Discussions, Interviews & Lectures Detail
:: Description :: Alan Lomax and Victor Grauer interview Gordon Tracie, Scandinavian fiddle and dance music expert
:: Project :: Cantometrics
:: Date Range :: 01-01-1963 to 12-31-1963
:: Particpants ::
Lomax, Alan
Grauer, Victor
Tracie, Gordon
:: Subjects ::
Scandinavian folk music, general
Fiddling, Scandinavian
Wedding music
Fiddle and violin music
Hardanger fiddle
Faroe Islands choral ballad tradition
Nyckelharpa
Fiddle playing and baroque music
Scandinavian dances - gangar and polska
Willow flutes, birch bark horns, and other wind instruments
Yodeling and vocal music associated with cattle
Springar
"Blinde Hans" (Scandinavian fiddle tune) played by eight fiddlers
Mouth music
Scandinavian folk music - effects of pietism and the Industrial Revolution on
Fiddle music from Skane, Sweden - wooden shoe
Olle Lans - 19th century fiddle tune, begging alms of bread, salt, or "a wee dram"
Scandinavian fiddle playing - syncopation and improvisation
Scandinavian fiddle playing - ornament
Scandinavian fiddle playing - position shifts and preferred keys
Scandinavian fiddle playing - origin in cattle calls of distinctive intervals and ornaments
Swedish yeoman farmers - were never serfs, their land was never enclosed
Fiddle music, Swedish - nontempered intervals in and appeal to classical music lovers
Scandinavian fiddle playing - beat traditionally supplied by dancers not instruments
Finnish cantele - replaced by fiddle
:: Cultures ::
Scandinavia
Denmark
Norway
Sweden
Faroe Islands
:: Holdings ::
Media not yet available
:: Notes :: Victor Grauer does most of the interviewing on these tapes. During the conversations it emerges that a beat supplied by the dancers, rather than by instruments playing a figured bass, was a feature of older Scandinavian music that became more or less submerged after the age of mechanical reproduction. Improvisation and syncopation also characterized Scandinavian fiddle music. T1312: Northern Germanic languages have common origins and likewise the music also has common heritage. Many musical dialects have survived but only where folk music has survived. Danish melodies have a limited range and regular, simple tempos. Swedish tunes are more buoyant; the older music is modal (sounds minor); Norwegian tunes are more intense, with more contrasts. Ballad dances of the Faroes: an ancient form once common to the whole area, is a living tradition on the Faroes, where there is no instrumental tradition. The whole community memorizes and sings heroic ballads of three or four hundred verses, while dancing. A leader starts the verse with the words "And then," overlapping before the chorus has finished the last verse. This is not call-and-response: everybody learns the verses. The dance is slow, with stamping and dramatic gestures, if it's a war ballad. The leader is an older man who knows thousands of ballads for special occasions. In 1500, the Catholic Church forbade dancing in Norway and the ballad dance went out. Later soldiers returned from war in Poland and may have brought back the violin, which was overlaid and combined with traditional forms. The fiddle was a much older instrument, used to accompany troubadours. Nineteenth century scholars revived the ballad dance in Norway but the tradition is not as vital as in Faroe. Has persisted in northern Sweden, however. Song games: action games mimicking courtship. Miming games, danced around the Christmas tree: "Fox is Running Across the Ice." They sing nonsense syllables, "a-tra-la." In effect, this is vocal fiddle music for accompanying dance. Pietism dealt a great blow to folk music when it forbade fiddle music, but a greater blow was the industrial revolution, which brought the accordion. Unlike the fiddle music tradition, which had its own intervals and ornaments (based on vocal music and cattle calls), the accordion uses poorly tempered diatonic tuning and has taken over all of Scandinavia. The name "polska" (Norwegian "pols"), derives from polka and is a 3/4 time dance resembling the mazurka. Scandinavian dances are predominantly in 3/4 time, and are related to landler. Mouth music. Cantaract. A syllabic way of teaching rhythms (cf. Indian traditional music). Swedish fiddle music characterized by long musical phrases: AABB or AABBCC. One tune can have three separate themes. Weddings usually had at least two fiddlers, a master and an apprentice who started at eight or so and played harmony, preferably more. The instrument is possibly of Nordic origin. It is held to the chest. A bowed harp can't be held by the chin and is only played in the first position. In contrast, in the violin the left hand must be free for shifts of position. Wedding music: two fiddlers riding horses would announce the arrival of the bridal party. Walking music had the most beautiful tunes. There were tunes for every course of the banquet: for bread, cheese, meats, drinking. Other vocal traditions. Singing by women. Old women sing for themselves while working. Nineteenth century romantic songs are sung in harmony by pairs of girls. Examples of Swedish fiddle tunes. Shoe fiddle. Nyckelharpa. The oldest music is functional music. People don?t tamper with it. Harmony essential to Swedish music. It has a resemblance to Baroque music, but is older. Swedish yeomen farmers were never serfs, their land was never enclosed. Village traditions survived. More instruments, the more standardized the music gets. Solo players can be more expressive. Springars are so complex that they have been likened to Bach's cello suites. AAABB standard form of Bach's dance suite and also of American hoedown. One of Bach's teachers came from Scandinavia. Springar rhythm is not clear from fiddler, who ornaments the beat that is supplied by dancers. Greater number of fiddlers result in more straightforward rhythms and less ornament. Double stops (two-strings played at a time) are based on sixteenth notes as in baroque music. Norwegian fiddle has a flat bridge and can play triple stops. Walking tunes are typically syncopated. Fiddlers walk and even can climb while playing. Groups play with no leader. Only very large (100 or more) fiddlers need a leader. Scandinavian fiddling intonation is consistent with what we would expect. Although it uses the natural, not the tempered, scale, it is liked by people who like classical music. Musical examples: Grindstone polka, Swan polka. Discussion of tuning. 