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Around the Origins of Bagpipes: Relevant Hypotheses and Evidences

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This article addresses the complex question of the origins of bagpipes. One of the major problems is to determine the defining features of the instrument, as the denomination includes a broad and heterogeneous family. We propose an explanatory typology based on only three main profiles, interrelated but substantially different: circular breathing (initial and polygenetic), the addition of an external pipe bag (documented in some early civilizations), and the medieval one, which leads to the modern European bagpipe (with bag, one or more drones and the morphology that has survived to the present). Attention is also paid to the intense social symbolism that has surrounded the instrument since ancient times. The study reveals that bagpipes had a marginal position in Greco-Roman culture, associated with livestock and beggars; but in the medieval world their roles and contexts expanded unstoppably.

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