One day last week I was in Baltimore, Maryland following up on a research project I had completed a couple of years ago. It may have been Tuesday; though I’m not sure because I was on the road the entire week.
This isn’t about the research but rather something that I witnessed during a side trip to the Inner Harbor. It was disturbing to say the least and society MUST do something about it!
Trust me on this; I do not mean to downplay this nation’s grim economic, social, and political problems. To be sure, they’re ominous to say the least. But, at the same time, we needn’t be adding to them. Let me explain.
I had parked my car and was moving along on foot. I could see a small but orderly crowd gathering in the distance—maybe 75- to 100-yards ahead of me. But it was the sound coming from the midst of the crowd that got my immediate attention.
Before going into greater detail, did you know—and I personally find this fact VERY disturbing—that more people “play” the bagpipes today than at any time in human history?
BAGPIPES! The sound I heard was coming from bagpipes. Once I caught up to that crowd—its size turned out to be less than my original estimate, by the way—I was able to see the source of the sound: two men dressed in full kilt-regalia and standing back-to-back.
I don’t know WHY they were there “playing” or even WHAT song they were playing. And although I did ask, several others didn’t know, either. Nor did I know whether they were any good at it.
I’m no musical expert, but I can usually identify a piece being played by musicians using a host of other musical instruments (violins, trumpets, clarinets, guitars, and pianos to name a few). And I can also tell if they’re any good at it.
Hell, even though I didn’t include it in the list above, I’ll even include the ACCORDION in the mix—although NOT enthusiastically!
But BAGPIPES stand alone! Dear God, if you’re out there please forgive me, but the sound I hear coming from bagpipes—whatever it is—ISN’T music.
I’m not sure, but I think Dave Barry described bagpipes several years ago with the following quote:
“Bagpipes are not musical instruments; they’re used as a breathalyzer test in Scotland. Folks blow into one end, and if the sound that comes out of the other end fails to make them want to kill themselves, they’re NOT drunk enough.”
Yes, I’m well aware that mileages vary on the topic according to whomever one asks. Some, if not many of you, will disagree with me. It’s no big deal; so knock yourselves out.
However, it’s the way I feel! But in fairness to bagpipe-lovers everywhere—and I even alluded to it above—the accordion isn’t much of an improvement over bagpipes.
It sounds more melodious and produces more recognizable “music,” but at what point is it worth the additional mental anguish? To quote Star Fleet Captain, Jean-Luc Picard, “The line must be drawn HERE; This far, NO farther!”
In MY opinion, people who are socially conscious and caring of others’ feelings—even though they know HOW to do it—do NOT play either the bagpipes or the accordion in public.
As a scientist, I pride myself in that I can DEFINE “perfect pitch” in terms of mathematics. But when it comes to musical aesthetics, I’m clueless; I wouldn’t recognize it if I tripped over it.
But I firmly believe that it would probably sound like an accordion landing on top of a set of bagpipes as the two instruments collide at the bottom of a garbage dumpster.
And while this week isn’t the time, I will one day address another equally irritating cascade of sounds: the ones coming from that blasted thing that Zamfir plays.
Have a great week!