Gjermund Kolltveit is an independent music archaeologist, ethnomusicologist, author and musician, based in Nesodden, Norway. His research interests spans widely within archaeological and anthropological perspectives on music and sound. presents different topics and activities, including Kolltveit’s new projects, on singing as identity marker and agent in conflict, and “The Roots and Routes of the Jew’s Harp in Asia”.


  • 2004

    Dr. art., musicology

    University of Oslo

  • 1996

    Cand. philol. (Master), musicology

    University of Oslo

  • 1993

    Cand. mag. (Bachelor), musicology, archaeology, social anthropology

    University of Oslo

  • 1988

    Specialist teacher, music

    Eastern Norway Conservatory of Music

Academic positions

  • Present2014

    Independent scholar


  • 20142011

    Associate professor

    University College of Southeast Norway, Department of Norwegian Folk Culture

  • 20092005

    Associate professor

    University of Oslo, Norwegian Collection of Folk Music

  • 20022001


    Hedmark University of Applied Sciences

  • 20011997

    Research fellow

    University of Oslo, Department of Music and Theatre

Professional identities

My research covers a wide area of interests, including music archaeology, musical instruments and sound tools, soundscapes, the anthropology of music, the origins and evolution of music, music of the travelling people/the romanies, minorities, and supporter chanting.

For several years I have been part of the international music archaeological community, and I have participated actively in conferences and meetings. Among my recent initiatives is a joint project with the Japanese musician and researcher Leo Tadagawa, called Roots and routes of the Jew’s harp in Asia.

In addition to my own projects, I do review work for journals and publishing houses, and I was the editor of Musikk og tradisjon, the journal of the Norwegian branch of ICTM (2010–2014). I also worked for Nordic Culture Fund as an external expert (2009–2013). In February 2016 I organized a conference at the Linnaeus University, Växjö (Sweden), in honour of the Swedish music archaeologist Cajsa S. Lund. The conference resulted in the book The Archaeology of Sound, Acoustics and Music. Studies in Honor of Cajsa S. Lund, published in 2020 by Ekho Verlag, Berlin.

Earlier I have been employed in various part-time positions at Universities. My current choice is to work independently, as a freelancer. I make a living by writing, giving lectures and playing music.

Besides being a researcher, I am a nonfiction writer. I am a member of Norwegian Non-Fiction Writers and Translators Organization (NFFO). In addition to reviews and popular scientific articles I have written three books in Norwegian. The first is about a famous folk music album from Setesdal (Skjoldmøyslaget. Faremoslåttar frå Setesdal, 2012), the second is about ancient music, music archaeology and musical instruments (Jordas skjulte toner. Musikk og instrumenter fra steinalder til vikingtid, 2014). The topic of my newest book is “singing as weaponry”. This is broad introduction to the collective and political power of singing (Sang som våpen. Historier om sangens slagkraft, 2021).

Originally I was trained as a classical violinist, and for some years made a living as a free-lance musician, playing in a variety of settings, including The Norwegian National Opera Orchestra. Later, I changed the direction of my musical career, and started to play with different groups and artists in the folk and ‘roots’ genre, including Trond Granlund, Somebody’s Darling, Cajun Mock Frogs, Atle Lien Jenssen, and Tony Sheehan.

Today I play a range of musical instruments, including the violin, hardanger fiddle, viola, melodeons, jew’s harps, flutes, mandolin, board zither, lyres, hurdy gurdy.

I play in the band Ford Folk, and in 2013 we released our CD Folkemusikk fra Nesodden (’Folk Music from Nesodden’). Here we search for folk music from a semi-rural peninsula of Eastern Norway, with close proximity to Oslo. Among other albums I am proud to have appeared on are the famous post-progressive band Gazpacho’s Molok (2015), and the acclaimed artist Finn Coren’s På jorden et sted (2015).

The roots of this activity come from my life-long interest in birds and nature. As a teenager I started to record birdsong. During my adult days, I have been increasingly inspired by soundscape studies, which was originally intruduced in the 1970s by the Canadian composer Murray Shafer. Sound, silence, and sound environments are increasingly getting attention today, as humans progressively produce more noise.

One way of working with and attend to soundscapes, is to record them. For about a decade I have collected sounds at my home place Fjellstrand. This project, which I call “Soundscape Fjellstrand”, is a documentary work. In principle I include all kinds of sounds that can be heard with the human ears. To exemplify, besides talking, singing, cars and animals, I record underwater sounds of the Oslo Fjord (waves, boats, fish).

My work might be regarded as ‘sound art’, though I am not a big fan of the concept of art. I am more concerned with documentation, although the dimension of experience (aesthetics) with sound is obvious and indeed essential.

In respect of professional and committed builders of musical instruments, I hesitate to call myself an instrument maker. However, I do build instruments, chiefly reconstructed lyres and other medieval or ancient instruments and sound tools. These artisan activites are connected to my research. One part of my work with Scandinavian lyres is to reconstruct or – rather – make ‘type models’ of a group of medieval lyres found on carved surfaces (portals and smaller woodens objects) in Southern Norway.