Norsk artikkel. Engelsk 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.