Whisky Galore

‘Whisky Galore’

posted 22 Dec 2013 12:45 by Simon McKerrell

Just finished watching Whisky Galore on the telly. An interesting film viewed in 2013 for many reasons. Clearly made in a much more monocultural British Isles, where Gaels and the Gaelteachd was recognized as an internal other, but mostly romantically. Today’s inheritors of Ealing comedy couldn’t make that sort of film not only because the Hebrides aren’t like that any more (nor is the South of England or the indigenous film industry!), but because Scotland, and Gaelic culture has become a more complex and a more visible internal other.

On the musical side–some great piping in the film from Neil Angus MacDonald (although there is mention made online that the famous piper JB Robertson overdubbed some of the tunes?), and interesting to hear the orchestral score mixing with authentic puirt-a-beul. Reminded me of listening to Hamish MacCunn’s, ‘Land of the Mountain and the Flood’ type orchestral settings when I was a student.
There’s been very little work done on the use of traditional music in Scottish Art music (with notable exception of Everett’s ‘National Themes in Scottish Art Music’ 1999 and Ronald Stevenson’s ‘The emergence of Scottish music’ are the only two papers I know that really directly address this area). But traditional Scottish music is today a separate world from Art music–it was not always this way. I imagine a time in the 18th century and into the early 19th when really musicians were much less bound by genres and good Scottish musicians have always crossed over different genres–today however, it is a much more prickly issue with national funding and many more livelihoods at stake. However, the myth-making and Anglicization of Scottish music had started a lot earlier–in my head, things really kick off with the fantastical multi-volume history of music by Charles Burney (a really good analysis of this in Gelbart’s excellent book–the invention of art music and folk music). Hopefully more info on the contemporary position around these issues to come in the fieldwork to the project.

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