When the Highlands and Islands of Scotland adopted the bagpipe, perhaps some seven hundred years ago, pipers began to develop it and its music to suit their needs and tastes.
What emerged was the instrument we know today as the Great Highland Bagpipe, and a form of music, piobaireachd (pronounced 'pee-broch'). Piobaireachd is unique to this instrument. It cannot be successfully reproduced on any other. (The name piobaireachd is literally 'piping' in Gaelic.) This classical pipe music consists of a theme, known as the ground, or in Gaelic the urlar ('oorlar'), and variations on this theme.
The theme can express joy, sadness, or sometimes, in the 'gathering' tunes, a peremptory warning or call to arms. Variations on the theme usually progress to the 'crunluath' variation, where the piper's fingers give a dazzling technical display of embellishments or gracenotes. The Piobaireachd Society was founded in 1901 to encourage the playing teaching and study of this music.