Dr. John McAskill composed this tune.
……for his wife Alexandra, hence, "Lexy" (so I heard).
p.s - one of very few Highland bagpipe tunes in the key of E minor.
E dorian…we knew what you meant.
It has a lot of Es but it’s in A - a gapped scale, neither major nor minor as it has no Cs or Csharps - even if it were E minor you couldn’t call it Dorian without a Csharp.
There are indeed very few Highland pipe tunes in E minor. and this is not one of them.
Great tune anyway!
Actually, it ‘resolves’ on ‘E’, or ‘e’ if we’re being specific. So there’s no way in hell it is in the key of ‘A’ as transcribed here, though if you wanted to wangle it that way upwards, well, it would be screaming. Also, just to rub in more salt, there aren’t any G#s in this, and if there were it would sound like shight. As to the C’s, well, if you slipped them in as you could, running up or down between B and d, the better sound, the natural choice, would be C natural. So, let’s see now, F#, C and everything else natural, and every part resolving on ‘e’ ~ hmmmmmm?
Find it here where someone has put in a lot of E minor chords in select places…
My view on this is rather less black and white. It’s very difficult to ascertain the underlying mode for this tune because it doesn’t resolve in a very decisive cadence at the end of each part. Even though the GHB scale limits the theoretical choice of mode to Amix and Edor, the absence of a C# means that you could set it to chords with C nats and it would sound ok. I think in cases like these where the tune doesn’t give you much to go on, your choice of mode is set either by what chords or drones you use or how the tune is varied. For example if you play this on GHB against an A drone, the ear is more likely to interpret this as a mode of A like Ador or Amix. What if you varied the tune so that it went
eA~A2 deed|e2dB GABd|eA~A2 deed|egfd e2Bd|
eA~A2 deed|e2dB GABd|eA~A2 deed|egfd e2ef|| etc?
I’ve only changed a couple of notes, but most people would have no problem accepting that that would be some mode of A, even though the end phrases hang there on an unresolved E.
I think if you’re looking at the tune from a structural point of view, Edor is a poor choice of mode upon which to base a chordal accompaniment or variations. It means that there’s not much potential harmonic movement, and you’re limited to harmonising and creating variations within the bounds of Em and G chords, not D and Bm. On the other hand, viewed as Amix or Ador, you’re able to move around Am, G, D and Em chords.
Just checked that link above and I rest my case. Those Em chords are going nowhere. They try to go to the D, but it just won’t work nicely, and then where do you go? You’re stuck on a perpetual Em chord forever. Aaaaargh. Give me a nice A drone!
I am 45 now and first played this tune in pipe band competitions when I was 14. This year I started picking up the traditional flute. Its brilliant on the pipes, its brilliant on the whistle and its astonishing on the flute. Its a tune that needs feeling more than it needs thinking about. I would advise everybody to forget the science and just try playing it with the feeling it deserves.
For very similar feel -at least as far as the 1st part goes- see: Terry ‘Cuz’ Teehan’s https://thesession.org/tunes/444
"……for his wife Alexandra, hence, "Lexy" (so I heard)."
You heard wrong, Kenny. Lexy MacAskill was Dr John (Napier) MacAskill’s mother. She was born as Lexy MacKillop in Rhuvanish, Berneray in 1905 and died in 1978. She was known as a Gàidhlig singer. Her son, John, was born in Glasgow in 1944, and was raised in Berneray. He became a well respected piper and pipe teacher as well as a GP in Fort William, where he died in 2003.
I fail utterly to see how you are in any position to judge my hearing "Weejie".
"I fail utterly to see how you are in any position to judge my hearing "Weejie"."
I’m in a position of knowing that you heard misinformation.
Ergo - Lexy MacAskill was Dr John MacAskill’s mother, so you couldn’t have heard correct information, could you?
Here’s a bit of piping trivia for you…
It was neither, wife or daughter, just asked a certain piper who was forestalled scrapping the frost from his car en route to his young musical charges. Kenny should know the piper in question.
