Bagpipes are awesome. How can an instrument that can be described as “squeezing the cat” fail to bring a smile to the face of any people who hear it? I can totally understand not wanting to wake up to the sounds of a bagpipe at 8:30 on a Saturday morning—after all, how can you feel ready to march into battle Braveheart-style and bash some English heads together before your morning haggis? But bagpipes can turn a boring walk to class into a jaunt through a misty moor to see Macduff knock Macbeth’s block off. And even if someone were to disagree about the value of the sound that comes of bagpipes (it’s okay to say it, you can be wrong if you really want to), I think they should recognize some of the bagpipes’ other admirable qualities.
Now, I recognize that everyone has different tastes in music, as in most things in life. But the special qualities of bagpipes are often missed along with their beauty. They are special because they tend to be a sound that people either love intensely or hate intensely. And the lack of middle ground makes them interesting. People either jam out or cringe when they hear the melodious sound of bagpipes wafting through the breeze. And it is true that other schools have mascots who are slightly more commonly recognized as beautiful or universally loved. But the Piper—and the bagpipes—fit with Macalester, because we are not a school that is considered to be a middle ground. People who come here are rarely content to stay out of conflict and not let their voice be heard. We attract people who have strong opinions and could probably march out on the battle moor and come out covered in blood and ready to discuss social constructs. And of course, when people meet us as a school and as components of that school, it’s pretty apparent that they either love or hate us—hopefully mostly the former, but you can’t make haggis without breaking a few sheep hearts.
So it is true that bagpipes are not everyone’s favorite sound, but not only are they interesting because of extreme hatred or love, but also because they make every situation interesting, and at the very least they become a talking point for any awkward social encounter. People can either rhapsodize about the many and varied positive aspects of the best instrument ever or discuss plans for the imminent dismemberment of the piper to silence the pipes forever. Or, in the case that some of the former type of people meet some of the latter type, they can insult each other’s taste until the cows come home or a feud has started, whichever comes first.
And, of course, bagpipes are also an instrument to respect because the sound stays with us. The pipes playing will immediately evoke memories for everyone who goes to Macalester. The sound of bagpipes at funerals and weddings (and wherever else people have the good sense to play it) will bring back memories of Macalester. Of eating lunch while a piper plays the bagpipes in full dress to welcome visitors to Kagin for one event or another, of commencements and convocations, or even of the Daily Piper. The sound will always remind us of our days here, and even if people are still in denial about how amazing the sound coming out of bagpipes is, the bagpipes themselves will always mean something to us, and that makes bagpipes incredible.