This article examines the dynamics at play in the revival of the Norwegian munnharpe (jew's harp), using the voices of musicians and instrument makers to examine the central role of audio-visual recordings in reconstructing playing techniques and instrument designs.
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Though it operates on the margins of the Norwegian folk music scene, the munnharpe (jew’s harp) revival has been active since the 1960s and today boasts an active network of festivals, musicians, and blacksmiths. After contextualising the instrument’s position within Norwegian folk music and outlining the history of the munnharpe community, I explore the transmission and revitalisation of the munnharpe tradition, suggesting that a large part of the revival’s success lies in the availability and accessibility of archival recordings. I examine the transmission of playing technique and repertoire amongst musicians, then compare it with instrument building transmission amongst blacksmiths, analysing how the dynamic between munnharpeplayers and makers has shaped the instrument’s musical and material spheres. Tracing the symbiotic relationship between archives, recordings, players, and makers, I argue that this interplay has been central to the revival in both its past and present iterations.
Free access through September 2018 at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17411912.2018.1506942