Dan Lundberg: Bjårskpip in Blossom

On the Revitalization Process of a Folk Music Instrument

Dan Lundberg


In May 2003, I received an interesting round package in the post. It came from the instrument maker Gunnar Stenmark, and it contained a flute that he had received from a friend. The flute was made by the friend’s grandfather, the musician, Daniel Danielsson (1874–1937), who came from northern Jämtland in Sweden. The friend knew that Stenmark was a flute maker and wondered if the flute was of interest to him. Stenmark sent it on to me asking me to evaluate it for him from the viewpoint of a musician and as a musicologist. ”Is it a good instrument?” ”Does it fit into the Swedish folk music instrumentarium?” As an instrument maker, he saw the possibility of adding a new model to his collection. At the same time, he wondered if The Centre for Swedish Folk Music and Jazz Research (Svenskt visarkiv) had recordings from this region and, consequently, was there a ”possible” flute repertoire.

In this article, I explore aspects of the rebirth of a musical instrument. The point of departure is Daniel Danielsson’s six-hole duct flute. The discussion, in its extension, deals with the interpretation and understanding of tradition, and the relationship between the instrument maker, musician, and the researcher.

[2] Revival

To a great extent, the literature on musical revival concerns styles and genres that have disappeared from musical life and returned in later époques. An obvious example in art music is, of course, the Renaissance – an entire musical era named after ancient styles in art and literature. The same sort of Renaissance that occurred in artistic and literary realms could not so readily happen in the musical realm due to the lack of written sources. But, we see that inspirations from ancient dramatic forms led to the first experiments with opera. Other similar phenomena of revival in art music can be seen in neo-Classical and neo-Baroque styles, which developed in the twentieth century as a reaction against music of the late Romantic era and expressionism. The ”new” styles drew from the tonality, rhythms, and forms of Classical and Baroque music.

In a modern context, revival in art music has, increasingly, come to deal with the interpretation of how historical musical instruments are built and played. In the early music movement, the concept ”Historically Informed Performance” (HIP) is often used to avoid terms that are more problematic. The Baroque era especially, has been studied with the goal of achieving a ”genuine” sound from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The Swedish musicologist Gunno Klingfors has described HIP as ”the school in classical music where the aim is to attain a high degree of historical relevance in the performance of music, from especially the time before 1850, concerning sound, articulation and ornamentation” (Klingfors 2006).

Today, musicians and musicologists are well aware that ”authenticity,” in the most literal sense of the word, cannot be achieved. Definitions of authenticity are vague and problematic and often include terms such as ”real, genuine; natural, original; certain, reliable” (SAOB). When we speak about music, there are some basic meanings of authenticity that are founded on the differing ideas of genuineness and reliability. In this context, we can distinguish between these two meanings of authenticity as 1) that which considers that older styles should be kept free from modern influences and 2) that which is directed towards a situation or mood, in which the goal might be to create a trustworthy musical setting or atmosphere. In the first case, authenticity has to do with ”sound resemblance” as when Baroque music is performed on instruments from the early eighteenth century. An example of the second case can be seen when live role-players create a ”mediaeval feeling” with the help of modern folk music instruments (cf. Lundberg et al 2000: 304–26 & Lagergren 1998). But, whether we like it or not, authenticity is used as a key word for all kinds of revival movements. Some sort of similarity to the ”authentic” is almost always part of the goal for the performance. Klingfors speaks about Western art music, but comparable ideas of authenticity occur when it comes to the performance of other historical music forms; mediaeval music, Dixieland jazz, rockabilly, etc.

