MTMW - Concert

Music Theory Midwest

1996 Seventh Annual Conference
Western Michigan University
17-19 May 1996 - Kalamazoo, MI


A Concert of Norwegian Music & Dance
Karin Løberg Code, Hardingfele & Dance
David Løberg Code, Hardingfele & Dance
Phyllis Rappeport, Piano

8:00 pm, Friday, May 17th, 1996
Recital Hall, Dalton Center
Western Michigan University
Free and Open to the Public

    The hardingfele, or Harding fiddle, is an indigenous Norwegian folk instrument, used primarily to accompany a group of regional folk dances known as bygdedans. This tradition dates back to at least the mid-17th century, and has continued without interruption to the present day. Similar to a violin, the most striking visual characteristics of the hardingfele are the ornate designs of inked flower patterns and inlaid mother-of-pearl, along with a carved dragon's head on the top. While the hardingfele has four bowed strings like a classical violin, there are an additional five sympathetic strings which vibrate underneath. This, coupled with a playing style that calls for almost continuous drones or double stops, produces a rich, ringing sound which many find reminiscent of the bagpipe.

    The first half of the program will feature the Slåtter (Peasant Dances), Opus 72 for piano by the well-known Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg. This suite, long considered Grieg's most original and distinctly Norwegian contribution to the Western classical repertoire is actually based on transcriptions of traditional Hardingfele tunes from Telemark, Norway. In this special performance you will be able to hear the folk tunes in their original form side-by-side with Grieg's classical arrangements.
    The program will also include a sampling of dance tunes, processionals, and listening tunes from a number of other regions in Norway. Each village's dances are as distinct as their costumes, and these differences can be so great that a fiddler from one region often cannot (or will not) play for dancers from another. Due to the complexity of the music, the fiddler taps out the beat for the dancers while playing. This foot tapping, which is an integral part of the music, is almost a dance in itself, necessitating that the fiddler play sitting down.

    Norwegian folk dances are known for their intricate rhythms and numerous spins and turns. The Springar is a lively couple dance with three beats per measure found in several regions of southern Norway. The length and emphasis of these beats varies considerably from valley to valley, as do the dances themselves. Rorospols is another couple dance with close ties to some Swedish folk dances. The Reinlender belongs to a family of dances called gammaldans. Literally meaning 'old dances,' gammaldans (which also include the waltz, mazurka, polka, and others) are actually much newer than bygdedans, being derived from 19th century European ballroom dances. The halling, or lausdans, is an acrobatic solo dance which traditionally culminates with the man kicking a hat off a pole suspended over his head.

    Norway is a nation of mountains and valleys, separating the country into culturally distinct regions. Each of these regions has its own traditional costume, known as a bunad. Derived from formal peasant costumes, bunads are still commonly worn today on special occasions such as weddings, christenings, and holidays. The bunads worn for this performance are from Valdres, a valley north of Oslo in south-central Norway.

    May 17th, or Syttende Mai in Norwegian, is Norway's equivalent of our 4th of July. On this day in 1814 Norwegians got their own constitution and became an independent country. The main event on this day is the Children's Parade, which starts from every elementary school throughout the country and winds its way through the town. Many wear their traditional costumes, or bunads, as they march by waving flags and carrying flowers. Later, there is often singing, dancing, games and outdoor grillfests featuring Norwegian specialties side-by-side with hot dogs and ice cream. Designated as the national instrument of Norway, the hardingfele is also a part of this most patriotic day.

    Karin Løberg Code was recently awarded a Norwegian Thanksgiving Fund Award from the Norway-America Association to return to Norway for intensive study on the Norwegian Harding fiddle or hardingfele and how it is used in the dance milieu. She was also selected as a 1996 grant recipient by the American-Scandinavian Foundation. Two years earlier, she had travelled to Norway on a grant from the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo to study the hardingfele with its masters and to perform at important venues. There she performed at both the national Landskappleik and Jørn Hilme Kappleik, and has been heard on Norwegian state radio and profiled in Norwegian newspapers. Karin taught at the 1992 Hardanger Fiddle Association of America Annual Meeting and continues to perform and teach at important folk music and dance events throughout the region. She frequently gives formal recitals and lectures about the hardingfele. Karin's musical training and degree are in viola performance from the University of Illinois. She currently teaches violin and viola to students at the Young Strings Academy, and is a frequent member of the viola section with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra.

    David Løberg Code is an Associate Professor of Music Theory and Chair of the School of Music's Academic Area at Western Michigan University. He holds a PhD in Music Theory from the University of Maryland and has previously taught at Hobart & William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY. He has articles published in several journals and has given numerous presentations at professional conferences. He is also active as a violist and a performer of European folk dance and music, and has done extensive research in Norway.

    Phyllis Rappeport's solo piano and accompanying career has taken her throughout the United States, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. She was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship for study in Germany. In 1987 the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo honored her with the Community Medal of Arts Award for her significan contributions to the community. Recently retired as Professor of Piano at Western Michigan University, she has also received Western's prestigious Alumni Award for Teaching Excellence.

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    Revised: 16 May 1996