Who would have thought that my hardanger fiddle would end up being discussed in Norway eh? Well, my good friend Enok in Norway asked me in 2000 about my music so I sent him a couple of photos – and within minutes they were on his website :-0
I thought I might share them with you too …
So, what is a hardingfele? Basically it’s a violin with eight strings (don’t try this at home folks) – it has the normal four strings tuned the Australian way (G-D-A-E – which spells “G’day” – the classic Aussie greeting) plus there are four sympathetic strings that run beneath the fingerboard, through the middle of the bridge, and these are tuned various ways – my favourite is D-E-F#-A. The effect is like having a delay pedal – accoustically. When you play strings normally dampened by fingers, the sympathetic strings keep vibrating, giving a haunting echo-like sound. There are some sites with recordings of hardanger fiddles – one of my favourites is this one: Hardingkvartetten – the hardingfele quartet which has some mp3 downloads of hardanger music.
So how did these amazing instruments come about, and when?
The story I heard is this: Back around 1750 music was undergoing a revolution – Bach was playing with the new well-tempered scale which allowed fixed tone instruments to change keys without too much clash; and, due to government cut backs, orchestras were being scaled down – the problem then was to make the same amount of sound from fewer instruments. The solution went in two directions:
* firstly, the whole music scale was raised by nearly a semitone – “A” went from about 360 cycles per second to 440
* and secondly, instruments grew more strings and better sustain – like the hardanger.
Urban legend has it that the hardingfele (named after the Norwegian town of Hardanger – already famous for its distinctive white-work embroidery) was invented by a Norwegian schoolteacher from that town. Whoever invented it, there is some debate about the dating of the oldest known hardingfele – the “Jaastad” fiddle (allegedly 1651) with subsequent hardingfeles known only from the mid-1700s.
And so to my hardanger, eight years in the (partial) making (in South Australia), and subsequently expertly rebuilt properly (with larger internal structural blocks) and beautifully completed by Scott Wise of Perth (now Margaret River), Western Australia.
The first photo is from the Canberra Times newspaper of Easter 2000:
And now the hardingfele: