Spillemandsmusik: Traditional Danish Music

Each country has its own traditional music to speak of. Even in the case of those who have been under other countries and have therefore been subject to much influence, a distinct form of music will still arise. Traditional Danish music traces its roots to pre-modern Denmark. 

In every town of Denmark, there was at least one or two musicians called the spillemand whose presence is a given in every dance, procession or important ritual. There was a time that traditional music was almost eradicated by continued urbanization. The advent of classical music succeeded in confining traditional music to the rural areas. Fortunately, traditional Danish music is now being revived and appreciated for its contribution to Danish culture.

The earliest and most important collection of traditional Danish music is credited to Rasmus Storm. Storm was a Danish fiddler and dancing master. It is not known where and how he learned the tunes except that he began his compliation at about the year 1760. This priceless collection known as Rasmus Storm’s Notebook is under the care of the Danish Ethnological Collection.

Other names have since come up in relation to Danish folk melodies. Some of these are Danish literary historian and ethnographer Svend Grundtvig; Danish composer, organist, and pedagogue Andreas Peter Berggreen; and Danish folklore collector and author Evald Tang Kristensen. It was only during the early part 20th century that collecting traditional Danish music was seriously endeavored. This has ensured the continued existence of spillemandsmusik for the younger generation to experience.

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