The article, in Norwegian language, describes and discusses some developments in the modern Norwegian folk music scene. Among the driving tendencies are education, professionalization and perfection.
The article is published electronically, in open access. (External link above)
Music reviews for Folkemusikk (magazine) and Folkemusikk.no, 2015–2018: Mari Skeie Ljones: Spring du fela, Grove horn: Rallarpop, Rim: Rim, Anders Nils J. Eira: Doalli, Maar: Epleslang, Boreas: Ahoy hoy, Tor Jonsson Orkester: Einseto, Sigrid Kjetilsdotter Jore: Brurehesten, Lars-Ingar Meyer Fjeld: Hardingfele, Pål Bratås: Pål Bratås m/ gjester, Ingvild Blæsterdalen Trio: Stayer, Lars-Ánte Kuhmunen: Riihmagállis/A Legend, Duo Fjerdingøy & Andersson: Jag levde den tiden, Haldor Røyne: Slåtter etter bestefar, Ragnhild Furholt trio: Vårevinden, Gro Kjelleberg Solli: Stien eg fann, Jo Einar Jansen: Naken.
Article in Norwegian about village bells and animal bells, and their use in rural Norwegian soundscapes.
In the classification of musical instruments, the place of the jew’s harp has for a long time been disputed. This is a complex, diverse and anomalous musical instrument, technologically and culturally. The variety of shapes and materials within its original distribution area, Eurasia, raises questions about the nature and early history of the jew’s harp. How can we understand the connection between the various forms, and their chronological significance? How do earlier theories match modern archaeological research? These questions concern both organology and archaeology.
REVIEW OF: Hallvard T. Bjørgum and Daniel Sandén-Warg: Bjørgumspel Vol. II, Taddeivs Minne 1, and Susanne Lundeng: 111 Nordlandsslåtter. Hilsen Susanne Lundeng
The rich decoration and ornamentation traditions in the Norwegian hardanger fiddle was the topic at the seminar of the Norsk folkemusikklag (Norwegian branch of International Council for Traditional Music, ICTM) in 2013. It took place in Rauland in cooperation with the Department of Norwegian Folk Culture at the University College of Southeast Norway. This publication (Norwegian language) is based on the papers at the seminar, and consists of contributions by Bjørn Aksdal, Agnete Sivertsen, Ottar Kåsa, Asbjørn Storesund, Oddrun Hegge, and Mikkel B. Tin.
REVIEW OF: Iain Morley: The Prehistory of Music: Human Evolution, Archaeology, and the Origins of Musicality, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2013 /Steve Mills: Auditory Archaeology. Understanding Sound and Hearing in the Past, Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek, CA, 2014
ANMELDELSE AV: Benedicte Maurseth: Å vera ingenting. Samtalar med spelemannen Knut Hamre. Samlaget, Oslo, 2014.
Baksidetekst: Når begynte menneskene å lage musikk? Kan arkeologene finne spor etter musisering allerede fra steinalderen? Hvordan var musikkhistorien før den vanlige musikkhistorien starter? I denne boka kan du se hvilke instrumenter folk i steinalderen, bronsealder- en og jernalderen spilte. Og du kan bli med å utforske hvordan vi i det hele tatt kan si noe om musikken og sangen for så lenge siden. Du vil også møte flygende sjamaner, flintmusikk, krigerlyrer, kule instrumenter fra antikken, alligatortrommer, neandertalsang og mye, mye mer. Bokas forfatter, Gjermund KolltveIt, er musiker, musikkforsker – og Norges eneste musikkarkeolog.
How did prehistoric people relate to sound? What significance did various kinds of sound have for them? Classification represents a fundamental approach to these questions. The concepts and classifications we use are indicative of our thinking as modern humans. We often classify sound either as intentional or non-intentional, and either as music or non-music. Moreover, as researchers we relate sound to diverse categories such as religion, ritual, hunting, communication, and others. Sounds and sound tools of the past, and the soundscapes they were part of, might be approached from different angles. Music is a problematic concept with an ethnocentric bias. Intentional sound is a better name. A tripartite classification of intentional sound is suggested, distinguishing between sounds made for functional reasons, for ritual reasons, and, finally, for pleasure and pure expression.
The horns of the Scandinavian Bronze Age—the so called bronze lurs—were originally deposited in pairs as sacrifices, most of them in wetlands. It is commonly accepted that these instruments were used for ritual and cultic purposes. Based on the archaeological contexts of the finds, icono- graphical sources, and analogies drawn from different instrument traditions, the article dis- cusses and re-examines the ritual significance of the bronze lurs and their sound. It also analyses the utility value of analogy, and discusses the meaning and usability of the concept of ritual, in connection with religion, performance and music. Other lip-vibrated aerophones from several continents might in various ways provide some parallels to bronze lurs. From archaeological sources the lurs could be compared to the bronze horns of Ireland. Other European ancient trumpets are less relevant analogies, but still important as comparative material. One plausible interpretation of the ritual use of bronze lurs is that they were part of calendar celebrations that worshipped the sun, and thus ensured cyclical renewal, continuity and cosmological order.
