DIATONISK (HISTORY)

 

Diatonisk & the Dulcimer is a Swedish folk arts and music project conducted by Nils R. Caspersson, Holley, NY, proving the fretted Appalachian dulcimer is Swedish in origin. The project is being supported with funding from the Arts and Cultural Council for Greater Rochester /New York Foundation for the Arts, and Scandinavian Studies, Jamestown, NY.

Mr. Caspersson, a folk arts consultant and teacher, will travel to Sweden during the Midsommar holiday weeks in June 2007 and then at the beginning of the Christmas season, early December 2007, to conduct research and documentation in several cultural museums where Swedish folk music and instruments are housed and musicians perform. The museums include the Zorn Museum - Mora, Folkmusikenshus - Rattvik, Skansen - Stockholm, and Musikmuseet - Stockholm.

Numerous Swedish-American museums across the eastern United States have collected Swedish folk music instruments brought here by 18th and 19th C. Swedish immigrants. The museums are located in Maine, Virginia, Tennessee, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and others. Diatonisk & the Dulcimer will be the culmination of several years of investigation and inquiry in Caspersson's chosen field of Swedish-American folk music. As a public folk arts consultant working in the New York State Finger Lakes area he frequently encounters rural communities and personalities where indigenous folk arts, sometimes music, are living tangents to everyday life. Diatonisk & the Dulcimer will reaffirm the significance of a Swedish folk art that reemerged in rural America.

In America the fretted Appalachian dulcimer is a diatonic folk music instrument that evolved in the southern Appalachian Mountains with distinctive design and musical qualities linking it directly with several 16th-20th C. Swedish folk music instruments. A long period of preliminary research has revealed obvious Swedish musical ancestors to the fretted dulcimer as it exists in America today. With a diatonic fret pattern the fretted dulcimer is very easy to play and can be considered a true "folk" music instrument. Authentic and detailed links substantiate the theory that 17th-20th C. immigrants from the area of Lake Siljan, central Sweden, and south to Stockholm, brought their folk music and instruments (psalmodikon, hummel, and perhaps, the diatonic key pattern of the moraharpa) to America and sparked the development of the fretted dulcimer more than any other immigrant culture.

This project is funded in part by the Arts & Cultural Council for Greater Rochester with a Strategic Opportunity Stipend made in collaboration with the New York Foundation for the Arts.

Research and documentation results will be used by Mr. Caspersson in a folk music performance, interactive demonstration and lecture on folk culture centered around traditional Swedish fiddle tunes played on a variety of Swedish folk music instruments, including the fretted dulcimer. For more information see Diatonisk & the Dulcimer, available in the Orleans Dulcimers store.

 




Otto Malmberg, Skansen, Stockholm,
Sweden, 1908. Malmberg played
a multi-stringed hummel with a diatonic
fretboard. Notice multi-fingered chord.
(Nordiska Museet, Stockholm, Sweden.)






Estonian psalmodikon player,
19th century. Estonia was part of Sweden,
1561-1864. The psalmodikon often
did not have a back.
Resting on a tabletop amplified
the bowed monochord sound.
(Courtesy of Gerry Harrison.)





A curved psalmodikon, Angermanland,
Sweden, 19thcentury. A simple shift
of this fingerboard results inan hourglass
shaped fretted dulcimer!
(Musikmuseet,Stockholm, Sweden)





A Midsommarflicka. Scandinavian traditions arecelebrated regularly. Ring dance songs
and melodiesare part of Swedish traditions
and are easily playedon the dulcimer.
(Skansen, Stockholm, Sweden)