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About a Wonderful New Bagpipe Book:
(Posted April, 2006)


~ Vom Singenden Dudelsack ~
Sagen, Märchen und kuriose Geschichten
rund um ein europäisches Volksmusikinstrument


~ The Singing Bagpipes ~
Legends, fairy tales and curious stories about an European folk music instrument


by
Ernst Eugen Schmidt


Vom Singenden Dudelsack


Ernst Eugen Schmidt, a German archeologist and piper, has long been recognized as among the world's leading authorities on bagpipe iconography (a brief look at two of his previous works follows below). Images of bagpipes are scattered throughout centuries of art, sometimes as a primary subject but often in the background. These images are rarely examined in any systematic way, but they are vitally important to understanding at least something about the history of bagpipes and the contexts in which they were used for hundreds of years in many, many cultures. In some cases, bagpipes that have disappeared completely, with not even a museum specimen left behind, still live, albeit quietly, in images on canvas, paper, ceramic, glass or metal, or in carvings of wood or stone. Today some of these wonderful instruments have been re-created and are being heard again, thanks to the information captured by early artists. The ongoing work of Ernst EugenSchmidt and others in identifying and cataloging such images, and in making them accessible to anyone who is concerned with (or just likes) bagpipes, continues to be enormously important to unraveling the history of not only bagpipes but also music itself. But graphic images are not the only tracks left behind by departed pipes.

Unlike images of bagpipes, which though scarce and scattered do exist in significant numbers, written descriptions of bagpipes and pipers are altogether rare. Bagpipes almost always were folk instruments, providing music for the peasants and "lower classes" of Western and Eastern Europe, North Africa, Central Asia, and of course the British Isles. Contemporary chroniclers of various cultures and their readers (who paid the bills) had little use for such pedestrian devices, regardless of the fact that bagpipes were all around them, and they often omitted these instruments from their written accounts, paying them no more heed than they would a dung-shovel. The total body of formal, substantive contemporary written literature about early bagpipes can pretty much be carried under one arm.

But because bagpipes were so widespread and so important in ordinary peoples' lives, they survived in different kinds of words than those used by the elite pundits of their time. They became part of folk-tales, sagas, legends, fables, myths, fairy tales and all sorts of anecdotes. This lore, like the images, has often survived in the nooks and crannies of the world where bagpipes and their often mysterious players once lived. And again, as with the images, these stories - some well known, others deeply obscure - give us a glimpse directly into a vanished time when the bagpipe, in all its forms, provided most of the music for most of the people. Some old stories have been seen in print, often as a fraction of a larger work, and there have been a few small collections published, usually of Scottish or Irish piping tales. But never before has anyone put a collection together like the one in Ernst Eugen Schmidt's Vom Singenden Dudelsack.


A glimpse into Ernst Eugen Schmidt's Vom Singenden Dudelsack


Here there are 120 fabulous stories, gathered over many years in a pursuit that involved extensive research, from all over the West (including both sides of the English Channel) and the East, accompanied by 51 finely-printed plates in color and black-and-white. The antique illustrations alone are marvelous, as one would expect considering the author's history. (We collect bagpipe graphics ourselves and know whereof we speak - we also are proud to have supplied one graphic for the book, and to have pointed the author towards another.) The text is in German - more on that below. Physically the book is most handsome, hardbound, printed on fine coated paper, with excellent typography and layout. It weighs nearly four pounds (close to two kilos) and measures about 9 by 9 inches (about 23 by 23 cm). It contains 432 pages.