Baksidetekst: Våren 2011 inviterte Morgenbladet og Falck forlag 100 norske musikere, fra alle sjangre, aldre og geografiske steder, til å sende inn lister over sine ti favorittplater. Resultatet var ei liste over norgeshistoriens 100 beste plater, stemt frem av musikerne selv. Til sammen tolv av platene er så langt blitt hedret med hver sin bok. Skjoldmøyslaget ble nummer 14 på lista.
Skjoldmøyslaget er en plate med tradisjonelle slåtter spilt på hardingfele og munnharpe, men platen har appell langt utover folkemusikkens vanlige grenser. The Rolling Stones-gitaristen Keith Richards er en av dem som oppdaget slåttemusikken fra Setesdal gjennom Skjoldmøyslaget. I denne boken følger vi slåttene på deres reise gjennom historien, og blir med på tur rundt i Norge og verden når det musikalske og mytologiske landskapet på Skjoldmøyslaget undersøkes.
On the Norwegian ethnomusicologist Christian Leden (1882–1957)
REVIEW OF: Thomas Solomon (red.): Music and Identity in Norway and Beyond, Fagbokforlaget 2011
‘Music’ is a surprisingly new invention. Most of the languages of the world lack a concept of music, yet in all known cultures people play, sing and dance. Historical musicologists too often employ an ethnocentric understanding of music, arisen from the western art music tradition. Does music archaeology represent an alternative voice that challenges ethnocentric approaches to music? Since the field consists of individual researchers with different interests and views, there is no easy answer to this question. But the fact that music archaeologists use material culture as their primary point of departure means that they arrive at other perspectives and approaches to musical activities than historical musicologists using written sources. Most music archaeologists will probably understand music in the widest sense. On the other hand, does our discipline need ‘music’ at all? Some music archaeologists tend to abandon the concept of music, in favour of ‘intentional sound’ or similar, and some prefer to label their field of study ‘archaeomusicology’ or ‘archaeo-organology’. Such strategies could be seen as a response to an unwanted ethnocentric perspective.
The pioneers who contributed towards the formative period of Scandinavian musicology (ca. 1915–1940) were highly interested in ancient music. This essay describes these individuals’ approaches and methods, seeking to place their work in the context of the cultural, political, and academic ideas of the period. Some of the scholars were notably influenced by nationalism, whereas others were more concerned with a common Nordic musical heritage. Moreover, Nordic identities were often parallel to national identities. The interest in ancient music in this period was sometimes related to evolutionary theories. More often, however, the scholars tended to view the history of music as a decline, from an ancient golden age to the present, where only remnants from ancient times survive. The pioneers discussed in this essay include Angul Hammerich, Hortense Panum, Otto Andersson, Tobias Norlind, Christian Leden and Geirr Tveitt.
This pilot project aims to make a survey of ringing stones in Sweden and Norway, collect traditional information about them and discuss their signficance in ancient societies. Revitalizing of these music-archaeological artefacts is also an important part of the work. The project (2009–2010) is funded by The Foundation for Swedish-Norwegian Co-operation.
The abundant material of jew’s harps from archaeological excavations and collections in Europe can be traced back to around 1200 AD, with no substantial datings from earlier times. The remarkable thing is the instrument’s rapid expansion on the continent, of an almost explosive character. Already after a century or so, several types are distributed and, judging by the archaeology, the instruments are produced by professional artisans to serve a market. What was the reason for this fast development in the jew’s harps geographical distribution? The situation with an abundance of finds combined with technological diversity among the objects suggests some kinds of innovative activities. Furthermore, what do the finds express in terms of trade and communication in the medieval society? Which communicative processes produced and spread these items of fashion? Communication is understood here in a wide sense, including trade and distribution of goods, people, technology and ideas. The article illustrates the significance of archaeology in the study of musical instruments in medieval Europe. The material basis is found in the author’s thesis from the University of Oslo Jew’s Harps in European Archaeology (Published 2006 by Archaeopress, BAR1500), which includes a catalogue with more than 800 specimens from archaeological contexts.
English summary: Is there such a thing as a ”Nordic sound” in contemporary folk music? How do the Nordic countries comprise a folk music region? Which forces lie behind developments towards regionalization in this field? These questions are discussed in this article, which takes an empirical point of departure, and describes movements in the folk music scene as well as in institutions and ideologies. The Nordic region is one among several music regions, alliances and identities growing in the global musical landscape. The building and maintenance of mythologies about Nordic culture and music are an important element in this process. The myths are also a natural part of the cultural heritage of the Nordic countries.
