My Spotify Playlist – Track 7

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Posted By Scott

The next entry on my Spotify Playlist is The Sleeping Tune. This gentle, relaxing piece of music originally was conceived for an instrument not known for being quiet.

The Sleeping Tune by Gordon Duncan

Gordon Duncan was born in Turriff, Aberdeenshire and started learning the bagpipes at age 10.  As an adult he attracted attention from folk bands, touring the US and Europe with the Tannahill Weavers, Wolfstone and Ceolbeg and became associated with Dougie MacLean.  He began composing soon afterwards, having travelled across Europe and been exposed to other traditions, especially Breton music.  Sadly on 14 December 2005, Duncan was found dead at his home in Perthshire.

The Sleeping Tune is one of his compositions, a beautiful piece of music that has been performed by many musicians.  I have included two versions in my playlist. 

On the Fiddle

The first is by Scottish band Session A9.  This amazing seven-piece band are regulars at the annual Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow.  The group consists of four fiddlers, a guitarist, a pianist and a percussionist and the energy in their performances is something to behold.  I find their music to be so uplifting and, if I ever feel down, I’ll pop on some of their tracks and give my mood a real boost.  After several high temp numbers in a show, the Sleeping Tune acts as a nice come down.  I have seen Session A9 numerous times and heartily recommend you catch them live whenever you can.      

The four Session A9 fiddle players at Celtic Connections in 2020.

And on the Guitar

Scottish folk guitarist Tony McManus provides the second version.  Tony is an amazing guitarist, in demand for performances around the world.  I’m friends with a friend of his and we’ve been to several of his shows.  During these, Tony tells an anecdote about how the Sleeping Tune came to be, but I won’t #spoil it here in case you catch him in concert. 

Being Mindful

So two very different versions of the Sleeping Tune but for me both capture the relaxing quality of the piece.  As a result, I can find myself drifting off as I listen to it, finding tranquillity in the playing.  Whilst there are no lyrics here in which to look for a personal meaning, it’s a tune I turn to when I feel stressed or tense.  It helps me to relax.  Sometimes I will put it on at a low volume and try to practise some mindfulness and the two seem to complement each other. 

Particularly in the early days following diagnosis, my head was a car crash and I often found myself struggling to calm down.  The fear and worry about MS were on my mind all the time.  I needed something to help me relax, get my breathing under control and focus on whatever positives I could.  The Sleeping Tune was the ideal piece of music to help me achieve this, and for that it makes my list.

One Question

There is just one thing I’ve always wondered.  Given that they’re not known for being “lullaby friendly”, how did such a soothing piece of music come to be composed for the bagpipes? 

You can learn more about Gordon Duncan at the Gordon Duncan Memorial Trust.

Two Sleeping Tunes for the price of one

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