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The biniou koz ("old bagpipe" in Breton) or biniou bihan ("little bagpipe") is traditionally played in pair with the bombarde (see below). The two players are referred to as sonerion (in Breton) or sonneurs de couple (in French). The biniou (as it is referred to these days) is a mouth-blown bagpipe with one drone. It is high-pitched (an octave above the Scottish Highland bagpipes), with a range of ten notes. Its tuning has varied from one area of Brittany to the next (it can be found in the keys of G#, A, B, or C), and Bretons continue to research the history and diverse use of this instrument. The bombarde has a range of two octaves with its lower range pitched an octave below the biniou. The biniou provides a continuous sound due to the steady supply of air from the bag to both the drone and chanter. The chanter is only 5-1/2 inches long with 7 finger holes; the single drone is approximately 14 inches long.
While the biniou and bombarde pair is found today throughout Brittany and performed by some 400 pairs, it has been traditionally found in the southwestern and south central part of Brittany where its practice remains strong. The style of paired playing found today has been well documented as far back as the turn of the 19th century, although there are references and visual depictions indicating that these two instruments might have been played in pair at least as far back as the 16th century in Brittany. In earlier times a drum was also commonly found to form a trio, although today this is rarely found. In past centuries sonneurs were often professional musicians (at least part-time) who were hired for weddings, fairs and other public events. Except for very rare exceptions, biniou and bombarde pairs have been men.
The bombarde is a member of the oboe or shawm family. Describing it as an oboe, however, can be misleading since it has a very powerful sound, more closely resembling a trumpet. The bombarde is played as oboes are played with the double reed placed between one's lips; the second octave (unison with the range of the biniou) is achieved with lip pressure. In contrast to the continuous sound of the bagpipe, the bombarde is capable of stacatto which makes it particularly effective in pair with the biniou. This is an instrument that has been in constant evolution with many different keys developed as well as milder versions (lombarde, piston) developed for use in ensembles.
Today, both the biniou and bombarde are played in combination with an unlimited number of instruments (saxophone, fiddle, flutes, electric guitar, percussion from all over the world … ) or with voice in fest-noz bands, rock groups and ensembles of all styles - in arrangements of traditional Breton dance tunes and airs or new compositions.
See the « Panorama » section of the Dastum website : www.dastum.net for a history of the bombarde and biniou including musical examples. Dastum also produces and excellent bi-monthly magazine, Musique Bretonne.
While primaily focused on the bagad and use of Scottish style bagpipes in Brittany the website for Bodadeg ar Sonerion : www.ar-soner.org is also a good source of information. The BAS also publishes a bi-monthly magazine called Ar Soner.
Musique Bretonne—Histoire des sonneurs de tradition. (Douarnenez: Le Chasse-Marée/Ar Men). 1996. 512 pages.A beautifully illustrated and documented history of bagpipe, bombardes, the veuze and other instruments in Brittany.
"Polig Monjarret" Ar Men 53 (August 1993): pages 44-57.
A portrait of a very important collector of traditional music--especially that of the bombarde--and leader of Breton bagpipe band renaissance.
La Musique bretonne, Roland Becker & Laure Le Gurun. (Spezet: Coop Breizh) 1994. 120 pages. Good single source of background information on Breton music--especially good for piping and instrumental traditions.
"Le couple biniou-bombarde: aux origines d'une grande
tradition" Laurent Bigot.
Ar Men 59 (May 1994):pages 26-39.
”Le couple biniou-bombarde: Apogée, décadence et renouveau” Laurent Bigot. Ar Men 61 (August 1994):pages 10-29
Excellent articles with beautiful photographs and illustrations about the history of the biniou and bombarde in Brittany; parallels release of CD of historical recordings - see below.
Sonerien daou ha daou--Methode de biniou et de bombarde.
Yves.Castel. (Editions 'Breizh hor Bro') 1980
A 63-page booklet including history of the paired playing of biniou koz and bombarde as well as instructions on performance for learners.
Musiques traditionnelles de Bretagne: I—Sonnoux et Sonerien, Yves Defrance. Skol Vreizh no. 35. 1996. 83 pages.
