Pipe Dreams

Hi hi hi hi hi hi hi  . . . . I’m here friends! Once again I let the blog lag for days. Sorrrry!! Since I’m here now I must ask you all to please refrain from sending me hostile emails and death threats, ok? <—just kidding 😆 Anyway, allow me to redeem myself with a little Music Monday. Let’s do it.

So I stopped by the Met Museum on Saturday after modeling at the National Academy. The main purpose of my visit was to see the Rembrandt self-portrait that was temporarily on view at the Met while the Kenwood House, the portrait’s regular home, undergoes renovations. Afterwards, I wandered into the Musical Instrument galleries and, as usual, I was the only person in there besides the lone museum guard who seemed bored out of his mind. I’ve been going to the Met all my life, and I’ve noticed that people neglect this section of the museum. What a shame. Given that it’s adjacent to and overlooks the very popular American Wing, means there’s even less excuse to snub this fun treasure trove.

I was struck by this fantastic looking Great Highland Bagpipe from Glasgow. Constructed of ebony, ivory, silver, leather, cane, and MacGregor tartan cloth, it seemed to command attention so I took a picture. The bagpipe is in a glass case so there are some reflections in the photo:

Another bagpipe, this one from the Brittany region of France, mid-19th century. It’s played with a double reed and commonly used in Breton folk dancing:

Since it was Rembrandt, the king of all Dutch artists, who brought me to the Met on Saturday, I thought I’d post a bagpipe painting by another Dutch artist, Hendrick ter Brugghen. From 1624, this is Bagpipe Player. I love that it’s done in a profile view. Very effective:

Bagpipes today are commonly associated with parade marches, military ceremonies, police funerals, and the like. But the instrument – or some variation of a pipe attached to a bag – has existed for centuries on many continents. The sound of bagpipes is not loved by everyone, as it tends to be harsh, high-pitched, and reedy. And it is extremely loud. In fact, bagpipes have been the subject of much ridicule over the years. Famous figures from Alfred Hitchcock to Shakespeare have all taken jabs at the bagpipes. I believe it was either Oliver Herford or William Butler Yeats who made the crack that the Irish invented the bagpipes as a joke and gave them to the Scottish, who still haven’t figured out the joke. Aww, poor bagpipes!  I think it’s only fair to acknowledge that the bagpipe sound is also melodic and distinct. In a proper setting and in the hands of a skilled musician, the bagpipes are quite capable of transfixing the listener .

Let’s conclude this post with a bagpipe track. This is “Strathspey and Reel: John Roy Stewart/Thompson’s Dirk”, performed by pipe major Jim Drury and julia McGurk, from the album Highland Bagpipes.

21 thoughts on “Pipe Dreams

  1. violinhunter says:

    It’s a long, long way from JS Bach or Mozart or Poulenc. Nonetheless, a friend of a friend of one of my second uncles stipulated in his will that a bagpipe and a bassoon, accompanied by an accordion quartet, play for forty five minutes at his wake. Unusual taste but who am I to judge?

    • artmodel says:


      Bagpipes inhabit their own musical realm, no doubt about it. Your friend clearly connects with the sound. I like the inclusion of the bassoon in his request.

      Thanks for your comments!


  2. Jennifer says:

    The recording is way better than any bagpipe I’ve heard in the flesh!

    Another inventive Museworthy post – well done for giving the bagpipe an outing 🙂


    • artmodel says:


      Glad you enjoyed the audio! There was much to choose from on iTunes. I thought this one was quite nice.

      Thanks, as always, for your lovely comments.


  3. Eric says:

    I read somewhere that the definition of a gentleman was someone who knew how to play the bagpipes, but didn’t

  4. Derek says:

    I love Bach and Mozart they are creative genius.
    I listen to them along with the classic rock which I grew up. Hearing the bagpipes takes me back to my roots in Cambridge.

  5. Bill MacDonald says:

    A bonnie posting! Someday you should attend a Highland Games — they have them all over the country. You’d hear the bagpipes in your head for weeks! (Just go easy on the haggis.)
    Now if we could just convince the Met to put a good Clan Donald tartan on that Glasgow instrument, it would be perfect.

    • artmodel says:


      Clan Donald has an impressive entry in Wikipedia:

      Nice tartan! And you mentioned the Highland Games. Honestly, I have always wanted to visit Scotland. Ireland too. Maybe someday.

      I’m really happy you liked this post. Thanks for commenting!


      • Bill MacDonald says:

        Thank you for the link — it is a really good entry. The one thing is that there are actually a number of Clan Donald tartans (if for no other reason than to sell to the tourists. All of this stuff costs a fortune 🙂
        So you have your choice:

        My wife and I went to Scotland and France (mainly Paris) on our honeymoon. The Highlands are the most beautiful place on earth — not that I’m biased or anything 🙂 It’s a good thing that we stayed in B&B’s — if you’re ever tried to register in a decent-sized hotel in Scotland with a last name like MacDonald, it can take a long time to locate the reservation.

  6. gavinpollock says:

    Of course English people like Hitchcock and Shakespeare hate the bagpipes. The whole point of them is to scare the enemy 😉
    Katherine Tickell’s Northumbrian pipes are a bit easier on the delicate ears of non Scots; http://www.kathryntickell.com/home/

  7. fredh1 says:

    The musical instrument collection is one of my favorite departments at the Met. Amazing forms evolved over the centuries by crafters adapting to acoustic physics, human ergonomics, musical practice, and visual aesthetics. I only wish we could hear some of the instruments, not just look at them!

    • artmodel says:


      I totally agree. When I’m in the Musical Instrument galleries I feel an urge to break the cases open and start blowing horns, strumming strings, and tootin’ flutes!

      Thanks for your comments.


  8. Jennifer says:

    Where will Museworthy lead us next?! The Dangleberries look like a fantastic live act, though I doubt they ever come south of the border …

    • gavinpollock says:

      They are a great live act 😉 They’ve played Cockrock (which is just the Cockermouth Rock Festival and in no way meant to sound rude!) but I don’t know how far South they go. There are a few Scottish bands mixing rock and bagpipes however, so you may yet see one.

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