Apparently, it was written for Dr John’s sister Lexy. Dolina MacKay had just had a tune named after her and Lexy was keen to even up the score as there was a little rivalry between them, hence getting her brother to compose or name a tune for her….
Two cracking tunes..
I accept that I may have heard misinformation - but there’s nothing wrong with my hearing. And anyway, what makes your un-named source any more reliable than mine, which was a piper discussing the tune on BBC Scotland’s "Pipelines" programme many years ago ? If he got that wrong, then the mistake was his, not mine.
Kenny - the phrase "you heard wrong" can mean either you misheard the information or that the information was wrong.
If Solidmahog’s bit of hearsay is correct, then we were both fed misinformation. However, there is some evidence that a Lexy MacAskill was part of the MacAskill family of Berneray by marriage - there are recordings of her made by the School of Scottish Studies and a bio:
Bit old to have been Dr John’s wife, don’t you think?
There is also an online suggestion (from a guy from [North?] Uist) that she was the subject of the tune:
"Lexy MacAskill (nee MacKillop) was from Berneray and the tune was composed by her son Dr John Napier Macaskill "
So my information (from a Uist piper) does have some ground.
Dr. John told me he had written the tune for his mother.
"Dr. John told me he had written the tune for his mother." Minerva McGonagall
I can well imagine he would have said that, but it would seem there was a little more to it than that ;~)
From: The Scots Guards "standard settings of pipe tunes" Vol 2; p94 tune 684, it says, Lexy McAskill "The Composers Sister".
That was flattering to his mother, wasn’t it?
It was politically expedient on the part of Dr John at the time.
Why was he known as "The Night Tripper"?
I didn’t know that he was.
Got you, Ok Dr McAskill it is then….
:-D I love it…
Books are not always gospel.
My guess is that the piper who mislead Kenny got his misinformation from the Scots Guards Book Vol.2 ;-)
I can’t say on a public forum exactly what I was told I’m afraid, but an abridged version of the story is posted above.
It was interseting to read all the comments about the famous Lexie MacAskill. Lexie was my late grandmother and my late uncle Johns mother. My uncle john composed this tune for his mother, he did not have a sister Lexie. He did however compose a tune called Alina MacAskill for his sister, which on this site states in error that is was composed for me, his niece.
I am sure you all agree I am the most reliable source on this.
Alina MacAskill Simpson
I really need to start checking my email more frequently. I feel like such a fool for having missed the memo that established these axioms:
1) that a given melody can - indeed, must - belong to only one key;
2) that the determination of that key is crucially important, so much that it supercedes common proscriptions against incivility;
3) that (2) also applies to establishing the correct provenance of the name of a tune.
Trip to Cullenstown
Version of this tune by ‘The Flying Toads’ live at Bath Folk Festival here (2nd tune):
"Give me a nice A drone!" ~ Doc Dow ~ Yes! :-D Any drone will do at times, including my tinnitus of the right ear…
"Actually, it ‘resolves’ on ‘E’, or ‘e’ if we’re being specific. So there’s no way in hell it is in the key of ‘A’ as transcribed here, though if you wanted to wangle it that way upwards, well, it would be screaming. Also, just to rub in more salt, there aren’t any G#s in this, and if there were it would sound like shight. As to the C’s, well, if you slipped them in as you could, running up or down between B and d, the better sound, the natural choice, would be C natural. So, let’s see now, F#, C and everything else natural, and every part resolving on ‘e’ ~ hmmmmmm?"
The above shows a lack of understanding of harmony and pipe tunes. The tune is in A. That doesn’t mean it is in A major or A minor. It means that the root/tonic/keynote is A.
I would accompany this tune with A5 (x079xx), G5/A (x057xx) and Em7 (0757xx) chords with maybe the occasional D/A (x047xx or 5x47xx) thrown in here and there.