Studies of Ancient Nordic Music 1915–1940
S. Mirelman (ed.), The Historiography of Music in Global Perspective, Gorgias Press, Piscataway, N.J.: 145–175 (2010)
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.
The Jew’s Harp in Western Europe: Trade, Communication, and Innovation, 1150–1500
Yearbook for Traditional Music 41: 42–61 (2009)
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.
Norden som folkemusikalsk region
Norsk folkemusikklags skrift 23: 7–33 (2009)
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.
Tatermusikken kommer fra over alt
National Heritage and the Norwegian Romanies
Mary Barthelemy, Atle Lien Jenssen and Gjermund Kolltveit. In Z. Jurková and L. Bidgood (eds.), Voices of the Weak: Music and Minorities, Prague: Faculty of Humanities, Charles University: 94–102 (2009)
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.
Munnharpe: Tankefordriver og massenes instrument
Folkemusikk før «folkemusikken» – tanker om folkelig og populær musikk ca. 1200–1800
Norsk folkemusikklags skrift 22: 60–80 (2008)
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.
Animal Bells in Early Scandinavian Soundscapes
E. Hickmann, J. Orlamünde and R. Eichmann (eds.), Studies in Music Archaeology VI. Current Challenges and New Objectives in Music Archaeology. Leidorf, Rahden/Westf.: 147–153 (2008)
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.
Development of Musical Style and Identity Among the Romani People of Norway
R. Statelova et al. (ed.) The Human World and Musical Diversity, Sofia: Institute of Art Studies – Bulgarian Academy of Science: 141–145 (2008)
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.