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Canadian Museum of Civilization

Audio Excerpt

Music: Ion Laceanu. Romanian Folk Dances, ELCD120, no 31

  Bagpipes - CMC no. 86-120 / Photo: Harry Foster


B agpipes have an air reservoir consisting of a bag made of animal skin and inflated by the musician's breath. The pipes are connected to the bag. The chanter, which has finger holes, is used to play the melody, while the drone, without holes, produces a continuous sound. Reeds in the two pipes vibrate with the flow of air, producing the slightly nasal sound characteristic of the bagpipes.

Typical of central and western Europe, the bagpipes accompany traditional songs and dances. Bagpipers see the instrument as a living being that they hold against themselves. The inflated bag is suggestive of the womb into which the musician breathes life. This symbolic birth suggests a spirit of renewal often represented by the bagpipes carried by shepherds in Christmas Nativity scenes.