‘The concert era’ – innovation in Hardanger fiddling around 1900

Håkon Asheim

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In pre-industrial rural Norwegian communities, the role of the fiddler or spelemann was clearly defined. They would play for dances and festivities, and during summer time many were busy playing for the traditional three-day weddings. Back in 1850 most such spelemenn had probably never heard of ‘concerts’, which was then a way of music-making which only existed in cities. But this was about to change in several ways: new music from Europe – the runddans (waltz-style) music – was spreading, new social customs were developing, as were pietistic movements which revived the earlier opposition of religion to fiddling and dance culture. As a response to the challenges of new times, Norwegian Hardanger fiddlers developed their own concert culture in the decades around 1900 – a culture with many fascinating features, the impact of which can still be felt today. This period – the ‘concert era’ of Hardanger fiddling – represents a cultural innovation not only in the way in which old music is adapted to a new social situation, but also in that totally new music content was inspired by that situation. Equally interesting is posterity’s reaction to these innovations: part acceptance and part rejection. We who are performers of Norwegian traditional music today need to be aware of this historic background, since it has contributed to the shaping of our repertoire as well as our ways of making music in social contexts. Fiddlers were not alone in wishing to preserve traditional music and other non-material folk art despite social and cultural modernisation. In the nineteenth century, Norwegian artists and scholars of the National Romantic Movement studied and collected folk poetry and music intensively. The first important collector of folk melodies was Ludvig M. Lindeman (1812–1887), whose work was published from the 1850s onwards; composers like Edvard Grieg based many of their best-known compositions on melodies from Lindeman’s and similar collections. Artists and intellectuals of the Romantic Movement indeed created the very concept of folk music, even though at the same time folk music was still alive in its own environment of spelemenn, dancers and singers – a world of ideas and concepts quite remote from the ideals of romantic artists. Nevertheless, the first concerts with genuine Norwegian folk music came about as a result of the meeting of these two worlds.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationÓn gCos go Cluas
Subtitle of host publicationFrom Dancing to Listening
EditorsLiz Doherty, Fintan Vallely
PublisherAberdeen University Press
Number of pages1
ISBN (Print)978-1-85752-073-4
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventNorth Atlantic Fiddle Convention Conference - Northern Ireland, Derry/Londonderry, United Kingdom
Duration: 27 Jun 20121 Jul 2012

Publication series

NameFiddle and Dance Studies from around the North Atlantic 5


ConferenceNorth Atlantic Fiddle Convention Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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