There are calculated to be several thousand persons living in Norway today who identify themselves as Romani People (Taters/Travelers), the descendents of families whose wanderings brought them to the Nordic countries around 500 years ago. The music of these people is only rarely found in collections and archives of traditional Norwegian music. They have not been accepted as a natural part of the nation’s cultural heritage. Only during the last decade or so there has there been some change in this situation. Romanies and other national minorities are now recognized as a part of the national cultural heritage of Norway, at least officially. Recently, various funding programs aimed at preserving and supporting minority cultures and multi- cultural activities have been established.
Our present project, concerned with documentation of musical expressions of the Romani People in Norway, was initiated as a part of this. However, as researchers paid by the State and in the interest of the Nation (“Norwegian Collection of Folk Music”), we find that represent the very powers that, in the memory of the Romani people, have never taken their culture seriously but rather systematically destroyed it. Several important issues arise from our position at the interface of the state and the minority. First, can we, as researchers, convince the Romanies that we share interests and basic ideas about preserving and cherishing their music culture? Secondly, are they willing to see their music as a natural part of the cultural heritage of Norway?
If we look at history, it is only a qualified truth that the Romani people have not been a part of the Norwegian national culture. They have lived in Norway since the 16th century, and spread music and other cultural impulses that are adopted now as Norwegian. Still, they have always insisted on their distinctness, as being apart from the established Norwegian culture, representing something foreign, sometimes also exotic. The Romanies are “familiar strangers”. We should accept their right to identify with the Norwegian cultural heritage, at the same time as they deny to identify with it.
REVIEW OF: Camilla Granlien Band: Jarnnetter (ta:lik) og Unni Boksasp: Songar frå Havdal (ta:lik)
English abstract: The concept folk music was a creation of the late 18th century. The influential German scholar J. G. Herder (1744–1803) is regarded as the forefather of the idea about the «folk» as a collective entity. How can we conceptualize the music of the people prior to Herder and prior to the romantic period, when urban scholars started to collect songs and music of the rural «folk»? In order to achieve an understanding of popular music and culture in the late Middle Ages and early modern times, this article discusses some approaches and concepts, including oppositional pairs that can be decribed as fields of tension, such as the great tradition–the little tradition, literacy–orality, professionals–amateurs, and center–periphery. As a rule, there is not much data about popular music, which is the chosen term here, from this period. While written sources often remain silent, archaeological finds represent a source suggesting a rich musical life of the «ordinary» people. Amongst others, the carnival culture is one of the scenes where we should search for popular music and culture. The article takes a European perspective, with special reference to Norway and the rest of Scandinavia.
Music has played an important role in the process of preserving and articulating the identity of the Romani people of Norway. Their music exhibits “archaic” features, especially by means of tonality, suggesting that this group of people has preserved old and deep traditions. At the same time they have been very adaptable towards new and popular forms of dance music and songs, and spread these impulses among the settled people of Norway. Hence the Romani people typically have been conservators and modernizers at the same time. Their musical identity is “hybrid” by nature.
The Romani people in Norway are referred to with several names, such as Tater, Fant, Splint or simply The Travellers. They are related to other Romani groups in Scandinavia. Their language, called Romani, is still spoken among some of the people. According to current theories, the Romani people arrived in Norway first about five hundred years ago, and they later mixed with people from more recent immigrations.
From the last part of the 19th century and onwards the Norwegian authorities performed an active, almost aggressive assimilation politic towards the Romani people. Many were placed in camps, and were forced to leave their ethcnic identity and culture. The threat of loosing their children was constant.
During the last decade the Norwegian authorities have officially regretted their politic towards the Romani people. In 1998 they were officially recognized as en ethnic minority. The Norwegian Research Council now wants to initiate research about the culture and history of the Romani people, without specifically focusing on their oppressed situation and problems of being a minority. Our research project is a part of a larger three year project that is divided in three topics: early history, language and culture/music.
Our music project will, apart from collecting and documenting music, address questions concerned with the social use and function of Romani music in Norway. We will ask what happens to the aesthetics of the tradtional songs when they enter the stage and music industry as part of a Romani “revival”. Which strategies do the people inside this group use to expose their music and culture? In the paper we will focus on the hybrid character of the musical activities of the Romani people. Romani musicians have always been known as dance musicians who played the music the settled people demanded. And their song repertoire has consisted of a mix of old songs and new popular ones.
