The Ancient Musical Heritage of Iceland

Get a taste for ancient musical traditions that were revived in the twentieth century and discover music from contemporary artists of the Westfjords. If you‘re brave enough you can learn to sing an Icelandic folksong!

The settlers of Iceland brought with them a rich cultural heritage which continued to flourish during the first centuries of settlement. There is evidence in manuscripts that early Icelandic composers were writing for skilled musicians with polyphonic chant being written for up to six voices, and Icelandic skalds travelled widely on the continent, sought out by nobility and royalty alike for their impressive performance skills.

The evolving folk music tradition included rímur, long narrative poems that are chanted, tvísöngur, two part organum, and sagnadansar, songs performed with dancers. While there is no physical evidence of musical instruments from the settlement period, in the Fornaldarsögur Norðurlanda, written mostly in the fourteenth century, there are references that confirm instrumental playing was practised by the first generation of Icelanders. Traditional Icelandic instruments include the langspíl, the Icelandic fiðla, and the symþhón. During the multimedia presentation you will see and hear these instruments being performed along with examples of the singing traditions.