No, we are not selling this book, and this is an unsolicited endorsement. But we are providing information on where to purchase Vom Singenden Dudelsack, and we advise you, if you have interest in bagpipes, to buy this book. Never mind if you don't read German, the wonderful plates alone are more than worth the price, which is a surprisingly low 23 Euros. Also very valuable are the citations that accompany the stories; speakers of languages other than German will find themselves pointed to sources in their own tongue. And you never know when long-lost Uncle Otto might visit from the old country. And if an English translation is published (we're lobbying for that but don't hold your breath) you can use the two of them to learn a bit of German. And we can just about guarantee that after this book goes out of print it will increase dramatically in value, as has been the case with every single book on bagpipes published in any language over the last 50 years or so (for example, the 1975 Baines paperbound book "Bagpipes" goes for up to $100). So, just buy it!

Purchasing information: At this time you'll need to contact the publisher in Germany, The Swabian Cultural Archives (Swabia is a state in Germany). The email address is:

info@schwaben-kultur.de


Their postal address is:

Schwäbisches Kulturarchiv
Ebinger Str. 56
D-72336
Balingen-Dürrwangen
Germany


The ISBN number of the book is 3-920801-55-5. If you have any problems ordering, feel free to contact us here and we'll try to help. We are fluent in German, and in touch with the author. As mentioned, we hope to someday see an English edition of this marvelous work (if that happens, we will try to make the book available through this site for our North American visitors).

Below is a brief look at two other marvelous bagpipe publications containing previous work by the same author.




On the right is Sackpfeifen in Schwaben (Bagpipes in Swabia), subtitled Die Wiederentdeckung eines vergessenen Volkmusikinstrumentes (The rediscovery of a forgotten folk music instrument) by Ernst Eugen Schmidt (with short articles by George Balling, Fritz Schneider and Manfred Stingel). This hardbound book of 124 pages is profusely - spectacularly, in fact - illustrated and finely printed. Again, the plates alone more than justify putting this on anyone's bookshelf, regardless of the language of the text (again of course German). While focused on the iconography of the particular bagpipes mentioned in the title, the illustrations and text range beyond just those instruments. This book was published in 1997, by the same publisher as the new Vom Singenden Dudelsack - contact information above. The ISBN number is 3-920801-42-3. This book is still available. You want it. Trust us. Buy it.

On the left is the softbound Der Dudelsack in Europa (The Bagpipe in Europe), subtitled mit besonderer Berücksichtigung Bayerns (with special attention to Bavaria). This important 102 page work was published by a Bavarian historical society in 1996, in conjunction with an exhibition of bagpipes. It contains a series of articles by six authors, among them Ernst Eugen Schmidt. Here are his comments to us about his extensive article:

"My article in this catalogue is a study on the bagpipes in Michael Praetorius' Syntagma Musicum of 1619. In this article I trace these bagpipes in contemporary works of art, for comparison. Each instrument is discussed thoroughly, and I included all the information that I could find out about them - a profound compendium of the knowledge about these bagpipes! The catalogue by the way also contains drawings to scale of preserved historical bagpipes (though they are fragmentary, not complete)."

Profuse high-quality illustrations in color and black-and-white again accompany his work and the other articles in the book-length exhibition catalog. At the back there is a list of the 140 bagpipes that were in the exhibition, giving name, origin, and so on for each but, alas, only 29 of these listings are accompanied by photos. The ISBN number is 3-931754-02-2. The publisher is Bayerischer Landesverein für Heimatpflege e.V, of Munich, with an email address of volksmusik@heimat-bayern.de and a Web site that includes shopping capability
at www.heimat-bayern.de . This work is still available - get a copy while you can..




a peek inside all three books


We salute Ernst Eugen Schmidt and his colleagues and publishers for adding these wonderful works to the sparsely filled bagpipe bookshelf, and we hope to see more in the future. It is in good part because of work like this that the bagpipe, in its many glorious variations, is coming back to life in the world. If you, as a piper or listener or maker or merchant or scholar and so on, are benefiting from this revival, then you owe considerable thanks to authors who labor long and hard producing gems like Vom Singenden Dudelsack. We urge you to support such efforts in every way possible! ~ O.S., Albion, 2006




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Text and Photos Copyright 2006, Oliver Seeler, Universe of Bagpipes