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The sound of Sweden - with Jonna Jinton

The sound of Sweden - Jonna Jinton

How does Sweden sound? Earlier this year, Jonna Jinton in Ångermanland was challenged by Google Arts & Culture to capture the sound of our Swedish cultural heritage. Here is the result of her journey.

Earlier this year, a number of YouTube creators in several European countries were challenged by Google to capture the sounds of their cultural heritage. Sweden's chosen representative was Jonna Jintonwhich hardly needs any further introduction. Then all their sounds would be mixed together into a song that would represent the sound of Europe's cultural heritage - a song you'll find below.

I set out on a journey to find the sounds of my heritage. [...] The sounds that I felt represented part of my Swedish heritage were the sounds of the forest, the sound of one of the oldest Swedish instruments nyckelharpaand of course Cultivation, the ancient Swedish call. [...] These sounds are all part of our Swedish cultural heritage, and this is my contribution.

Jonna Jinton

In the video you will see, besides all the magical forest scenery, beautiful views from The old farm in Myckelgensjö, Ångermanland, a place I have fond memories of when my siblings and I ran around as small children, exploring all the old timbered buildings when we visited grandma and grandpa.

The sound of the forest. Is there anything more peaceful? Jonna highlights how the forest has shaped our ancestors and our culture up here in the barren north, and she's absolutely right. Vilhelm Moberg, in his history My Swedish history devotes an entire chapter to the importance of forests for the Swedish people, and emphasises how forests have also shaped his own upbringing.

The forest has not only been a "comfort" for the people as protection during wars of liberation, but also as a pure necessity of life, and this long before it became perhaps the most important export commodity for the Swedes. We have seen how the bark on its trunks contributed to the daily bread. From the very beginning of settlement it has also provided people with meat from game, with pasture, leaves and fodder for cattle, with timber for their homes and fuel for heating them, with pine needles for candles in their houses, with bark for leather preparation, with tar and charcoal.

And materials from the forest have literally been the constant companions of mankind from cradle to grave. [...] The cradle of the newborn child and the coffin of the recently dead were made of wood: man's first and last resting place.

Vilhelm Moberg in My Swedish history, vol. 2, p. 124.

Moberg particularly emphasises the importance of the forest for the freedom of the Swedish common people, and argues that the deep forests have played the same role for the Swedish common people as the mountains did for the Swiss and the deep fjords for the Norwegians. When the enemy crossed the border, the common people took refuge in the forest, and in the forest the Swedish common people lured the invaders with their crossbows and their debris. But it was also to the forest that the individual took refuge when society's constraints and rules of life became too stifling. Man walked on the forest, where a freer but also much harder life awaited.

I was born in the middle of a forest and it has left its mark on me, I have carried my origins with me throughout my life. I understand what the forest has meant to the people who have made their homes there and who have grown up in its shelter. [...] During the day, I would run out into the meadow as often as I could get to it - going deep into the gloom between the tree trunks and often getting lost. But I can't recall a time when I was frightened or anxious during my rambles in the fields as a child. On the contrary: in my memories of the forest I retain a sense of security and freedom.

Vilhelm Moberg in My Swedish history, vol. 2, p. 135.

Moberg is far from alone in having been influenced by the forest. All of us who have grown up in it have, and I and others share the sense of freedom Moberg describes. "The best and greatest form of freedom I have experienced is when I am in nature, especially in the forest," as Exxon's own Dirty Harry wrote in his belated letter before his death.

It is also from the forest that the material was taken to build the nyckelharpa, one of the oldest instruments in Sweden. "For hundreds of years, our ancestors have danced to the tones of the nyckelharpa," Jonna says in the video to the tones of Niklas Roswall's nyckelharpa. The nyckelharpa is depicted in Swedish stone churches as early as the 15th and 16th centuries, most of them from Uppland. In Källunge Church on Gotland, a frieze dated to 1350 shows musicians playing various stringed instruments, one of which may be a nyckelharpa. You can read more about the history of the nyckelharp at the Institute for Languages and Folklore.

nyckelharpa
1982: Eric Sahlström with his self-made nyckelharpa in Göksby, Uppland. Photo: Tommy Arvidsson / Upplandsmuseet (CC BY-NC-ND)

Want to hear more nyckelharpa you will find here a beautiful song with the folk group Ranarim and a 10 years younger Niklas Roswall when they play on the pearl of the Bothnian Sea, Ulvön in Ångermanland.

All European entries to Google Arts & Culture's challenge have been mixed together to create a video representing European cultural heritage, which you can watch here:

To be honest, I think Jonna's own video is so much better than the end result, but that's a matter of taste.

I have felt so strongly about this project and really wanted to put my heart and soul into it, as I have always felt a special love for cultural heritage. I really wanted to capture the soul of the Swedish heritage and try to get some of that into my video.

Jonna Jinton

Did Jonna manage to capture the soul of our cultural heritage? I think so. If I had to add one sound to the list, it would be the beak lure, a traditional Nordic instrument that was also used in the old pastoral culture to send messages over long distances and to attract animals.

Urtoner
1930s: Girl blowing into a barbed wire. Nordic Museum. Buy a print here!

But the forest, the flora and fauna, it will always represent the true sound of Sweden for me. My origin.

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  1. Pingback: Caroling - enchanting tones from our cultural heritage | Kulturminnet

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