1313: Sample of "Blinde Hans," (a modal-sounding melody named for an early nineteenth-century fidder associated with the tune), played by eight fiddlers from Goteland. Tracie calls it a "tremendous melody" Victor Grauer notes its resemblance to classical music. He asks if much composition still goes on. How other fiddlers learn new tunes: improvisation by other fiddles on new tunes composed in accordance with a shared tradition is spontaneous. Experienced fiddlers are adept, but the art of improvisation is dying out. Positions ? More modern fiddlers do use some positions other than the first. They like keys that permit double stopping, such as A, D, and G. D is the preferred key for most tunes. Example of a quadrille (originated on the continent). These are dance similar to those that Mozart used as the basis for his music. Quadrille from Skane in Southern Sweden. Two fiddlers are preferred for dance music, however, the oldest tunes came from places where distance made it hard for two fiddlers to get together, so dancing to a solo fiddler was common for dances. Another dance sample. Gordon Tracie demonstrates the rhythm, beating it out. Dancers' feet would have supplied this sound. Other instruments: Fragmentary examples of wooden-shoe fiddle tunes from Skane. Left shoes, usually, well worn, were used to make these instruments. Victor Grauer comments on the lovely tone. "Olle Lans" a plaintive waltz by a nineteenth century itinerant fiddler of that name, played on the shoe fiddle. Words (not heard here) ask for a bit of bread, salt, or best of all, the equivalent of "a wee dram." Nyckelharpa or key fiddle: a bowed hurdy gurdy found only in Sweden. A polska learned by ear from grandfather, resembling baroque music. A tune that resembles "The Road to Boston," (associated with Dave Pace of New Hampshire) which came to Sweden via a fiddle contest in 1980. Sample demonstrating counterhythms of ornamentation in two players playing same tune. Victor Grauer asks about kinds of ornament. Regional differences in ornamentation and use of pizzicato ("knep") with left hand Victor Grauer notes that the left-hand pizzicato technique was supposed to have been one of the inventions of Paganini. Gordon Tracie: Some musicologists thing that the techniques wandered down from the North to the South. Relation of folk bowing technique to dance steps. Examples of arrangements of traditional Scandinavian fiddling with modern orchestra. Norwegian hardanger fiddle is totally different. Named for Hardang but is most commonly found in Telemark. Music for it is always in major. It has understrings that vibrate sympathetically and which are tuned higher than the bowed strings. Composer Grieg used a distinctive understring tuning pattern for his "Hunter's Theme." The bowed strings are tuned conventionally. Norway also had acrobatic dances, solo dances with leaps and handsprings. There were fiddle and dancing contests. Winners had great prestige. Swedish music has a clearer melodic pattern. Norwegian phraseology is unmelodic in conventional sense, resembles Indian ragas. It can take hours for an ensemble to tune up. In Finland, the fiddle has largely been replaced by the cantele. Discussion of willow flute, birch bark horns, and animal horn. The willow flute, found everywhere in Scandinavia, is one of the oldest of all instruments. Overblowing produces natural harmonics. The birch bark horn is laminated like a boat and must be kept wet. These were played by women to scare away beasts of prey from the flocks and also used to call or lure animals. Women, often a girl apprentice and her grandmother, lived together in a log cabin and pastured the herds while the men worked in the woods or fished. American log cabins were first built in Delaware in the seventeenth century by Swedes and are still being built to the same pattern. Goats, sheep, and cows responded to different calls and could be called separately. There were songs to sing the cattle to sleep. 1n 1951, Gordon Tracie recorded some of the last vocal music ? yodeling or kurning ? used functionally to call animals and to communicate over long distances. In spring, animals were driven to pasture communally, to the accompaniment of fiddling. It was a great occasion. There was a return drive in autumn. These vocal traditions preceded the instruments, which imitated songs sung to the animals and the animals (including birds) themselves. The introduction of fiddles brought Scandinavian folk music to its highest development because no instrument can do what the fiddle can do. There has been a complete deterioration to the extent that the accordion has replaced the fiddle, but for better or worse, the accordion is now established as a folk instrument throughout Scandinavia.

 

 

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