It has collected the available piobaireachd MSS and from these and the knowledge of the existing experts and players published 15 books with the piobaireachd, written in staff notation accompanied by notes on the sources. The Society has also published the Kilberry Book of Ceol Mor by Archibald Campbell - a collection of 112 of the better-known tunes. There are notes, separately published as Sidelights and Further Sidelights that tell of Kilberry's own famous teachers and what they taught him. It has also published one book of modern piobaireachd. More recently it has been concerned with publishing important MSS or books with explanatory notes to make these more available to students of piobaireachd.
Joseph MacDonald's Treatise was published in 1994 and the MacArthur - MacGregor MS was published in conjunction with the John MacFadyen Memorial Trust in 2001. A further substantial work has recently been completed by Roderick Cannon on Donald MacDonald's book of piobaireachd containing 24 tunes. This is now at the printers. What is Piobaireachd? When the Highlands and Islands of Scotland adopted the bagpipe, perhaps some seven or eight hundred years ago, they began to develop the instrument and its music to suit their needs and tastes.
What emerged was the instrument we know today and a form of music, piobaireachd, which is unique to the instrument. It is a very stylized form of music. There is freedom in the theme or ground of the piobaireachd to express joy, sadness, or sometimes in the gathering, a peremptory warning or call to arms. Thereafter the theme is repeated and underlined in a series of variations, which usually progress to the crunluath variation where the piper's fingers give a dazzling technical display of embellishment or gracenotes.
Piobaireachd, or Ceòl Mòr (2the Grand Music) as it might be more accurately termed, takes account of the continuous and constant volume nature of the bagpipe. Certain movements have evolved that are particularly expressive and are used to punctuate and give the light and shade required in music. To most good pipers, piobaireachd is the real music of the pipes. Quick marches, strathspeys and reels etc. arc a different form of music properly labeled as Ceòl Beag, or the small or lesser music. The Piobaireachd Society has in the past appointed and may continue to appoint and pay teachers to teach promising pupils.