It seems that a basic prerequisite for the rebirth of something is that there should be a break in the tradition, the musical form must have died out. But that is not always the case. In order to be more specific, one can discriminate between revival and revitalization, where the former describes the bringing of dead genres and instruments back to life, and the latter expresses a process in which musical forms regain popularity, without having been completely out of use. Unfortunately, the terms are used inconsistently in the literature. The early music movement gives us an excellent illustration of how older musical instruments have been studied with respect to construction and tuning:[1] The return of the recorder in twentieth-century art music. From the middle of the eighteenth century, the recorder was driven out of use by the more dynamically flexible transverse flute. From the Classical era onward, the eighteenth century was characterized by a lust for experiments in the field of instrument making. Wind instruments were developed and equipped with key systems in order to facilitate playing and to expand their registers. The transverse flute was one of the instruments that were ”improved” in that way, and as a consequence, the recorder gradually disappeared from musical life. In European art music, the recorder was more or less dead during the Romantic era. But, at the end of the nineteenth century, a new interest in early music began in Europe. Reconstructions of Renaissance and Baroque musical instruments such as cembalo, gamba, and various other instruments in the lute family were created and there was an interest in older playing techniques and interpretations. Along with this new passion for the old, the interest in recorders returned. When the recorder was revived in the early twentieth century, it was modelled on earlier Baroque versions. Later on, especially in the interwar period, the recorder became an important pedagogical tool in music education.

The Swedish bagpipe, reborn in the 1980s, is an excellent example of revival in the field of folk music. In the wake of the folk music vogue of the 1970s, many folk musicians looked for new means of expression, leading them to rediscover older instruments. A Swedish bagpipe model was created, based on older specimens found in several Swedish music museums. A usable prototype was produced in cooperation between the instrument maker Leif Eriksson, the musician Per Gudmundson, and the musicologist Gunnar Ternhag, who at that time worked at the museum in Falun, in the central-Swedish region of Dalecarlia (Dalarna). No Swedish bagpipe had been played in the folk music tradition since the 1940s.The last tradition bearer, Gudmunds Nils Larsson, died in 1949 (Cf. Ronström 1989 & Ternhag 2005).

[3] Terminology for Folk Revival

Terminology used to express the concept of folk revival is rather convoluted. As mentioned earlier, several terms are used without accurate distinction. Just to mention a few: revival, revitalization, recreation, reorientation, and re-enactment. Swedish scholar, Ingrid Åkesson, attempts to nuance this discussion by introducing three concepts with distinct meanings: recreating, reshaping, and renewal.[2] The concepts help to distinguish between different degrees of change, both deliberate and accidental (Åkesson 2006).

In recreating, the purpose is to represent traditional material in its perceived original way, that is, to perform a traditional musical heritage as close to the original as possible. To reshape is to use traditional materials as a point of departure for new musical arrangements. This could be described as ”to use the old material in a new way.” Åkesson uses the term renewal to designate new compositions in the genre of folk music – compositions in ”folk style.” She also stresses the fact that these processes often overlap, so that for instance, recreation and reshaping can exist at the same time, on different levels.

Åkesson’s model can be applied to advantage when discussing the revival of musical instruments. In the first case, we can discriminate between different intentions. For instance, the faithful ambitions in the early music movement can be regarded as recreating. The Swedish bagpipe, as it is constructed in its new version, can be seen as reshaping. Using old instruments as a starting point, modern instrument makers can produce new models with alternative materials and scales. Some makers are so creative that it is reasonable to speak of renewal. In that category, we can count the Hungarian musician and bagpipe maker József Kozák, who makes his pipes entirely of plastic and metal. Kozák has also developed a new way of generating sound to the pipe, in which the sound is not generated by a reed, but from a membrane made of plastic wrap!

[4] Doers–knowers–makers

The different perspectives that are represented by Åkesson’s categories can easily lead to disagreements between the involved actors, who may have diverse aims for their work. For anyone with recreation as the primary goal, the renewal of instruments like Kozák’s plastic pipes can function as a provocation. On the other hand, a strictly purist attitude could be perceived as stiff, inflexible, and even impractical. The renewalist could argue that if instrument makers of older times had access to plastic and other modern materials, they would naturally have used them.

A related way of looking at the revival process is to begin with the aims that different actors have for their activities. With Daniel Danielsson’s flute as an example, we can make a simplified division between my own, and the flute maker Gunnar Stenmark’s roles in the process. The flute maker’s primary goal is to enlarge his assortment of flutes. His goal differs from that of the ethnomusicologist whose aims have to do with understanding how the instrument functions, in what contexts it was used, how it was built, and what the prototypes might have been, etc. The musician, on his or her side, puts music making first and is most interested in a useful and flexible instrument.