The paper discusses Scandinavian animal bells in a context of pre-historical and early historical soundscapes. The term soundscape in this sense refer to a physical sonic environment as well as the ways of perceiving that environment. Bells, like other sound tools, never sound in isolation, in silent landscapes. They interact with and overlap, polyphonically, other humanly organized sounds as well as sounds from wind, water, vegetation and animals. Through investigations of their use and functions, of how they served as makers of time and space, the paper seeks to understand their cultural significance, and demonstrate how these sound marks were meaningsful symbols to people. The bells will be seen primarily as aural cultural artifacts. Animal bells are not uncommon artifacts in Scandinavian excavations. The majority of the archaeological finds are dated to the Viking Age (800–1050 AD). The oldest finds date to the Roman Iron Age (0–400 AD), although it is sometimes difficult to determine the function of excavated bells. The most common material in bells was forged iron, though bronze or other copper alloys were also used. Both pellet bells and open bells are found; forms and shapes vary. Bells are still used in stock-raising in Scandinavia. Sheep, goats, cows, but also horses have used bells. There is a remarkable continuity of traditions around this artifact. What is often referred to as “ethnographical analogy” will be a relevant method in this case. Pastoral bells might be regarded as an important identity mark for shepherds, a kind of archetype sound. If an animal is lost or missing from the flock, the bell could help to locate it. This is the most obvious function of an animal bell, and the most important today. Moreover, animal bells have also protected animals against evil forces, or predatory animals, which were believed to result from evil forces. There are a lot of descriptions of rituals with bells that people performed in order to secure their power, including offering food in them or silencing them on certain occasions or places. It is very likely to suggest a combination of functions; that animal bells were used for magical and ritual purposes, besides the practical functions.
The subject of this monograph is the archaeology of the jew’s harp in Europe. It is based on archaeological finds collected from various sources and compiled into a database. This compilation – which is appended as a Catalogue – is itself a major part of the work, connected as it is to the main aim of documenting the finds and thus contributing to an understanding of the early period of the jew’s harp in Europe. Based on doctoral dissertation, University of Oslo with the same title (2004).
REVIEW OF: Even Ruud: Lydlandskap. Om bruk og misbruk av musikk, Fagbokforlaget 2005
ANMELDELSE AV: Tone Holte: Olafs sangskatt – livet på Greverud i gamle dager, Roskva 2003
The paper is a survey of the early lyre in Scandinavia on the basis of available sources, which are mainly archaeological finds and depictions. Available here for download in fulltext.
RREVIEW OF: Khomus: Jew’s Harp Music of Turkic peoples in the Urals, Siberia and Central Asia, Pan Records 1995
English summary: During the excavations in Gamlebyen, the site of medieval Oslo, two bridges for stringed instruments came to light. The first bridge, presumably with notches for seven strings, was excavated on Mindets tomt in 1971. The second, with notches for five strings, was excavated on the Oslogate 6 site in 1988. Both are made of pine and date to the 13th century. The first has been interpreted as a bridge for a seven stringed lyre and the second bowed instrument.
A number of lyre bridges and other lyre parts have been unearthed on excavations in Northern Europe. The bridges were found to be made of a variety of materials such as wood, antler, amber or bronze, and had notches for five, six or seven strings. The examples from Weste1n Europe, with the exception of Norway, date from around the 6th to the 11th centuries AD. Thus the lyre bridge from Oslo is of a significantly later date than its European counterparts. The author feels this should be understood in light of iconographic evidence from Norway which suggests that the lyre was in use longer here than in any other place in Europe. The word lyre was not used in medieval Scandinavia, the instrument was probably known under the term harpe.
The bridge with notches for five strings is arched, and consequently has been a part of a bowed instrument. The number of strings and its markedly arched shape, indicates that it may have been the bridge of a fiddle. Little, however, is known about medieval b1idges, and another possible interpretation is that the bridge belonged to a bowed lyre, an instrument known to have existed in Scandinavia.
Only a small number of bridges from medieval bowed instruments have been found, and depictions of such instluments rarely pay attention to details like bridges. Some authors believe that in the Middle Ages bowed instruments had either flat bridges, or no bridges at all, and that musicians inevitably played all the strings simultaneously. The Oslo bridge contradicts this theory. The bridge was intentionally arched to enable the playing of single melody lines.
The bridges from Oslo were both found in houses occupied by ordinary citizens. Music historians have traditionally regarded stringed instluments, especially the harp, lyre and fiddle, as instruments associated exclusively with the noble classes. Early written sources, however, are scarce, and nearly always deal with p1ivileged people. Some of these instruments are deeply rooted in European folk music, no doubt in some cases going back to the Middle Ages.
Revised version of MA-thesis (hovedfag), University of Oslo, 1996 (Norwegian language)