“The Scottish Fiddle Orchestra: Scotland’s foremost traditional music organization.” Wait — Fiddle Orchestra?
Fiddle. Orchestra. It was founded in 1980, and now has about 150 active musicians. Princess Anne agreed to be their patron in 1993, and all of their concerts are for a charitable benefit. The Scottish Fiddle Orchestra has raised more than £1.5 million for charities!
Okay, so not everyone in the orchestra plays a fiddle.
They focus on traditional music mediums, specifically, and obviously, music which involves the fiddle.
Their piece, “The Hardanger,” can be heard here. It’s pretty upbeat and fun, like something you’d hear in the background of a BBC documentary or at a line dancing club. (Yes, those exist, my aunt and uncle who live in Texarkana live about five minutes away from one. No, I’ve never been in there — I don’t have any skirts big enough.)
Unfortunately, this piece doesn’t list a composer or an arranger, so its origins are pretty cloudy. I have no doubts that it originated as a traditional tune, handed down through the generations, but the lack of an arranger (the person who makes it fit for the orchestra) is frustrating. Doesn’t anyone care about keeping records? What about the musicologists that care about the who, when, and why? I have no doubts that my fellow researchers are on board with me here — history is better kept when people write stuff down.
The hardanger is the national instrument of Norway, typically called the flatfele, or flat fiddle.
It looks like it has four strings, like a typical violin, but in fact it has eight: four that are played by bowing them in the normal fashion, and four located underneath, which vibrate and act as a drone, creating an ethereal sound. The tuning refers to what notes the strings are tuned to, and Norway has recorded more than 20 tunings for the hardanger. That is intense — especially as most traditional players don’t read music, they learn everything by ear. Like Irish music, there have been some attempts to notate traditional music in order to make it more palatable to classically trained musicians, which is the case in this piece, but in the hardanger community it’s seen as a second source, not a primary one, for learning music. The hardanger has been used more than we might realize — in fact, the hardanger was used in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, playing the “Rohan theme.” Check it out: