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Band Folk Avant-garde


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PROTOTYP (NSD6084) 2005



The hurdy gurdy is an instrument that has appeared prominently throughout Europe since the eleventh century, but its origin still remains a mystery to this day. The earliest hurdy gurdy was known as an organistrum. The instrument was so large that it required two people to play. It was revised however in the thirteenth century to be played by one person. The curious name “hurdy gurdy” was not developed until the eighteenth century in England.

The enigmatic early history of the hurdy gurdy has many theories, but most commonly supported is the distribution of the instrument by the Moors. It is believed that the Moors brought many stringed and bowed instruments into Spain when they invaded the country in the seventh century.

The status of the instrument changed frequently and drastically over the ages and has been known as both a church instrument and tool of the devil.

The precise relationship between the devil on one hand and Swedish master musicians Stefan Brisland-Ferner of Garmarna, and Totte Mattsson of Hedningarna on the other is unclear. On Prototyp, they have come together to demonstrate the range and power of this ancient, versatile instrument, which has been dubbed a medieval synthesizer. Exclusively using sounds generated from hurdy gurdys, they play, process, sample, and tweak both traditional and original tunes in innovative and provocative ways.

Totte Mattsson is otherwise frontman HEDNINGARNA, a band which have wandered in the front line when it comes to moving borders and renewing Swedish folk music. They have also sold a considerable amount of records - about 150 000. The records "Kaksi!" and "Trä" are already considered as milepoles.

Stefan Brisland-Ferner in a similar fashion fronts GARMARNA, firmly established on the modern Swedish folk music scene, their combination of conventional and early music instrumentation with cutting edge technology creating their unique and powerful sound: violins, viola, guitars, percussion, sampled loops, hurdy gurdy, and vocals.

Hurdy-Gurdys’ debut album “Prototyp” was a satisfying presentation of ideas - a prototype of things to come. Hurdy-Gurdy are currently working on a follow up album, a work somewhat interrupted by an ongoing separate project commissioned by and with the Kronos Quartet.

Says Stefan: “To me, the appeal of the Swedish hurdy gurdy that we use lies within its incompleteness. It's raw and unfinished. It wants to do everything but isn't quite fit to do so. The beauty of the music comes from how fragile it sounds when something so raw wants to sing something beautiful. For years, Totte and I have been busy trying to make this stubborn instrument work in places it doesn't naturally belong. Putting mics on the hurdy gurdy - without knowing how to do so in the first place - has produced a lot of sounds never heard before. We've grown to love this second nature of the instrument.”