Nether Lorn Canntaireachd

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Nether Lorn Canntaireachd is the name for the written system of vocables used in Colin Campbell's manuscripts (Vol. I and Vol. II).[1] [2] Broadly, it indicates the pitch of notes and decorations along with phrasing, but there is no explicit way to express duration. In this sense it is ambiguous as a musical notation and it has been suggested that its purpose is more as an aide-mémoire than a full system of musical notation.

Generally, pitches are indicated by vowels and grace-notes by consonant prefixes, but there are exceptions to this rule. B (o) and C (ho), for example are distinguished by the preceding consonant, or lack thereof. Different representations of a given pitch are also used depending on the position in a word. For example, both en and in. Some symbols can represent different musical constructs, such as he which can be either a plain F or an F with a G grace note. Such ambiguities usually have only a small musical effect but nevertheless the system manages to be both is overspecified and ambiguous in terms of pitch.

Phrasing can be indicated by forming words out of several vocables and in Campbell's manuscripts punctuation marks, in particular the comma, is used to further indicate longer phrases. It has been suggested[3] that the spacing between words is significant in some pieces but evidence for this is inconclusive. There is no mechanism to indicate note duration and in this way the system is ambiguous in terms of rhythm: usually there are several musically-reasonable choices for a given phrase.

The correspondence to staff notation presented below is drawn mainly from Cannon's paper[4] as well as the original source material.

Unadorned pitches

\new Voice = "notes" {
  \time 9/4
  \key d \major
  \omit Staff.TimeSignature
  \override Lyrics.LyricSpace.minimum-distance = #3.0
  \relative g' { \stemDown g4 \stemDown a b cis d e fis g a }
\new Lyrics \lyricsto "notes" {
  em en o ho a e he di I
\new Lyrics \lyricsto "notes" {
  \skip 1 in \skip 1 \skip 1 da de dhe vi
\new Lyrics \lyricsto "notes" {
  m n \skip 1 \skip 1 ba \skip 1 ve hi


  1. Canntaireachd and Colin Campbell's Verbal Notation, Frans Buismann, Piping Times, Vol. 50 No. 3, December 1997
  2. The Campbell Canntaireachd Notation, Roderick D. Cannon, 2000
  3. citation needed
  4. Cannon, 2000