he felt, correctly I think, that his system made the music more comprehensible and easier to play.Wonderful though it is, and it certainly is a magnificent achievement, it


seems that Thomason’s lasting legacy is not his 23


Maj. Gen.Thomason – one of the greatest of all time.


book, Ceol Mor, itself, which is not really in circulation nowadays. Much of his thinking, though, is, albeit that it is not overtly attributed to him. Perhaps without us properly appreciating the fact, the Piobaireachd Society’s books are a fitting tribute to the work of this great man. Thomason was not the first to


amend tunes, but was another of his firsts the idea that we should talk


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