Dag Gården, frå folk te' folk (2L, 2002)
Located north of Oslo and south of Tondheim, The Gudbrandsdalen is known as Norway's "valley of valleys." It is, along with its western extension the Ottadalen, also known as a hotbed of "normal" fiddling, using the same kind of fiddle as Irish pub sessioneers and American good old boys, rather than the more esoteric Norsk hardanger fiddle. frå folk te' folk is a Gudbrandsdalen twenty-tune book supporting a CD by the same name (reviewed here). The CD stars locals Knut Kjøk (fiddle) and Dag Gården (accordion) and features the duo's progressive, inventive arrangements as transcribed by Gården. Almost all of the tunes are traditional, or were written by folk fiddlers in times past and in turn heard and collected from older Gudsbrandalen musicians.
The book is a no-risk proposition. For one thing, the fiddle lines stand on their own. The tunes are delightful, have interesting histories and are useful even if you don't have a friend who is handy with an accordion. But it's no problem to make up your own mind on the book, due to the amazing efficacy of 2L's Web site. To hear samples of the CD tracks, just point your computer here. If you don't want to buy the entire hard copy CD, you can download individual tracks for a fee at 2L's shop. There is a hard copy edition of the book, but even more amazingly, you can download the tunebook for free in either a homey or professional .pdf version. 2L only wants your kroners if you perform the tunes in public.
"Well, it'll be a hot day in Hammerfest before I perform solo fiddle in public!" I said as I pulled out Old Lucifer and began to scratch out the tunes. How does this charming paperback fare with the Celtic Kitchen Fiddler with the Broken Finger? Pretty well, though, as with most tune books, I wish that they had used a spiral binding. Crunch!!!! But it's better than .pdf print-outs flying all over the place!
frå folk te' folk contains many easy, pretty tunes in familiar D and G. One of the easiest is "Brunsolen," a waltz in D named after a Swedish-born watchmaker and musician. Slightly more exotic, but still easy, is the perky "Springleik etter Ola Asen" in G, apparently learned from Asen, whose newspaper photograph is at the end of the piece. The first half of the tune is carried solely by the accordion at a little higher pitch, but I'd played through the first page without realizing there was no fiddle part there! Yikes!
Another easy D tune, "Brursmarsj," was written by Gården's fiddler father, Kristian. Several of the other tunes in the book were learnt from, though not written by, Kristian Gården, and from Kjøk's father Erling as well. Some of tunes in other keys were more difficult, but in the end could prove more interesting. My favorite was "Liabekken" in A minor, written by Syver Garmo, who, the book tells us, wrote about sixty outstanding tunes in the "old-style." Talk about Norwegian and exciting to play quickly! The most difficult tunes for me -- but perhaps not for other kitchen fiddlers -- were several that contained a number of double stops. Sometimes these came one after another for measure after measure. The most steadfast and scariest of these is "Gamel Erik-hallingen," which likely means something like "Old Erik's Halling." It's been around since the late 1700s, when it was brought home from an army base, and so obviously many other fiddlers have played it successfully. Maybe I need to buy a "How to Play Double Stops that Don't Sound Like a Catfight" video! Actually, I was surprised at how few of these dance tunes don't have double stops.
The tunes are easy to read and, for the most part, simple. The accordion section, having both a treble and bass, takes up room on the page, but in some cases, if you want to do the tune a little differently or would like to use a viola, you can use the treble accordion line. It's also useful if you have a friend with a squeezebox! The "fele" line is written out clearly and simply using good sized notes, with the usual volume levels, triplets, bowings, trills and graces noted. There is no mention of special tunings in the book, though some beginning chords may provide a clue. It would have been interesting to have seen a short anecdote about the mechanics of each tune and the arrangement at the head of the page, but it's not something that is expected.
Sometimes the accordion part also carries the melody, though even then it seems more of a harmony part than the fiddle line. At others, it plays a divergent accompaniment or chords, so I am not sure that the book would be as good a resource for solo accordion tunes as it is for fiddle tunes. I tried playing some of the tunes on piano, and most seemed fairly simple, while a few unfortunately involved fourple stops! Then I pulled my little 32 bass accordion out of its case. As usual, it was too short for many of the tunes!
A few of the arrangements differ from the standard duet. "Gamal brurmarsj" is one of the oldest of the wedding marches, and provides an opportunity to bring in a few more friends, as there are three "fele" lines in the arrangement, as well as some rapid switches from 3/4 to 2/4 time. The first fiddle is solo in the first half of the tune; in the latter half, the second fiddle plays in unison while the third plays a lower and sometimes simpler accompaniment that could be useful for viola. Another interesting arrangement is in the second of a rhythmically more difficult series of tunes titled "Goroleikjin." These three tunes refer to The Battle of Kringom, which took place in 1612, and were learnt from Kjøk's father, who in turn learned them from O.T. Molokken (1871-1957), who learned them from...? The accordion part consists of one continuous bass chord and a pretty Scottish air played on the keyboard. After four measures, the right hand line just says "(continue Scottish air)." This seems a little confusing.
The book and the CD celebrate the "folk" nature of folk tunes, which in the Gudsbrandalen as elsewhere have been passed on from fiddler to fiddler. A brief account of the history of each tune is given at the end of most of the scores, giving a history in Norwegian and English, as well as designating whom the tune was learnt from (in many cases from a parent, who in turn learnt it from another player) and perhaps including a photo. A number of the tunes can be traced back to the great patriarch fiddler, Fel Jakup (Jakup Olson Lom) from the Ottadalen Valley, and his name is mentioned several times. Kjøk and Gården concentrate on the older forms, so aside from a few composed tunes, they have been through quite a network of folk fiddlers!
However, the book is useful more as a tune repository -- and of course as a resource for duplicating or improvising on Kjøk and Gården's CD arrangements -- than it is for learning facts about Norwegian fiddling. For that, you might wish to read more about the history of folk fiddling in the Gudbrandsdalen here. You might also be interested in Chris Goertzen's book Fiddling For Norway. But I would surely recommend this tune book ... or the download ... if you're a fiddler or you're specifically interested in music from the Gudbrandsdalen.
Kjøk and Gården have a Web site, which includes Knut Kjøk's lines of descent from the great Fel-Jakup (1821-1876)!