Mention traditional Norwegian folk music and it’s very likely that the first instrument many associate with this genre is the Hardanger fiddle. In the hands of a master, it lends a unique tonal character to the folk tradition. And a master is just what young Synnøve Sæmundsdotter Bjørset is. Her control of technical skills, dynamics, expression and innovation is an indication that the future of Norwegian folk music is indeed in good hands. In her playing on Ram, her debut album, she emphasises the rhythmic and melodic subtleties of fiddle music, and she aims at conveying these elements to the public. The special groove she achieves is one of the distinctive characteristics of the Norwegian Hardanger fiddle tradition – a tradition that’s set to survive given unique talents like Synnøve S. Bjørset.
Bjørset is not confined to performing for a Norwegian audience only. Last November she participated at the Music of The Northlands tour performing with Swedish, Danish, Finnish and Irish artists in Scandinavia, England and Ireland.
Her Ram album has also received international attention. The Wire magazine, one of the world’s most respected music publications embraced her album in its November 2002 issue. This is what Wire journalist Clive Bell said of Synnøve Bjørset’s album: Synnøve Sæmundsdotter Bjørset is a powerful young player of the harding fiddle. Still in her early twenties, Bjørset has studied with Håkon Høgelmo, a master of the traditional Hardingfele style, whose Utla Trio have devised their own overdriven, semi-improvised music that some might call power-folk. For her part, Bjørset is more extrovert and muscular than her teacher. "Hei So Dansa Jenta Mi" begins with wailing and howling thrills, "Halling" is flung out with abandon.
Yet this is dense music, weaving shifting drones and counter-melodies around every line; and when the bow jumps from one string to another, the resonating strings below ring out. Strange harmonies collide on " Hamlagrøen", evoking a peal of bells in a storm. A few tracks add guitar accompaniment; and the album's predominantly fierce mood breaks down for the slower paced melancholy of "Stillelåt".
We may scorn the Taliban for outlawing cassette tapes, but as recently as the 19th century, Norwegians were burning Harding fiddles during religious revivals. These days, people are less inclined to ban such music as the devil's work, or ascribe its power to Trolls. Yet Bjørset's eyes have a mad glint, and her playing melds traditional discipline with lunatic abandon."
Says Bjørset of The Wire’s portrait of her music and persona: I am flattered by such reviews. I know that I am a bit mad and it’s funny when somebody can hear bits of my personality through my music.
Synnøve S. Bjørset: Ram (NOR CD / Musikkoperatørene – NORCD 0140)sd
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Genre\Folk / Traditional\Norwegian, Listen to Norway - promotion\2002:A, Press\Outside Norway, Outside Norway