Matilin an dall – Naissance d’un mythe. Bernard de Parades (and Christian Morvan, Fañch Postic, Patrick Malrieu). (Quimper: Les Amis de Bernard de Parades) 2001.
Portrait of a famous blind piper of Quimperlé (1789-1859).
Sonneur. Yann Le Meur (Spezet: Coop Breizh). 2002.
Reflections and travels of a contemporary bombarde and biniou player.
Toniou Breizh-Izel--Folk Music of West Brittany, Polig
Monjarret. (Rennes: Bodadeg ar Sonerion) 1984. 675 pages.
2,200 dances and melodies collected from biniou and bombarde players between 1941 and 1954 in Lower Brittany; introductory section describes structure of music and collection activity.
Tonioù Breizh-Izel 2, Polig Monjarret (Bodadeg ar Sonerion & Dastum). 2003. 700 pp.
Another 2,000 tunes collected in the 1940s and 50s.
See also listings for biniou braz and bagad.
Musiques Traditionnelles en Bretagne Morbihannaise. Arfolk CD 423. 1993. 85-minute compact disc. excellent 24-page booklet in French with bibliography. Features the bombarde, with biniou koz and biniou braz, drum and organ.
Roland Becker, L’Orchestre National Breton.
Er roue Stevan. Carpe Diem 2627. (L’Autre Distribution). 2000.
Jean Baron & Christian Anneix.
Toniou Bastian ar Soner. Association des Bretons d'Anjou. CD 70431. 1993 Compositions of Sebastien Cam, 1879-1958
Sonaozadur. Keltia Musique KM 89. 1998. 15 new compositions
Dansoù tro Breiz—Y’a d’la joie. Keltia Musique KMCD 123. 2001.
Hentad. Keltia Musique KMCD 140. 2003. Retrospective of long career of this pair including lots of great photos)
Dansoù c’hoari. Keltia musique KMCD 164. 2005.
Jean Baron & Georges Epinette
Hommage à Jean Magadur. Keltia Musique KMCD57. 1995. Nicely documented tribute to a famous piper.
War Roudoù aen Arboulet. Dastum – Tradition Vivante de Bretagne 18. DAS 146. 2004. Well documented by Yves Labbé, this CD pays hommage to a collector of Vannetais Brittany, Jean-Louis Larboulette (1878-1951).
Yves Berthou & Patrick Molard.
War Roudoù Leon Braz. Dastum – Tradition vivante de Bretagne 17. DAS 144. 2002. Homage to the famous piper Leon Braz, with extensive notes.
Pierre Crepillon & Laurent Bigot.
'Dreuz Kreiz Breiz. Keltia Musique. KMCD 56. 1995. 49'26.
Pierre Crepillon, Laurent Bigot, Patrick Molard.
Ar sac'h ler. Escalibur BUR 826. 1988; reissued by Coop Breizh CD 453. 1998. Some of the best you can hear of bombarde/biniou koz and bombarde biniou braz combined.
Daniel Feon and Jil Lehart.
Evit Dansal. Arfolk CD 432. 1995
Gilbert Hervieux & Jacques Beauchamp.
Arzoustaff. EOG Production. EOG 101. 1996.
Philippe Janvier & Jean-Luc Moign.
Pour le coeur d’un marinier. Pixie JLM 95. 1995.
Youenn Le Bihan & Patrick Molard.
"Er Bolom Koh". Gwerz Pladenn GWP 007. 1995.
Ronan Le Corre, Teddy Molard, Yann Le Corre, Yann Simon,
Yann Le Boulanger.
Jeunes sonneurs du Centre Bretagne. Arfolk CD 437. 1995.
Jean-Elie Le Goff, Jacky Le Hetet, Daniel Philippe, Gwendal Berthou, André Thomas.
An Toull Karr. Coop Breizh CD 947. 2005. Dances and melodies featuring the Plinn area.
Daniel Le Noan & Michel Alain.
An eured, ou la folle journée. An Naer Productions. 701. 2003. Musique that would be found during a day of wedding festivities.
Instruments du Diable, Musique des Anges – Tableaux sonores de Bretagne. Dastum DAS 132. 1999. Sound scapes evoking the role of bagpipes and bombardes in Breton society from the Middle Ages to today.
