An extract on #fiddle
The Hardingfele is used mainly in the southwest part of Norway, whereas the ordinary violin (called flatfele - 'flat fiddle' or vanlig fele - 'common fiddle') is found elsewhere. The Hardingfele is used for dancing, accompanied by rhythmic loud foot stomping. It was also traditional for the fiddler to lead the bridal procession to the church.
The instrument often is highly decorated, with a carved animal (usually a dragon or the Lion of Norway) or a carved woman's head as part of the scroll at the top of the pegbox, extensive mother of pearl inlay on the tailpiece and fingerboard, and black ink decorations called 'rosing' on the body of the instrument. Sometimes pieces of bone are used to decorate the pegs and the edges of the instrument.
The earliest known example of the hardingfele is from 1651, made by Ole Jonsen Jaastad in Hardanger, Norway. Originally, the instrument had a rounder, narrower body. Around the year 1850, the modern layout with a body much like the violin became the norm.
The technique of bowing a Hardingfele also differs from that used with a violin. It's a smoother, bouncier style of bowing, with a lighter touch. The player usually bows on two of the upper strings at a time, and sometimes three. This is made easy by the relative flatness of the bridge, unlike the more curved bridge on a violin. The strings of the fiddle are slimmer than those of the violin, resembling the strings of violins from the baroque period.
The Hardingfele has had a long history with the Christian church. Well known early fiddle maker Isak Botnen is said to have learned some of his craft from church lay leader and school master Lars Klark, as well as the methods for varnishing from pastor Dedrik Muus. In many folktales the devil is associated with the Hardingfele, in fact many good players were said to have been taught to play by the devil, if not by the nix. During religious revivals in the 1800s many fiddles (regular and Hardanger) were destroyed or hidden both by fiddlers and laypeople who thought "that it would be best for the soul that the fiddles be burned", as it was viewed as a "sinful instrument that encouraged wild dances, drinking and fights." This happened in Norway, as well as other parts of Europe, and until the 20th century playing a Hardanger fiddle in a church building was forbidden. Some fiddlers, however, played on, in spite of all condemnation, and thus, valuable traditions remained intact. The first folk musicians to perform in a church were the fiddlers Johannes Dahle from Tinn, and Gjermund Haugen from Notodden. Dahle performed in the 1920s.
Famous modern fiddler Annbjrg Lien has played with church organist Iver Kleive, but even she has experienced prejudice before performance from the religious side. Also, the oldest known fiddles still in existence can be heard accompanied by the oldest playable church pipe organ in Norway (originally built for an 18th-century church) on the album "Rosa i Botnen" by Knut Hamre and Benedicte Maurseth. While the use of a Hardingfele in church in Norway may still be a bit sensitive for some, fiddlers in other parts of the world have no problems playing in churches for all types of occasions, including weddings.