Around the Origins of Bagpipes: Relevant Hypotheses and Evidences

in Greek and Roman Musical Studies
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This article addresses the complex question of the origins of bagpipes. One of the major problems is to determine the defining features of the instrument, as the denomination includes a broad and heterogeneous family. We propose an explanatory typology based on only three main profiles, interrelated but substantially different: circular breathing (initial and polygenetic), the addition of an external pipe bag (documented in some early civilizations), and the medieval one, which leads to the modern European bagpipe (with bag, one or more drones and the morphology that has survived to the present). Attention is also paid to the intense social symbolism that has surrounded the instrument since ancient times. The study reveals that bagpipes had a marginal position in Greco-Roman culture, associated with livestock and beggars; but in the medieval world their roles and contexts expanded unstoppably.

Around the Origins of Bagpipes: Relevant Hypotheses and Evidences

in Greek and Roman Musical Studies



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As an example see Barry (1904) contested by Moore (1905). There was a last reply by Barry (1908) again in the same journal. This literature is today virtually ignored.


Parker 1977187. Remnant also assumes enflabotz as bagpipe (2002 207) and Alexandre clarifies that in the language of troubadours bot or botz were parts of the cornemuse (1977 3). See also McGee 1995.


Woodcut by Erhard Schön ca. 1530. Image and permission kindly provided by the Herzogliches Museum of Gotha (Germany) cat. 372.


Analysis based on Boardman 196821-22 and 93; image on page 63. This Marsyas with bagpipe is probably Hellenistic adds Boardman judging by the secure and bold cutting then dominated for gems by a technique originating in Alexandria.


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