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Pibroch, Piobaireachd or Ceòl Mòr is an art music genre associated primarily with the Scottish Highlands that is characterised by extended compositions with a melodic theme and elaborate formal variations.
Strictly meaning "piping" in Scottish Gaelic, piobaireachd has for some four centuries been music of the Great Highland Bagpipe.
The Gaelic word Piobaireachd literally means "piping" or "act of piping." The word is derived from pìob ("pipes") via pìobaire ("piper") plus the abstract forming suffix -eachd.
In Gaelic, pìobaireachd literally refers to any pipe music, not merely ceòl mór (lit. Pibroch is a spelling variant first attested in Lowland Scots in 1719.
The predominant vocable system used today is the Nether Lorn canntaireachd sourced from the Campbell Canntaireachd manuscripts (1797 & 1814) and used in the subsequent Piobaireachd Society books.
Multiple written manuscripts of pibroch in staff notation have been published, including Angus Mac Kay's book A Collection of Ancient Pìobaireachd (1845), Archibald Campbell's The Kilberry Book of Ceòl Mór (1969), The staff notation in Angus Mac Kay's book and subsequent Pìobaireachd Society sanctioned publications is characterised by a simplification and standardisation of the ornamental and rhythmic complexities of many pibroch compositions when compared with earlier unpublished manuscript sources.
Pibroch is properly expressed by minute and often subtle variations in note duration and tempo.
Following the siubhal or dithis variation are other more complex embellishments.The timing given to the theme notes is of critical importance in displaying the virtuosity of the master piper.If the theme and single note are repeated or played in pairs, it is referred to as a doubling, otherwise a siubhal singling. The theme note is accented and followed by a cut note of lower pitch, usually alternating, for example, between an A and a G.The siubhal comprises theme notes each coupled with a single note of higher or lower pitch that usually precedes the theme note.The theme note is held and its paired single note cut.