bagpipe, musical instrument whose ancient origin was probably in Mesopotamia from which it was carried east and west by Celtic migrations. It was used in ancient Greece and Rome and has been long known in India. Some form of bagpipe was later used in nearly every European country; it was particularly fashionable in 18th-century France, where it was called the musette. Its widest use and greatest development was in the British Isles, particularly Northumberland, Ireland, and Scotland. The island of Skye was the home of a school for pipers. The Highland pipe of Scotland, the most well-known type, was a martial instrument and from it comes the modern great pipe; but at least six other types were once used in the British Isles. The basic construction of a bagpipe consists of a bag, usually leather, which is inflated either by mouth through a tube or by a bellows worked by the arm; one or two chanters (or chaunters), melody pipes having finger holes and fitted usually with double reeds; and one or more drones, which produce one sustained tone each and usually have single reeds, though the musette drones have double reeds (see reed instrument). Associated with folk and military music, it has been neglected by composers, possibly because of its short range.
See T. H. Podnos, Bagpipes and Tunings (1974); T. Collinson, The Bagpipe (1975).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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