Friday, May 7, 2010

Niceland # 12 - Siglufjörður

Sigga and I drove up to Siglufjordur, in the northern part of Iceland, for the annual folk music festival. The drive was long, totally around eight hours, but extremely beautiful in the midnight summer sun.  Icelandic folk ballads, folkdance, courses, and lectures make up the festival activities. Sigga leads the folk-pop music band Varsjárbandalagið as the accordion and voice, Jón Torfi Arason on trumpet, guitar, and voice, Magnús Pálsson on clarinet, Steingrímur Guðmundsson with the percussions, and Hallur Guðmundsson on double bass and voice.

Siglufjörður is a small fishing town in the northern coast of Iceland. The population is shrinking and currently at  1,206 people. The town is situated in the narrow fjord on the peninsula of Tröllaskagi. High mountains and deep fjords can only be reached by a small mountain coastal road.  The town sprung up around the fishing history in the 1940s and 1950. The population of  herring fish died out from over fishing and the national Icelandic government has tried reversing the population shrinkage by improving land transportation into the town.
The town has a folk music museum which documents forms of musical expression in early Iceland. Icelandic folk songs have no known composer but have been handed down from one generation to the next. There simple tunes have individual characteristics that differ from district to another. Many of the Icelandic folk melodies have ancient characteristics that have preserved some of the oldest and most interesting aspects
of early western music.

Rímur Songs are long narrative poems that describe the world of ancient heroes and noblemen. The whole story is divided into several cannons which served as chapters of the story chanted to the same tune. Rímur were performed by both among farmers and fishermen.

Two-part songs or Tvísöngur are sung in unison and in parallel fifths.  The two-part songs
were never played on instruments. They were sung slowly but fairly loudly with the final notes drawn out. The tvísöngur was most commonly in the Lydian mode which is like F major with the B-flat raised a semi-tone to B natural. One part is the original tune and the other is the counterpart. At a particular point in the song a voice crossing takes place – the upper voice becomes the lower and vice versa. As the voices cross over they meet in unison on the tritone, the diabolus in musica, of the Lydian mode.


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