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MohicanLand Musical Musings: The Music of The Last of the Mohicans


Dougie MacLean has a long-standing reputation as one of Scotland's finest musicians and composers, but among fans of the Last of The Mohicans he is best known for writing that wonderful piece called "The Gael"––probably the piece from the movie most widely recognized after the "Main Title". Dougie began his career in the early 70s, playing in school and busking in the streets until recruited into the well-known Tannahill Weavers. Following a 3-year run with the Weavers, he enjoyed a solo career and a short stint with the Silly Wizards (at the same time that Phil Cunningham was with the Wizards), and returned briefly to the Tannahill Weavers. In 1981, he started his own record company, Dunkeld, in Dunkeld, Scotland, where he settled with his family. Since then, he has made over 10 records on his own. He has also performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City and tours around the world. The BBC has made a 40-minute film of his life and music in "The Land: Songs of Dougie MacLean."

Dougie's 5th record on the Dunkeld label is The Search, which includes "The Gael." Made in 1990, The Search is a collection of instrumental works commissioned for the opening of the Official Loch Ness Monster Exhibition. According to the liner notes, "The inspiration for this music began in 1988 when Dougie MacLean was invited to create a textural music background for a planned audio-visual exhibition... What followed was a fascination with the ancient celtic myths, the sightings, the earlier and more recent scientific exploration and the loch itself––indeed with the whole idea of 'The Search'...." Dougie and his wife have purchased a hotel in Dunkeld and established "MacLean's Real Music Bar". This is a place for spontaneous music sessions for all musicians, and on pretty rare occasions Dougie may share a tune or song there with other musicians. Dougie himself is performing in larger and larger venues.

For more information about Dougie, visit http://www.samusic.com/pro-macl.shtml, and http://www.ceolas.org/artists/Dougie_MacLean.html.

Also, visit Dougie's own Dunkeld website to learn about his recordings and his touring schedule. Another source of info on Dougie MacLean include a profile on Ceolas, a website for Celtic music, which has links to two articles about Dougie.

To find out what others on this website have said about Dougie and his music, here are a few comments:


The Gael

"The Gael" appears in two places in LOTM––during "The Kiss" and "Promontory". (The word gael means the Scot, that is, the Scotsman.)
Press the Play button to play the original tune.
Used by permission of Dougie MacLean.


Sheet music provided by Steven T. Cucina

Rumor has it that a Scottish fiddler name Alasdair Fraser (who, on occassion, plays in the Houston area and elsewhere), is responsible for playing "The Gael" in the movie and on the soundtrack CD, but this rumor is not substantiated, as neither the movie nor the CD names who played the fiddle. However, for those who would like more of this type of music, Fraser has a wonderful CD out named Skyedance (1986), published by Culburnie Records, CD number CUL101D, as well as others on the Culburnie label.

"The Gael" is in the key of A minor. (In picking out the tune on the piano, some people might be led to believe that this piece is in C major, which has the same key signature as A minor, no sharps or flats, but in fact the piece begins and ends on A, indicating it is A minor rather than C major. A minor is the "relative" minor key of C major, meaning it has the same key signature (no sharps or flats) but has a very different sound (that sadder sound normally associated with minor keys). The key of A minor makes it very easy for Trevor Jones to fit the music into pieces written in D minor, especially the "Main Title", because both these keys have very similar chords, based around the A (A being the tonic of A minor and the dominant or the fifth of D minor).

The musical structure of "The Gael" is a repeating pattern of eight measures, apparently with four beats to the measure (thus, in simple 4/4 time). The notes of the fiddle melody are in triplets, meaning that there are three notes or equivalents to each beat. The sequence of eight measures varies in orchestration in the movie according to other themes interwoven in the story being told.

In Dougie MacLean's recording on The Search, "The Gael" begins with an interesting drum beat, which is more uneven than the straight beat of the drum we hear in the movie during "The Kiss" and "The Promontory". It also begins with a quirky melody on the synthesizer before the entrance of the fiddle melody we all recognize.

Although "The Gael" is likely to remain a favourite piece on Dougie MacLean's The Search CD, all the pieces are equally good. Other recommendations include Dougie's first two recordings, Craigie Dhu and The Fiddle.

On to Phil Cunningham
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