the history of choyt

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the history of choyt

Postby Dally » Wed Jan 18, 2012 6:30 pm

Is choyting a modern "innovation"? This not a troll or attempt at creating controversy.

In retrospect, I might be fortunate in that the first fifteen years or so of my NSP experience were completely isolated from other NSPipers. I was instinctively drawn the Cut and Dry Dolly band and Richard Butler rather than Billy Pigg and others who gained popularity in the '70s and '80s. When I finally heard Joe Hutton's piping I realized I was on the right track.

Can we point to a time or date when choyting developed from sloppiness into an accepted style? I know many of us don't accept it as a proper style, but most people who listen to NSPiping today seem to like pipers who choyt if we just look at popularity and record sales. I don't really want to start an argument about what is proper or not proper. All I'm concerned about is the question, can we point to the date when choyting became acceptable. I have a notion, but I'll wait till others have weighed in, if they do.
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Re: the history of choyt

Postby John Gibbons » Wed Jan 18, 2012 10:55 pm

Choyting, in various flavours, probably has a much longer pedigree than the tighter-fingered ones among us (or would be tight-fingered) would wish to admit.

There was the first NSP recording ever, of Anthony Charlton, which reputedly sounded like a dripping tap. I have not had the chance to hear it, alas? Richard Mowat, a great friend of the Cloughs, would take the right hand off the chanter on long high notes in Roslin Castle and other airs. Of course Billy Pigg did something very musical with the technique, and you might think many pipers in the 70's revival tried to copy not only this but his mistakes and erratic timing too. Somehow not everyone managed to reproduce the passion you get from his recordings.
Of course, if you go by record sales, you get a bit of what statisticians call sampling bias, counting one piper more than all the others put together. As sales follow airtime and promotions, I am not sure that is a useful measure - most sales of 'classical' music don't reflect what musicians want to play, either.

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Re: the history of choyt

Postby adrian » Fri Jan 20, 2012 12:46 am

Joe Hutton's smallpipes sound is unique. I can't recollect any other NSPs sounding the same.
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Re: the history of choyt

Postby Dally » Fri Jan 20, 2012 6:46 am

Care to expand on that, Adrian? Just to be clear, hearing Joe's playing for the first time on a recording was one of those moments when you feel confirmation and inspiration at the same time, not that I play anywhere near as well as him or have a hope to. His clean, rhythmical, unselfconscious playing hit me like a gust of fresh air after being cooped up in a stuffy room.

John, your comments on Billy Pigg are right on the mark.

If choyting has been around since the beginning, then why are there so many comments from the Cloughs and others of the prevelance of choyting among pipers "today". I read that as something like, "We never choyted in my day, and nowadays there are pipers playing with half their fingers off the chanter." Did everyone play gracenotes on open notes before the Cloughs?
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Re: the history of choyt

Postby John Gibbons » Fri Jan 20, 2012 5:56 pm

My guess is that for good and bad reasons, open-fingering has always been present to some extent as a strand in the tradition of NSP as well as closed fingering; the Uilleann pipes tradition admits both extremes as well as a lot of intermediate styles, and there must have been a bit of dialogue between the Union pipe and Northumbrian smallpipe traditions in the early 19th century when both instruments were played in the North East. For NSP and UP alike, the closed fingered style is more appreciated by the musicians, perhaps because it is technically harder but leads to more precise effects - the open fingered effects are - when done well - more evocative, and appeal to general listeners more. The open fingered effects done sloppily sound like a dog's breakfast, which is maybe another reason why closed fingering is held up as the ideal. 'Pipers who learn to play open fingered learn to play badly' - discuss. It is also worth bearing in mind that Northumberland is huge, so we should expect regional variations, particularly when travelling was difficult, so a style that was current in North Tynedale might be considered unacceptable in Newsham.

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Re: the history of choyt

Postby Dally » Fri Jan 20, 2012 7:17 pm

It is interesting to note that what was once an ornament in Highland piping is now considered sloppy fingering: the crossing noise.
The difference between the BC box and the C#D box is another example of a system that favors legato and lots of little runs over one that is punchier and "cleaner". Of course, the BC is much more popular.
"'Pipers who learn to play open fingered learn to play badly' - discuss." John, you are :twisted:. I guess that's the question at the heart of the matter. Learning in isolation my instincts took me in the direction of closed fingering. I just liked it better than the open style I heard on recordings. It wasn't a good versus bad decision. It does appear to be easier to play faster using the open style, and I wonder if that is one of its appeals.
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Re: the history of choyt

Postby adrian » Fri Jan 20, 2012 11:59 pm

Dally wrote:Care to expand on that, Adrian? Just to be clear, hearing Joe's playing for the first time on a recording was one of those moments when you feel confirmation and inspiration at the same time, not that I play anywhere near as well as him or have a hope to. His clean, rhythmical, unselfconscious playing hit me like a gust of fresh air after being cooped up in a stuffy room.

John, your comments on Billy Pigg are right on the mark.

If choyting has been around since the beginning, then why are there so many comments from the Cloughs and others of the prevelance of choyting among pipers "today". I read that as something like, "We never choyted in my day, and nowadays there are pipers playing with half their fingers off the chanter." Did everyone play gracenotes on open notes before the Cloughs?

The chanter reed was scraped thin in the lower part, just above the girdle, so it sounded more reedy than an edgy sound.
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Re: the history of choyt

Postby adrian » Sat Jan 21, 2012 12:24 am

The History of Shite aka Choyte.
I can't see anything on google or online/off-line dictionaries which are remotely connected to this word. This may be a play on words by the Clough's as 'shoite'- (shite)!
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Re: the history of choyt

Postby Barry Say » Wed Jan 25, 2012 8:11 am

From the correspondence of Tom Clough in "The Clough Family of Newsham" (by two members of this parish)
When quite a youngster an old piper of last century and a splendid performer gave me very simple and very grand advice:
"If you want to be a good piper, listen to a linnet, and make your chanter as clear and as distinct. A good linnet never choytes, and neither should a good piper" To choyte a note means to attempt to grace a note after the manner of a Highland piper. Gracing notes is a fine art and only acquired by long and careful practice.
Tom Clough was born in 1881, so this 'old' piper would have been 40 or 50 years his senior, but it is also possible that the old-yun was complaining about developments following the publication of the Northumbrian Minstrelsy.

My belief is that Clough and his mentor (Thomas Todd?) are specifically arguing against the use of cuttings - such as Highland pipers use to split low notes and to mark the rhythmic pulse of the tune. Northumbrian smallpipes have no need to resort to such subterfuges. the fact that we can silence the chanter to produce successive notes at the same pitch, and can control the length and spacing of the notes means that we have available techniques which should be our first approach, before we start attempting rather poor imitations of other sorts of pipes.

Linnet
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vYOqihhiH4
Curlew
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/a ... ong.curlew
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Re: the history of choyt

Postby John Gibbons 2 » Wed Jan 25, 2012 9:42 pm

Is 'choyte' an onomatopoeia for the noise a note makes when preceded by a short higher grace note with no silence between?
It is quite a distinctive noise, almost as characteristic of the NSP, not played tight, as 'nyaah' is for UP.

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