The Fair Folk podcast, hosted by Danica Boyce, is “devoted to bringing folk tradition to life” and features numerous episodes on the traditional music of Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and other places of interest to this blog. It’s not her first, nor her latest, but as an introduction to her work I would suggest The Wailing Of The Old Timers – Tvísöngur and Iceland’s Hidden Folk Music Past as an example of the deep research Danica shares with her listeners.
To create this episode, Danica spent a month in Iceland learning about tvísöngur, a type of traditional song “in the lydian mode for two voices, usually sung in parallel fifths, and distinguished by multiple voice-crossings.” That quote is from her paper on the topic, published in the International Symposium on Traditional Polyphony, an accompanying output from her Icelandic residency. The recordings on this podcast have a nearly Alan Lomax quality to them, in their attempt to capture some of the last remaining singers of this traditional style. Danica estimates that there are perhaps as few as nine tvísöngur singers left in all of Iceland.
Most interesting to me was her insight that Icelanders seem to feel some “internalized shame about Icelandic folk music culture,” and will “downplay their own knowledge or authenticity” of their performances. This is in stark contrast to the elevated position that Iceland’s contemporary music culture holds on the world stage.
You should subscribe to the podcast, for new episodes about once a month, but another suggestion from the archives is Ballads of Scandinavia which features “Kall Og Svein Ung by Sláið Ring,” a Faroese dancing ballad.