Travels with an Electronic Bagpipe

Jack Campin

Some time ago I bought a second-hand Deger electronic pipe chanter - see I intend to get a set of Border pipes someday, but I'm on a long waiting list. Meanwhile these let me practice; it can work with the closed fingering used on Border pipes. (But it's more than a practice instrument - look at the Deger site to see its capabilities).

And I can practice nearly anywhere. Most of these photos were taken on a trip to Turkey in 2004. I was slightly worried about what airport security people would make of it, after reading this account of how one of them got an entire airport shut down. But in the event there wasn't much problem; one of the staff at Istanbul took some time to understand the concept, but I had no trouble at British airports or at Diyarbakir. The most thorough checking was at, of all things, a folk concert - I went to one at the new Cemal Resit Rey theatre in Istanbul, which has induction loop and x-ray scanners in the foyer. They wanted a full explanation of how it worked. I was carrying it in a tough cardboard tube, which was in turn usually in a specially-made canvas daypack with a pouch for it. If I looked like a bomber I was a seriously well-prepared one.

So, here are the photos, starting with one taken on the plane on its way to Antalya...

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 4 photo 5 photo 6 photos 7

The photos were all taken by Marion Bowles except for the ones of me with the Öztürk family in Hasankeyf, which were taken by Halime Öztürk, the children's mother.

There are a few design problems with the instrument which you might want to be aware of. The positioning of the headphone socket, at the top and pointing to the right, means it's easy to get a tangle of wire round your fingers. And the contacts can become insensitive if the battery is not at absolutely full charge and your skin somewhat damp. I have dry skin, so I get limited battery life out of a rechargeable before the low notes become unusably slow to speak. Also, the conductivity of the skin is better at the fingertips than elsewhere - this is why in these photos I'm generally playing with my fingertips rather than in the normal position with fingers flat. I think the power supply could do with improvement.

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