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April 2008 · Bimonthly

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Susanne Rosenberg: Photo by Lena Köster

Examples of Kulning, Vallat, Polskas and the Herding Call Tradition in Sweden

by Susanne Rosenberg & Sven Ahlbäck

Kulning (herding call) use a special high-pitched vocal technique, a vocal means of expression, mainly used by women in the grazing pastures in Scandinavia.

It has been used at least since the Middle Age primarily functioning as a means of communication between the shepherdess and the animal. It can typically be heard many miles away.

Today kulning herding calls are used in many different forms and surroundings, for example, in concerts, as an ingredient in new compositions. It still lives even thought the grazing pastures are not common any longer.

  1. Cow Call (Kulning) sung by Susanne Rosenberg
    This is an excerpt from the CD published together with the book "KULING - the music and the technique" (Udda Toner publisher). Though not specific to the preceding article, it does exemplify what a Swedish cow call sounds like.
  2. Stora Oxen herding song sung by Susanne Rosenberg
    This also comes from the CD accompanying "KULING - the music and the technique" The song is mentioned in the middle of the preceding article "Kulning - Herding Calls from Sweden.

Now two fiddle versions in this style that should help the reader to better understand the article.

  1. Vallåt (pastoral music) and polska after Hjort Anders Olsson, Bingsjö, Dalarna, Sweden played by Sven Ahlbäck. Olsson mentioned that this vallöt was after his mother, who played it on cow horn.
  2. Vallåt and polska (Rikorpilåten) after Gustaf Jernberg, Österbybruk, Uppland played by Sven Ahlbäck. Gustaf Jernberg learned the vallåt heard in the beginning of the track from a herding maid who performed this with kulning. The subsequent polska tune is called Rikorpilåten and is evidently inspired by the herding call mode.

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About the Authors

Susanne Rosenberg is one of Sweden's foremost folk singers, exhibiting a wide range of vocal expressions, from her focus at folk singing techniques, such as kulning, extending to baroque, jazz and contemporary art music.

Susanne Rosenberg has been a pioneer in both rediscovering the older Swedish style of folk singing and in using it in new artistic environments and with groups Rosenberg's 7, Rotvälta and KRUS .

She received the prestigious "Kristallpriset" of year 2000 for her work in Swedish music life and she is head of the folk music department and professor of folk singing at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm.

Sven Ahlbäck is one of Sweden's most influential current fiddle players. He learned to play from Anton Jernberg, who taught Sven the twisting Gästrike tunes that still serve as the nucleus of Sven's repertoire. It is an archaic music, full of quartertones, shake-bow strokes - tunes as crooked as the forest paths. Since then, Sven's repertoire has been further influenced by musician friends such as Ole Hjorth, Ellika Frisell, Mikael Marin and Susanne Rosenberg, and in groups such as Kvickrot, Rotvälta, Rosenberg's Sjua, Maria Kalaniemi and Johan Hedin. Sven has also made groundbreaking work within folk music research in Sweden, focusing on tonality, rhythm and other stylistic aspects of the music.

He is Sweden's first professor in folk music on both artistic and scientific merits, has developed the folk music department at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm and is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music.

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