Today we went to the Santa Clara Valley Fiddlers Association to hear fiddler Sarah Kirton play her hardingfele. It was sheer magic.
The hardingfele, or hardanger fiddle, is a traditional instrument of Norway. It’s got 4 strings stretched across the top of the instrument, like a regular fiddle, but beneath those strings are 4 more strings that buzz and moan in sympathy when the top strings are played. The music is other-worldly. When I hear it, I think of ice goddesses, snow fields, midnight suns, birch trees in brilliant green meadows.
If the northern lights played music, it would be on the hardingfele.
In the Bay Area we gab ceaselessly about diversity, and yet, most people only really listen to music presented to them by mainstream radio; they don’t know that there is a whole world of music out there that isn’t just Lady Gaga and Justin Beiber. It’s the musical equivalent of eating at only McDonalds when you live 2 blocks from a wonderful street where every restaurant serves food from a different country . If you never go down that street, you never even know that there are other foods.
If you want to taste some Norwegian hardingele music, you might start at the Hardanger Fiddle Association of America. There are some sound files to give you an idea of what this wonderful and mysterious music sounds like. And there’s a radio show about the fiddle (Sarah’s in it!) here.
And you might want to explore some of the fabulous musical menus that the world has to offer. Who knows? There might be a hardingele fiddler living right next door to you!