The ‘Big Music’ of the title of Kirsty Gunn’s new novel is Pibroch, the formal music of the Highland bagpipes, the most intricate and demanding bagpipe music for both player and listener, far removed from the so-called ‘little music’ of dance tunes and marches. Kirsty Gunn weaves the pibroch’s elaborate structure into a remarkable work of fiction, which is constantly evolving and reshaping. It’s an ambitious novel that critics are calling a ‘masterpiece’.
It’s a novel that took seven years to write, which – as Kirsty Gunn admits – still feels open-ended and never-ending, which makes for a very specific reading experience. The reader discovers events in their own time – often sifting through documents, transcripts, papers and commentaries – and is not lead by the narrator. Quite unusual and just one of many aspects of the novel our Faber Podcast host George Miller raised with the New Zealand-born author in this recent interview:
‘I was constantly surprised by where the book took me … an old man, about to die, a new-born baby in his arms, and this remote landscape – what on Earth is that all about? And yet, by the time I finished writing the story (after 7 years), I absolutely knew, and it all made sense, and every single piece of the puzzle had fitted into place. – Kirsty Gunn
The Big Music