Last week Magnus Gustafsson came in as our guest teacher for two days. We spent the first day learning about an instrument classification system created (presumably in German) by Sachs and Hornbostel, learning the Swedish names of lots of obscure folk instruments from around the world, but with emphasis on ones from the Nordic countries. He had a fair number of cool sound clips with him but no visuals, so we augmented our lesson with pics from wikipedia as we went. Evidently there are multiple ways to put reeds in cowhorns. And, non-Nordic-wise, do all y’all know anyone who plays crwth, sarangi, or sheng?

On the second day, the dance class joined us, and we all learned about the history of European folk music and dance, and the development of couple dancing from older forms. We also talked about the massive undertaking of collecting and publishing tunes in Svenska Låtar between 1908–1940, and in other collections. Of the 100,000 tunes now collected (not all in SvL — its 24 volumes contain “only” about 8,000), a hefty 60% are polska tunes — though possibly in part because those were what the collectors were especially after. We also learned Magnus’s own classification system for polska types, and then had a little game of identifying types for a whole bunch of sample clips he played for us. Now we can turn to each other in a concert and say, hey, that’s a type 3 polska!

We have also had two sessions with Olov about nyckelharpa history. The first session was about older history, starting from the first of the angels-in-churches c.1350, important dates for developments of each new harpa type, and some names and dates and stories of important historical figures. Favorite random story: the Uppsala court documents of 1642 feature a dramatic tale about a nyckelharpa player who got into a scuffle with a blacksmith, hit him over the head with the instrument for offenses real and/or imagined, and then died in the ensuing struggle.

Olov’s second session picked up where we left off, adding lots more modern names and tracing the spread of nyckelharpa throughout the world. We also had a really interesting show-and-tell of older nyckelharpas, especially Olov’s own kontrabasharpa and silverbasharpa, and talked about what each one works best for.

We’re also scheduled for a class later with Sonia about Sahlström family history.

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