Gow the Gael: An Alternative History of Scottish Fiddle Music

Ronnie Miller Gibson

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

Abstract

This paper will posit an alternative history of Scottish fiddle music based on a re-examination of the biography and impact of Niel Gow (1707–1807), the so-called ‘father’ of Scottish fiddle music. The prevailing ‘Lowland’ narrative, which charts a path from Gow through James Scott Skinner (1846–1927) to Hector MacAndrew (1903–1981) and is based primarily on published collections of tunes in music notation, misrepresents not only Gow, whose background combined elements of Highland and Lowland culture, but also the practices of fiddle players in Scotland more generally, most of whom were either not musically literate or placed significantly less importance on the printed text than scholars tend to do today. The paper will also feature an historiographical analysis, highlighting the prejudices and short-comings of the received history of Scottish fiddle music, and an interrogation of printed sources of music notation to demonstrate the historical tension between aurality and literacy in performance. Ultimately, the Gaelic chapter in the music’s history affords an entirely new perspective which, while in ways complimenting the Lowland narrative, also significantly challenges its reception in the present.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - May 2014
EventLanguage without Land: New Voices in the History, Culture and Language of Gaelic Scotland and Ireland, 1800 to the Present - University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, United Kingdom
Duration: 9 May 201410 May 2014

Conference

ConferenceLanguage without Land: New Voices in the History, Culture and Language of Gaelic Scotland and Ireland, 1800 to the Present
CountryUnited Kingdom
CityAberdeen
Period9/05/1410/05/14

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  • Cite this

    Gibson, R. M. (2014). Gow the Gael: An Alternative History of Scottish Fiddle Music. Paper presented at Language without Land: New Voices in the History, Culture and Language of Gaelic Scotland and Ireland, 1800 to the Present, Aberdeen, United Kingdom.