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Tellefs Blog

Home: Tellef Kvifte's blog

A blog on Norwegian traditional music, its music theory and related topics, from a musician and scholar
This is my blog - a collection of post about music, releases, and more or less scholarly papers
The blog posts are reflections on music (mainly folk, traditional and jazz), music theory and the music industry, from the perspectives of an academic, a musician, and a label founder.
You will also find a list of most of the album releases where I have taken part in one or more role
Also, a list of a few of the articles/books - more or less academic in style - I have published during four decades. For the moment, I have chosen a few that are somehow connected to topics in the blog posts.

Most recent post:

Reel Date - and album with Irish and Norwegian traditions combined

On my latest album Reel Date, I combine tunes from two different traditions, namely Irish tin whistle tradition, and Norwegian hardanger fiddle traditions. I have been playing tunes in both these traditions on the normal instruments - tin whistle and hardanger fiddle - for many years, and in keeping with the respective playing styles. In both traditions, there is a large body of musicians that uphold the traditional ways of playing; to the extent I still play the fiddle and whistle, I count myself among them, though I am not on the level of the real masters of the traditions.
The differences are many and obvious when you listen to these traditions, so what is my motivation for this album? How do I think?
There is a general motivation, and then I have several thought abouts the details. The general point first:
In traditional music contexts, we tend to focus on the differences: what is special for my tradition; what are the distinctive traits? This is a good focus for the preservation of a tradition, but it may also be a driver for change, when the focus on the distinctive features makes us exaggerate those features: there are numerous examples, that might be the topic for another post here. In the Reel Date project, I have had another approach: to look for similarities rather than differences, and use the similarities as a basis for a common musical expression.
And that brings me to the details:
First, there are the similarities in rhythm and meter. The Norwegian hardanger fiddle tradition has a genre called gangar - means literally 'to walk' - where the tunes come in two varieties, as 6/8 and 2/4 meter respectively. (Well, that is at least how it is normally notated in standard musical notation. There is more to this, but that is a longer story...). Both metrically and tempowise, these two varieties corresponds surprisingly well to Irish jigs and reels. So it is really no problem to put a gangar in a set with a reel or jig.
Also a general feature of both traditions: variation. Many good performers have a wide variety of techniques for variation - it is normal that tunes are never played identically; variations may be slight or not so slight; but always present. Not only between different occasions, but also during one and the same performance there may be variations when motifs and the the tune as a whole is repeated one or more times.
Then it is the question of instruments and playing style - sound, embellishments, rhythmic feel.
First, to get attention away from the differences, and to be able to focus on the similarities, it is a point not to use tin whistle and hardanger fiddle. I chose an instrument not used in any of these traditions, namely the taragot. This instrument affords many of the musical possibilities needed to keep some of the central stylistic features in the playing styles of the whistle and fiddle. I can draw directly on the embellishment techniques of the whistle, since the fingering of the taragot is almost identical to that on the whistle. The special hardanger fiddle trills are also possible. The bowing patterns that are a basic element of the fiddle music grooves, can be performed partly by placement of embellishments, and partly by tounging.
Further along the road: it is tempting to use the rich details of the two traditions across the traditional borders. Probably some such cross-fertilisation is already audible in the album; probably it will be more of ot as we continue playing.

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