Fabrice Lothode & Chim Cadoudal.
Ça va durer comme ça pendant lontemps ? Demat Deoch. 2005. Paried biniou braz and biniou koz with bombarde focused on Vannetais repretoire..
Gildas Moal & René Chaplain.
An disput. Arfoilk CD 438. 1996.
Fin ‘Zun. Coop Breizh CD 938 – DB10. 2003.
Daniel Philippe & Daniel Le Féon
C’hwezh ur vro / Le soufflé d’un terroir. Dastum Bro Dreger DBD 01. 2004. Tregor region featured in well documented CD.
Serge Riou and Hervé Irvoas.
Gant ar vombard hag ar biniou. Coop Breizh CD 902. 2000. (52’36)
Sonneurs de couple biniou-bombarde: les enregistrements historiques.
Anthologie des chants et musiques de Bretagne Vol. 6. Le Chasse Marée/Ar Men. 73-minute CD with 28-page booklet. Beautifully documented collection of older recordings by masters.
Bombardes et binious de la Montagne--Retrospective du Trophée Per Guillou.
Chanteurs et musiciens de Bretagne No. 9. Dastum, DAS 124, 1995. 60 minute cassette and 24 page booklet.
40e Championnat de Bretagne des sonneurs par couple—Gourin. Arfolk CD 444. 1997.
The pairing of the bombarde with big church organs dates back only to the 1970s but has become a tradition of its own. Often the repertoire includes a number of Breton cantiques or hymns, but this pairing is also used for dances and new compositions, and more recently the biniou has been added to make a trio, and you also find bombarde paired with piano. The following are some more recent recordings.
Jean-Michel Alhaits & Jean-Pierre Rolland.
Fantaisies. Escalibur 868. 1997.
Josick Allot & Michel Dubois.
Matelin en Amour. Keltia Musique RS 237. 1999. From Festival Interceltique de Lorient composition.
Josick Allot, Job Defernez & Michel Dubois.
Trio biniou-orgue-bombarde: Bonjour Boulom. 2000.
Anne Auffret, Jean Baron, Michel Ghesqière.
Pedenn. Keltia Musique KMCD 109. 2000. 72’57. Singer Anne Auffret in trio with bombarde and organ.
Anne Auffret, Daniel Le Féon, Loic Le Griguer
Pardonioù Vol. 1 – Les plus beau cantiques de pardons. Coop Breizh CD 919. 2001
Pardonioù Vol. 2. Coop Breizh CD 920. 2002. Cantiques you would find at festivals celebrating the many saints of Brittany with singer Anne Auffret in trio with bombarde and organ.
Jean Baron & Michel Ghesquière.
Bombarde, ocarina et orgue. Arion ARN 33697, 1981; rereleased on CD in 1995, Arion ARN 64302;
Musique sacrée et mélodies bretonnes. Keltia Musique KM 69, 1996.
Jean Baron, Christian Anneix & Jean-Michel Mansano.
Kerjadenn—bombarde, biniou, orgue. Keltia Musique KMCD 108. 2000.
Christophe Caron & Louis Yhuel.
Prestige de la bombarde. Escalibur BUR 814. 1985.
Christophe Caron & Christian Mayer.
Gwenn-rann, bombarde et piano. Coop Breizh 916. 2000.
Jean-Claude Jégat & Louis Yhuel.
Bombarde et orgue. Arfolk 305-306; reedited on CD in 1989. Pioneers in this genre with many recordings in the 1970s and early 1980s on lp.
Gregory Le Lan & Germain Desbonnet
Bombarde et Orgue – Fêtes bretonnes. Renouveau bombarde et orgue. FB01 – DB5X2. 1999
Bataille de roi Morvan. FB 02. 2001
Hommage à Saint-Patrick. FB 03. 2005. Compositions based on traditional Breton airs and tunes.
Hervé Le Lu & Philippe Turbin
Dawad. Créon Musique. 2003. Bombarde and piano.
André Le Meut & Hervé Rivière.
Bombarde et orgue—musiques profane et sacrée de Bretagne. Keltia Musique KM 52. 1995.
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