Norwegian Folk Music

This site containes a very brief introduction to norwegian folk music and instruments.

Folk music: A word generally reserved for a product of musical tradition that has developed through being passed on directly by ear. The most important factors that shape the tradition are: continuity (which binds the past to the present), variation (which arises from creative impulse) and choices made by groups in society (determing which musical styles survive).

When Norwegian folk music and folk dance are discussed, you will often hear the terms slåttemusikk and bygdedans. These are the names of the oldest style of traditional music and dance, respectively, that exist today. The music and dance have strong ties to one another; they are based on an older tonality, melodic structure, and rhythm patterns. The music is tied to certain instruments: Hardanger fiddle, ordinary fiddle, Jew`s harp and langeleik ( a dulcimer relative).

Other instruments associated with older folk music, including voice, willow flute, neverlur (horn covered with birch bark) and ram`s horn, have been less widespread due to their original functions as work implements. Many additional wind instruments existed that are not very common today; in earlier times, they were primarily sheperds´instruments. They include bone flute, neverlapp (lit. piece of birch bark), tungehorn (lit. tounge horn) and various variations of home made clarinets. Harp and lute instruments also have a long tradition in Norway, but fell into disuse long ago. Recently, in our own time, the harp has had a renaissance.

Norwegian and Swedish folk music are unusual in European music culture because they developed most strongly among small farmers and cotters and have remained nearly independent of influences from newer musical fashions in Europe. The old tonality with variable intervals and natural scales has been retained until the present time. Gradually, as the tempered scale we know from classical music and newer musical fashions becomes more and more common in our daily musical experience, the old tonality and rhythm patterns will be in constant danger of disappearing, even though many people and organizations are working to protect them.