In the research project Music, Media, Multiculture (Lundberg et al 2000), a model is presented for the different functions and interactions of actors in a music culture, and this model is also applicable to the instrument revitalization process. The model takes the roles of the participants as a starting point. The roles are named doers, knowers, and makers. They can be outlined as follows:

Doers–These actors are primarily interested in playing music. This category is the most common one in musical contexts.[3] Doers often have considerable knowledge about the music that they practice, but in this case, the role is defined by the aim of the activity.

Knowers–For this role, the goal is to increase the insights about the activity. Scholars in the academic world may be a typical example, but in reality, most knowers are amateur researchers. They are passionate enthusiasts who, with great zest, contribute to the accumulation of knowledge about their fields of interest.

Makers–Those actors whose main aim is to distribute and market the results of, first and foremost, the doers, but also the work of knowers, form a third category. Record producers, publishers, arrangers, marketers, and managers, are called makers–but this group also includes instrument builders and entrepreneurs of various kinds.

I would like to note that, with regard to this project, I, in my role as knower, am the person documenting the process and describing it in this text. But, additionally, as a flute player and a folk musician, I am a doer who is actively participating in the process.

. Fig. 1

Fig. 1. Different roles for actors in a revival process. Drawing: Ann Ahlbom Sundqvist

[5] The maker – Gunnar Stenmark

Gunnar Stenmark is one of the most active makers of folk music flutes in Sweden. Stenmark lives outside the town of Östersund in northeastern Sweden, and learned to build flutes from one of the masters of folk flute building, Oskar Olofsson. Stenmark has his workshop in the basement of his terrace house, and since he started his production in the early 1990s, he has constantly tried to develop and increase his offering of flutes. With the traditional flute-type from the district where he lives as a pattern, he has created new models in collaboration with musicians and music researchers. He has been inspired by different types of six-hole flutes from other parts of Europe, and he has been doing research in museums in Sweden. To date, 2006, he makes several different types of folk flutes as well as ”mediaeval flutes” and specially designed flutes. When Stenmark received Daniel Danielsson’s flute in the mail, he saw an opportunity to recreate and introduce a ”new” type of folk flute onto the Swedish folk music scene. I immediately became interested in his project and decided to follow the flute’s recreation process. I felt that the flute could be used and popularized among Swedish folk musicians and I declared that I wanted to document his work, and my own role, in the process of recreating the flute. Stenmark liked the concept and our cooperation began.


Fig 2. The ”bjårskpip.” Photo: Anna Kerstin Källman, Svenskt visarkiv.

[6] The Flute

In the work of the knower, determining the type and use of the instrument is often the point of departure. For me. a natural beginning was to investigate whether or not there were other similar instruments in the same cultural area.

Daniel Danielsson’s flute fits very well into the picture of other folk flutes from the region of Jämtland. It is closely related to the better-known härjedalspipa from an area 200 kilometers south of Laxviken. It has a cylindrical bore like a ”classical” Renaissance recorder, which is the case with most of the folk music flutes in the Nordic countries. The flute has six finger holes and no thumbhole. The six holes give the player the possibility of playing heptatonic scales without too many complicated fingerings or over-blowing.

Six-hole flutes are common throughout the world. Among flute models in Europe with the same construction, one can the mention: the British/Celtic tin whistle, Russian svirel, Polish fujarka, Rumanian fluier, Ukrainian sopilka, Serbian frula, Hungarian furulya, and many others. All of them belong to the family of duct flutes with a cylindrical bore and six finger holes on the upper side. The similarity to flutes in European art music has been commented on by several scholars, such as the Norwegian folk instrument researcher, Bjørn Aksdal (1993). During the eighteenth century, Aksdal points out, there was a proportionately large importation of recorders to Norway from instrument makers in central Europe. Flute importation to Sweden was not as extensive, but it is reasonable to believe that Swedish flute makers also became aware of European models and fashions.

The musicological categorization for these kinds of instruments is duct flutes. ”Duct” refers to the channel that directs the air column towards an edge or lip (labium). When the air column strikes the lip, it causes the air to vibrate and sound is generated.

