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Friday, July 17, 2015

The folksong

The vocal folk music in the Nordic lands has a somewhat different origin than the remaining Western European art music and may, for the modern ear, appear "off-key" and unstructured. To listen to folk music therefore requires that we listen with a "folk-ear". These songs have been performed over a long period of time, usually several generations, and the performer uses his or her voice merely as an instrument in the communication of the lyrics. A skilled folk singer tells a story with the song, which is quite often recited in an oral manner. In Norway, there are several genres of the vocal folk tradition, such as lokk (eng. “lure”), lullabies, ballads, viser (folk songs), religious folk, and stev

The latter one, the stev (eng. stave) is a form of Scandinavian folk song, of which the oldest form were established already around the end of the 13th century. The newer form, nystev (eng. new stave) probably stems from around 1700, and has been regarded to be the Norwegian equivalent of the American blues. The stave expresses love and longing, but they can also be performed to make a jest of someone. It has four lines of lyrical stanzas that are recited in a regular rhythm, and the performer, called a kveder, often accentuate the rhythm by tapping his or her feet. The songs were presented when several people were gathered, and people sang, or kvedet, to each other, and answered one another. A singer could come up with a text then and there, or make use of existing texts that fitted the context. Even today, one may occasionally experience spontaneous performances of stev when several kvedere meet. 

The following example of a nystev is written by Jørund Telnes (1845-1892), a popular poet and local politician from the county of Telemark in Norway. At the end of the 19th century, his poetry was widely known across the country. This version of Telnes’ Folkesongen ("the folk song"), is performed by the Finnish band Gjallarhorn, who gives a haunting and reflective interpretation of this 123 year old text.
Som Blomen upp utor Marki tyte, Som Eple fram utpaa Kvisten skyte,
Er Folkesongen for Mann og Møy, Men Folkevetter, naar den mun døy.
(Like flowers growing from the soil, like apples flourishing on the trees,
So is the folksong for man and maid, but if the song dies, so does the people.) 
So lat daa Tonen fraa Hjarta strøyme! Og lat oss kvea og lat oss drøyme!
Her er so mykje, som dreg oss ne! Dæ svarte rømer so snegt me kve.
(So let the song flow from our hearts! Let us sing and let us dream!
There are so many things that bring us down, but the darkness vanishes as we sing.) 
Men kom mæ Visur av Heimeslage, Og lat oss kvea paa gamle Lage!
Og lat oss kvea foruta Bok! Den Notesongen han er so klok!
(Bring us songs from our home, and let us sing like we’ve always done!
Let us sing without a book, the scholarly song is not for us.)


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