Dating back to the sixteenth century or earlier, canntaireachd (pron. cownterochk) developed as the art of “chanting” pibroch (piobaireachd), the classical form of bagpipe music. Essentially an oral form, canntaireachd consists of vocables, which stand for recognized groups of notes but otherwise have no meaning as words. When written down or, more commonly, sung as mouth music they provide an alternative to the Western system of musical notation and a means for preserving and passing on both the the melody and fingering of tunes.

The above videos feature Barnaby Brown who grew up in Glasgow, studying both Western and Gaelic classical music traditions. A graduate of Cambridge University and former principal flautist of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, he is one of the first pipers to enlist the principles of the early music movement to refresh the spirit and integrity of contemporary pibroch performance.

His scholarly approach to the Campbell Canntaireachd and Angus MacKay manuscripts has restored 70 works to the repertoire and thrown light on the craft of Gaelic musicians prior to their extinction as a professional class. He is currently artist-in-residence at Columba 1400, Isle of Skye, working on Guthan Thròndarnais – a body of Gaelic polyphony for choirs.

Barnaby studied Gaelic at Clydebank College, Glasgow, and now lives in Sardinia pursuing skills in reedmaking and on the triple pipe: a Picto-Gaelic instrument with a 3000-year-old tradition on that island.