Piobaireachd in New Zealand: Culture, Authenticity and Localisation

by Daniel Milosavljevic

Institution: University of Otago
Year: 2014
Keywords: Piobaireachd; pibroch; ceòl mór; tradition; authenticity; localisation; Highland bagpipe; bagpipe; music culture; authority; music; music sound; music material; music visual; music transmission; diaspora; New Zealand; Scotland; ethnomusicology; ethnography; insider/outsider; participant observation; interview; 'history'; transculturalism; global flow of culture; tradition in modernity
Record ID: 1297281
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10523/4781


This is an ethnomusicological study of piobaireachd in New Zealand, undertaken from 2010 to 2013. Piobaireachd is accepted as the classical music for the Highland bagpipe, arising out of ancient Scottish history. Current literature on piobaireachd presents the past as objective, historically accurate and sacrosanct, expressed in performance. However, this research argues that the past may also be a social construction arranged in, and influenced by, the present. It builds on the work of others in ethnomusicology, anthropology, and social sciences, theorising that piobaireachd should be explored within a contemporary and global cultural framework. The methodology for this paper is informed by an ethnographic research design that employs in-depth interviews with culture bearers and participant observation, while also relying on insider understanding and extant literature. Thematic analysis of data induced an interpretive theoretical framework, which allowed for triangulation of findings, and the ensuing discussion. Central to this theory were three key themes, music as culture, authenticity, and localisation, which were explored in an accepted music-culture research model. Chapters 1, 2 and 3 respectively offer introductory information and scene setting, a review of the relevant literature, and the research methodology employed. Chapters 4, 5 and 6, respectively provide discussion and results of data relative to an exploration of sound, material and visual culture, and social and cultural transmission. Piobaireachd in New Zealand was found to have some unique characteristics reflected in ‘authentic’ sounds and concepts that drive performance. Material and visual culture presented a number of distinct localised interpretations of authenticity in piobaireachd, ranging from the materials that produce sound, to attire and choreographed behaviour, to cultural symbols within performance contexts. The social and cultural transmission of piobaireachd offered clear indications of local influences on definitions of cultural authenticity, including authorities, transcultural interaction, and local history. Chapter 7 brings these findings together and offers conclusive interpretations of these outcomes. The culture of piobaireachd in New Zealand is dynamic, subjective and constantly renegotiated by individuals and groups. It occurs within a milieu of complex social hierarchies, diverse overlapping communities, and temporal contradictions that centre on notions of authenticity, musicality and lineage. These findings contrast with participant beliefs and existing literature that suggest piobaireachd to be impartially, objectively, and universally defined and practiced. Authenticity is contested, negotiated and maintained through various cultural practices which are based around transmission, authorisation, and comparison - ultimately disseminated to the New Zealand piobaireachd community via a complex network of interaction. In such interactions objectivity meets subjectivity, past meets present, local meets global, and…