Words as music/music as words: the bagpipe and Kirsty Gunn’s The Big Music (2012)

Williams, V. (2016) Words as music/music as words: the bagpipe and Kirsty Gunn’s The Big Music (2012). Scottish Literary Review, 8(1), pp. 111-131.

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Publisher's URL: https://muse.jhu.edu/article/619280


The article is an analysis of the literary devices Kirsty Gunn has employed in her novel The Big Music to recreate in writing ceòl mór – also and arguably more commonly known as pìobaireachd: the classical music of the bagpipe. This avant-garde experiment blends and incorporates two artistic forms – music and literature – and it does so on a number of levels which I have been able to discuss with the author herself: from sentence structure to thematic exploration and ‘chromatic’ rendering of notes into words. The unexpected, almost hidden, yet prominent role of a female character of the novel in this process also brings a feminist touch to what has been traditionally seen as a male-dominated world: the performative side of bagpiping. The Big Music is the twenty-first century result of traditional connections between pìobaireachd and song in Gaelic culture, and literary interface between music/sound and the page encompassing Gaelic poetry and Modernist fiction; in this sense, it is a testimonial of Scotland’s current cultural standing and awareness.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:The Big Music, piobaireachd, pibroch, ceol mor, contemporary Scottish literature, 21st century, bagpipes, Kirsty Gunn
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Williams, Dr Vivien
Authors: Williams, V.
Subjects:M Music and Books on Music > ML Literature of music
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History
College/School:College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > Scottish Literature
Journal Name:Scottish Literary Review
Publisher:Association for Scottish Literary Studies
ISSN (Online):1756-5634

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