The Beginning

A bit more than half-way through my master studies I realised something had happened. Something had changed in how I looked at folk music, what I thought it meant to be a folk musician and how I saw myself as a (folk) musician. At the same time I discovered that, without feeling that I made any technical progress when it came to playing the violin, I still developed a lot in my playing. A development that had more to do with what I did with my ability, rather than with increasing my ability. I realised that what had happened was a development in my mind. I allowed myself to do things that I hadn’t allowed myself to do before, even if I had the technical ability and the musical ideas. Somehow I had opened up some of my mental barriers.

Before I started studying at music academy, folk music for me was strongly connected with social events. It was music that belonged in a social context, and the social context provided its meaning. For me, doing (playing, listening to, dancing to etc.) folk music was a social act, something I did together with friends. Also as a performer, I strongly acknowledged the power of the context, and took pride in considering myself as a tool for a greater purpose, to provide the music that was right for that occasion, be that a dance evening, a wedding or a funeral.

 In the third semester of the NoFo-studies came a turning point. That’s when I really started to be comfortable with the label Artist (for myself) and Art (for my music) and that created a great feeling of freedom: If what I’m doing is art, and I am an artist, then I can do whatever I like. I don’t have to feel constrained by the idea of tradition and ‘traditional playing’. Not that I dismiss the idea of tradition and traditional playing as a source of artistic knowledge, inspiration and material, but rather than seeing it as goal I started using it as a spring board, a point of departure. In the end, this left me with a completely new feeling of freedom in my playing. For me, the shift from Function to Art was what I needed to free myself from some of my inner limitations.


What is this all about?

The idea of this thesis is to describe my experience and development as a musician during my studies at the Nordic Master in Folk Music (NoFo) programme. This will be done with special attention given to the tension-field between folk music as Functional Music and folk music as Art Music. I will make an attempt to put this tension-field in a historical context, and also make rough definitions of how I use the terms Function and Art. My own development during this masters programme can very much be described as a movement from the idea of folk music as Function towards the idea of folk music as Art. I will try to describe how this movement is intertwined with my self-image as a musician, and how that has affected my music making.

 Furthermore I will describe the methodsI have been using in my artistic development. This includes different ideas I have been using as a starting point for music making, as well as how I have been using my body and playing as tools for development.

 I have tried to keep the focus of the thesis on the present day situation, and what I have been doing during the two years master’s course, and not giving too much space to how this all relates to my past. Even so, I have felt that it is necessary to describe some things about my my musical background to help the reader understand what the shifting of view on folk music means to me, and why it created such a big change.

 As an appendix there are some musical examples included, as well as some more anecdotal texts from the blog I was running together with my fellow NoFo students, as well as a quite random paralell to a book I read during my stay in Helsinki.

Writing this master thesis has been a great way of helping myself understand what I have been doing during these two years of traveling, playing, experiencing, exploring, practicing, thinking and developing. In the end, the legacy of my NoFo studies is something that will stay with me for a long time.

All ideas and perspectives that I bring up could be extended a lot further, and I am greatly aware of the fact that a lot of the texts lack in depth and/or consistency. In the end, it is an artistic degree I have been doing, not a traditionally academic one. This written thesis is only a small part of the final examination. The reasons why I have chosen to present this thesis in the shape of a hypertext are explained here and here. For instructions of how to get going with reading, please look here. Or just move on to The Beginning.