More Scottish than Scotland

Jings!The three of us went to see The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep the other day. It’s a “family” movie set in Scotland, using state-of-the-art special effects and cute humour to re-tell the Loch Ness Monster tale in a slightly new way.

The confession a few years back that the famous “Surgeon’s Photo” of the monster was in fact a hoax must have really dented tourists’ interest in looking for the monster on trips to Loch Ness, which, as anyone who has been there, is a monster of a lake in itself. The movie will help to prop up the legend. (By the way, we could use a MacCrimmon movie: Patrick Og: The Legend of the Urlar. That’s gold, baby. Gold.)

It’s a good movie. If Scots and Scot-a-philes can see past the stereotypes of whisky-swilling workers and dumbed-down accents they’ll enjoy the film, which paints the English as the enemy, even sneaking in a derogatory “Sassenach” label at one point.

But I have to remark on The Water Horse‘s musical score. Once again an intrinsically Scottish movie features Uillean pipes in its background music. I couldn’t detect any Scottish music at all. Not a trace of Highland, Lowland or small pipe anywhere. Not even a Banchory fiddle. The hoary old Chieftains are trotted out once again to supply the music. It seems that Hollywood thinks the sound of Irish folk music is more Scottish-sounding than the real thing. Sinéad O’Connor even wrote and performed the theme song.

Why is it that the sound of the Highland pipe is out of favour with movie-makers? Can’t Eric Rigler, Iain Whitelaw or Lorne Cousin – pipers these days in Los Angeles – set movie producers straight and convince them that they should get it right?

Most excellent 2007

Wake up, Mr. West, Mr. West.

1. Kanye West, “Barry Bonds”
2. Wilco, “Side With The Seeds”
3. Feist, “I Feel It All”
4. Mark Knopfler, “Let It All Go”
5. The Good, The Bad and The Queen, “Hurculean”

1. Kanye West, Graduation
2. Wilco, Sky Blue Sky
3. Feist, The Reminder
4. Stuart Liddell, Inveroran
5= Arcade Fire, Neon Bible
5= Radiohead, In Rainbows

Compose yersel

Bruce Gandy looks a bit like Eddie Van Halen, whose son is named Wolfgang.I posted the first of “The Composers” series of articles by prominent tune conjurors today, Bruce Gandy kindly volunteering to take the difficult lead-off spot.

Like most pipers, I’ve dabbled in writing tunes, but probably haven’t composed anything for at least 10 years. Of the maybe 20 things I’ve written, four or five have actually been published, and I once even heard a band play a strathspey of mine.

And, also like most pipers who compose, I never had a game plan when it came to tunes. I just sort of put them together on the chanter repeatedly altering them until I was either satisfied or bored of it.

I’ve known Bruce for almost 30 years now, and played alongside him for 10 of those. I’ve played dozens of his tunes, and, until now, never really thought about what process he might use to produce such frequent gems. I figured he was born with the muse around his head, halo-like.

To get a glimpse of his usual approach was a real eye-opener. Never would I have guessed that he would use a system like the one he outlines in the article.