Hardanger Fiddle
I First became acquainted with the
Hardanger fiddle while still in
college.    In 1975 I travelled to
Norway, meeting some of the most
prominent traditional fiddlers,
recording their music, and learning
several Hardanger fiddle tunes and
techniques.
But it was not until 1976 that I got
my own first Hardanger fiddle.  I
continued developing my
technique, learning new tunes, and
studying with visiting players from
Norway.   I played not only for
dancing, but for many international
and Norwegian events.   A
highlight was when I played for a
San Francisco reception for the
(then crown prince, now king) of
Norway.
My instrument is one of the finest:
Gunnar Helland of Bø, in
Telemark, 1917.   It has been
restored and put in new playing
condition.
I play all kinds of traditional tunes
on it:  springars, gangars, hallings,
waltzes, reinlenders, mazurkas,
bridal marches, etc.   I can play for
dancing, background music,
lecture or concert presentations.  
The Hardanger fiddle is called the
"National Instrument of Norway".   
The roots of its design go back to
the 1600's, when the Viola d'amore
influenced Norwegian instrument
builders to add sympathetic strings
to increase resonance.   
The modern instrument's body is
very similar to a standard violin,
but with special f-holes that project
the sound from the high-arched
body to the sides more than to the
top.    The body also has
traditional folk designs inked onto
it by the maker.   The fingerboard
and tailpiece have inlaid bone and
mother-of-pearl, creating a striking
appearance.  Instead of a violin's
scroll, the top has a heraldic
crowned lion's head.
What gives the Hardanger fiddle
its special sound, though, is the
group of sympathetic strings that
run under the fingerboard and
through the center of the bridge.  
When the traditional tunes are
played with the right technique, the
fiddle rings with special harmonies
not found in any other instrument.
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