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Vallmusik with Kulning

Hilary knows me as big Europe fan from Canada. I don’t mean Europe-the-continent; I mean Sweden’s own hard rock supergroup, Europe. But for the most part, whenever I thought of Swedish music, bands like ABBA and Roxette, or singers like Jazz’s Alice Babs or Opera’s Jenny Lind (a.k.a. the Swedish Nightingale) came to mind. Hilary asked if I would be interested researching the evolution of music within Sweden (yes!!) and so I set out to my local library to do some reading on the subject. After my librarian finished laughing – yes, SwedishFreaks, he laughed when I said I was “…looking for books on Nordic, Scandinavian or more specifically, on Sweden’s music history…” and managed to check with his computer, he said they didn’t have anything that could help me. So I went online and read Wikis and other articles I could find. I also found and read an amazing eBook that shed light on Sweden’s Art-Music History.

I found out that geography, religion and politics played a key role early on in Sweden’s musical development. While music from the Continent did eventually influence music within Sweden, it was a slow progress. Immigration certainly helped; those coming into the country brought with them songs, instruments and musical styles from their old countries. But Sweden does have a distinct form of music that can be traced back to medieval times with a connection to farming livestock….


Like the cowboys of America, who use a series of vocal sounds and calls to control their herds, the Swedes have their own form of music with very ancient roots called Vallmusik. It can be performed either with a Vallhorn/kohornet – a blow horn made from the horns of cattle – or vocally, which really interested me.

Vallmusik contains a special singing technique called Kulning. It is performed to attract the attention of the herd, to scare off predators, or used as a form of communication to let others tending to flocks in the area, know that help was needed. Kulning focuses on auditory signals (calls and sounds) rather than what we would consider as traditional singing using musical scales. It is sung at very high registers and for the most part performed by women, and is used to signal the herd to come back home after grazing in the mountain pastures all day.

Vallmusik/Kulning can be considered a true Scandinavian music form as it is also used in some parts of Norway.

Here are some samples of Kulning I have found on YouTube. Have a pet? See if Fido or Fluffy react to Kulning. My dog certainly did!

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