Icelandic folk music

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Icelandic folk music includes a number of styles that are together a prominent part of the music of Iceland. When speaking of traditional Icelandic vocal music, there are two prominent vocal performance styles, one using the term kveða and the other syngja. The first is a performance practice referred to as kveðskapur or kvæðaskapur. Kveðskapur is also the generic Icelandic term for poetry. The term syngja translates as to sing. Kveðskapur was very connected to sagnadansar, or traditional dancing (literally "story dancing"). Víkivaki is the best known of the sagnadansar, and its origin can be traced to the 11th century. Víkivaki saw a decline at the beginning of the 20th century, although efforts are being made to keep it alive.

The music of Iceland includes vibrant folk and pop traditions, as well as an active classical and contemporary music scene. Well-known artists from Iceland include medieval music group Voces Thules, alternative rock band The Sugarcubes, singers Björk, Hafdís Huld and Emiliana Torrini, post-rock band Sigur Rós, post-metal band Sólstafir, indie folk/indie pop band Of Monsters and Men and metal band Skálmöld. Iceland's traditional music is related to Nordic music forms. Although Iceland has a very small population, it is home to many famous and praised bands and musicians.

Poetry form of literature

Poetry is a form of literature that uses aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language—such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and metre—to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the prosaic ostensible meaning.

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While the prevalence of instrumental music before the 20th century is widely debated, folk instruments include the langspil and fiðla (Icelandic fiddle). Both instruments are in the zither family and are primarily played with a bow. Though very little is known about the fiðla, the langspil is closely related to the pan-European Scheitholt and Appalachian dulcimer. [1]

Langspil musical instrument

The langspil is a traditional Icelandic drone zither. It has a single melody string and usually 2 drone strings.

Zither class of musical stringed instruments

Zither is a class of stringed instruments.

Scheitholt

The scheitholt or scheitholz is a traditional German stringed instrument and an ancestor of the modern zither. It falls into the category of drone zithers.

Traditional Icelandic folk music remained widely performed into the last decades of the 19th century, when folk collecting began in the country. However, the advent of Western classical music and other foreign influences in the same period began leading to a decline in traditional music. Later, the arrival of popular music furthered this change; some folk music was recorded between the World Wars, but intense collecting did not begin in earnest until recently. [2]

Rímur

Rímur is a type of epic vocal poem, with fixed diatonic melodies (except in Breiðafjörður, the district where the traditional music is oldest in style, and folk melodies are variable, not based on fixed scales). Rímur melodies (rímnalög, kvæðalög, stemmur) are often standard, and found throughout the country. These epic poems are written in a narrative style, using elements of Icelandic literature and folklore. The performers were lauded for their ability to tell a story in verse.

Breiðafjörður

Breiðafjörður is a large shallow bay, about 50 km wide and 125 km long, in the west of Iceland. It separates the region of the Westfjords (Vestfirðir) from the south of the country. Breiðafjörður is encircled by mountains, including the glacier Snæfellsjökull on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to the south and the West Fjord peninsula to the north. An interesting feature of the bay is that the northern tip was formed about 15 million years ago, whereas the southern end at Snæfellsnes was formed less than half that time ago.

A rímur verse is made up of trochaic lines which use literary techniques such as rhyme and alliteration. There are between two and four lines with a pattern of syllabic stress and alliteration. Music author Hreinn Steingrímsson describes rímur this way:

A rhyme is a repetition of similar sounds in the final stressed syllables and any following syllables of two or more words. Most often, this kind of "perfect" rhyming is consciously used for effect in the final positions of lines of poems and songs. More broadly, a rhyme may also variously refer to other types of similar sounds near the ends of two or more words. Furthermore, the word rhyme has come to be sometimes used as a shorthand term for any brief poem, such as a rhyming couplet or nursery rhyme.

In literature, alliteration is the conspicuous repetition of identical initial consonant sounds in successive or closely associated syllables within a group of words, even those spelled differently. As a method of linking words for effect, alliteration is also called head rhyme or initial rhyme. For example, "humble house," or "potential power play." A familiar example is "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers". "Alliteration" is from the Latin word littera, meaning "letter of the alphabet"; it was first coined in a Latin dialogue by the Italian humanist Giovanni Pontano in the 15th century.

The four-line metres are a combination of two couplets with four stressed syllables in the first line of each, and two such syllables (first and third, second and third, or third and fourth) alliterate with the first stressed syllable of the second line.

The earliest known text of a rímur dates to the 14th century; for the subsequent six hundred years, the rímur texts were the most prolifically produced form of Icelandic literature. Rímur melodies date back to publications by folklorist Ólafur Davíðsson and were then collected in the first Icelandic folk music collection, Íslenzk þjóðlög, by Bjarni Þorsteinsson.

Rímur, especially the short four-line metres form "ferskeytla", is still very popular today in Iceland in most social groups. It is common to put together a ríma (setja saman stöku) about current events usually in the form of a joke or ridicule. These short rhymes tend to proliferate via email. It is also common during parties that a guest may say a ríma that he has learned or composed as a form of a joke, often an insult. Skill at composing rímur is often admired. A common game is to tell the first part ("fyrri partur", the first two lines) of a ríma, and for others to complete the third and fourth lines (to "botna"), each in their own way. The one whose "botn" is the cleverest wins. This game can become a serious competition (known as "kveðast á") when two or more who are particularly skilled at composing rímur come together. It is an informal rule that if one is ridiculed or even insulted with a ríma he must answer back in kind; any other form of answer is invalid. Use of rímur as a form of joke or games is most common in relation to inland travel and sports such as horsemanship but also in relation to cultural/seasonal periods like Þorri as well as in political circles. Many members of parliament pride themselves on being good at composing rímur and using them to ridicule each other, or opposing parties, in a friendly manner.

See also

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Alliterative verse form of verse that uses alliteration as the principal structuring device

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Syllabic verse is a poetic form having a fixed or constrained number of syllables per line, while stress, quantity, or tone play a distinctly secondary role — or no role at all — in the verse structure. It is common in languages that are syllable-timed, such as Japanese or modern French or Finnish — as opposed to stress-timed languages such as English, in which accentual verse and accentual-syllabic verse are more common.

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Ferskeytt is an Icelandic stanzaic poetic form. It is a kind of quatrain, and probably first attested in fourteenth-century rímur such as Ólafs ríma Haraldssonar. It remains one of the dominant metrical forms in Icelandic versifying to this day.

References

  1. "Langspil and Icelandic Fiðla: The history, construction and function of the two Icelandic folk instruments" (PDF). Retrieved 27 Jan 2019.
  2. "Icelandic Cultural Society" . Retrieved 10 May 2004.

Further reading