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International Music Resources by Country: Norway

International Music Resources offers an array of online and physical resources both freely available and/or offered by the George F. DeVine Music Library. The information included in these guides may serve as a starting point for the study and research of

Rondane National Park in Innlandet, NorwayCitation (1)

Map of Norway

Map of Norway
Citation (2)

Norwegian Music

Traditional Music from Norway Album Art

Nordisk Song Album Art

Songs and Dances of Norway

Garland Encyclopedia of World Music-Norway

Garland Encyclopedia of World Music Cover Art


Facts in Brief

Flag of Norway


Capital: Oslo

Official Languages: Danish-based Bokmål and Nynorsk

Population: 5,391,369

Area: 323,809

Climate: Norway’s climate is temperate on the west coast, but colder inland. The monthly average temperature ranges from −7.5°C (18°F) in February to 12.6°C (55°F) in July. 

Citation (4)

Traditional Norwegian Music

Traditional Music

Through the centuries economic and political circumstance have fostered close connections and interdependence between Norwegians the peoples of neighbouring Scandinavia and other European countries adjoining the North Sea. It is no surprise therefore that Norwegians culture in general, and folk music traditions in particular, give evidence of comprehensive cultural connections and integration with other nations of the area. Nevertheless, in some respects Norwegians folk music displays striking uniqueness in rhythm, tonality and structure, the result of diverse local processes of fusion of new musical ideas, instruments and techniques with older, indigenous musical idioms. 

Vocal Music

Compared with other parts of Europe, Norway does not seem to be particularly rich in early genres. Well-documented types are songs related to animal husbandry, lullabies, religious folktunes, medieval ballads and tunes to metrically standardized poetry known as stev. The impressive cattle-calls known as lokk are seldom heard in their original context; however, a number have been recorded. In its complex form the lokk is a composite of shouting, singing and talking, in an order which may have been established by function. 

The medieval ballad exists only as a survival. Pan-Scandinavian in character, it is singular in the class of truly epic folksongs. Most traditional ballad tunes were collected in the county of Telemark before 1875 and form an interesting contribution to rural musical heritage. Ballad texts have been a matter of importance to folklorists who conventionally distinguish chivalric and mythical poetry about giants and trolls. The musical material, however, has not so far been thoroughly studied by musicologists.

Instrumental Music

The violin became the main folk instrument in Norway during the 18th century. Historical and material sources, however, indicate that violin-like, and possibly earlier types of bowed instruments, were known in Norway before 1600. Fiddle music, however, developed in two different directions, based on two types of instrument: the normal violin, used throughout most of the country, and the hardingfele ( Hardanger fiddle ), played principally in western Norway  from Hardanger to Sunnfjord and in the central Norwegian valleys...fiddle traditions seem to have shared fundamental instrumental techniques and stylistic features associated with dances whose development pre-dates the introduction of the modern violin by at least two or three centuries. Both fiddle traditions apply the scordatura principle and groups of slåttar within repertories are classified in terms of patterns of tuning. Sources indicate that the re-tuning of instruments was common during weddings, with each tuning having particular ceremonial significance through functional association with the sequence of ceremonial activities. The two traditions also share modal and harmonic characteristics, while their rhythms abound in small but significant ‘irregularities’ typical of Norwegian folk music in general. 

Citation (3)

Composer Highlight: Edvard Grieg

Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg

Edvard Grieg


Norwegian composer, pianist and conductor. He was the foremost Scandinavian composer of his generation and the principal promoter of Norwegian music. His genius was for lyric pieces – songs and piano miniatures – in which he drew on both folktunes and the Romantic tradition, but his Piano Concerto found a place in the central repertory, and his String Quartet foreshadows Debussy.

Grieg's music spread rapidly through Europe during the latter part of the 19th century. His concert tours and the efficient follow-up marketing of his publisher, Peters, no doubt played a part in this, but no less important was his strong appeal to public taste. Around 1900 Grieg was one of the most popular composers in western homes and concert halls, and though there was some falling off after 1920, his music was well back in favour by the time of his sesquicentenary, in 1993, which brought a peak in scholarship and general enthusiasm.

Citation: Horton, J., & Grinde, N.  Grieg, Edvard. Grove Music Online. Retrieved 17 Feb. 2022, from


(1): Rondane Atnsjømyrene Folldal Atna Innlandet Norway [Photograph], by Geir Hval, 2009, Wikimedia Commons. CC 4.0.

(2): Country Map (Norway), in Europa World online. London, Routledge. University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Retrieved 31 March 2018 from

(3): Vollsnes, A., Sevåg, R., & Blom, J.  Norway. Grove Music Online. Retrieved 17 Feb. 2022, from

(4): Location, Climate, Language, Religion, Flag, Capital (Norway), in Europa World online. London, Routledge. University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Retrieved 17 February 2022 from