During the seventeenth century, flute makers started to build recorders in two or three pieces, with a separate mouthpiece, and this improvement resulted in the ability to adjust the length of the flute and thereby its pitch. French flute maker, Jean Hotteterre, in the middle of the seventeenth century, began building recorders in three pieces: mouthpiece, middle piece, and foot piece. At the joints, the flute was made a little bit thicker to strengthen the wood. The Baroque era is characterised by embellishments and ornamentation in almost all cultural fields and instrument making was no exception. We often find Baroque recorders turned in beautiful profiles and with ornamented leaf patterns on the head and foot pieces. Ivory rings around foot and mouthpiece joints were also common, both as decoration and as reinforcement. Folk instrument makers often borrowed these decorative elements.


Daniel Danielsson’s flute resembles the central European Renaissance flutes in its construction, mostly in the cylindrical bore. But, if we judge from the flute’s appearance, it is far more similar to the Baroque flutes. We can see this, above all, when it comes to the significant turned convexities on the middle part of the flute. On Danielsson’s flute, these bulges are only embellishments and have no practical function. It became quite fashionable for some makers of folk recorders to imitate professionally made instruments.


Fig. 3. Example of a recorder in three pieces. The flute was build by the Dutch instrument maker Coenraad Rykel in the early eighteenth century. Picture from the Stockholm Music Museum.

It is not easy to explain the great popularity of duct folk flutes during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Flutes are among the oldest and most widely scattered of all musical instruments. Undoubtedly there were duct flutes in use in Swedish folk music long before the European Baroque flutes inspired Swedish makers. From the Stone Age, there are findings in southern Sweden of bone flutes and hunting pipes made from bird bones, probably used to attract and catch birds. We will never know for sure whether or not these flutes were ever used to make music. Flutes were presumably built from other materials besides bone during the Stone Age, but none have been preserved. Pipes made of bark are often regarded as ”children’s instruments” in our time, but the creation of flutes from bark in the spring, when the sap begins to run, is probably a tradition that goes back several thousand years.[4]

It is hard to tell how long flutes have been made from wood. The oldest bone flutes are estimated to be about 32,000 years old-findings from Les Roches and La Roque in Dordogne, France. It is reasonable to believe that wooden pipes have been around for at least as long. In Sweden, as well as in other parts of Europe, the duct flutes seem to have a close connection to cattle raising, and the flute has often been associated with herding.

The Swedish folk culture collector, Richard Dybeck, and other nineteenth-century sources, locate flute playing in areas of central and northern Sweden where summer cattle farms were still in use. Older flutes found in Swedish museums originate from these same areas. When the traditional herding system was abandoned in the end of the nineteenth century, folk flutes became less common.

The connection to herding activities in Sweden and Europe is interesting, and in many descriptions, the term ”shepherd’s flute” is equivalent to ”folk flute.”[5] The flute’s role in herding cultures is still not entirely clear. Flutes have probably never functioned in the same way as horns and lures. It is not clear if flutes were even regarded as musical tools. Today, herding calls and cow horn signals are called music, as a matter of course. But for the herders themselves, it was more common to talk about calls and signals as work tools – a means to communicate with animals and people. But there is no evidence to prove that shepherds’ flutes have been used in that way – to gather the animals or signal to other herders. The main use of flutes seems instead to be for leisure. The Swedish instrument researcher, Birgit Kjellström, writes about the handy size of the flute as a reason for its use during long walks between remote pasturages.

With its relatively rich musical resources in a neat format the pipe was easy to use for short moments of rest and to invigorate oneself. Whether or not it was also used for dance music is more uncertain. But it was light and easy to pack when you walked in the mountains. In the evening after work the pipe could be used to play during sunset (Ling et al, 1980:170).

Bog haymaking was an important activity in providing food for cattle. On the dry soils of the bogs, grasses, rushes, and horsetail plants could be harvested and brought back as winter cow feed. In an interview, the flute player Olof Jönsson (1867–1953) from Härjedalen, Sweden, describes how, during the long and hard walk to the bogs, he played the flute to cheer up the men.


Fig. 4. Bog haymaking march as played by Olof Jönsson, Överberg, Härjedalen (Grut 2004). Recording of the piece– –Dan Lundberg Björskpip.

Olof Jönsson was not a recognised folk musician, but used his flute among his closer friends, and for leisure by himself. But, for various reasons, he was recorded three times by the Swedish national radio and an archive between the years 1935 and 1951. Olof Jönsson played on flutes made by his brother Jonas. The spilåpipa, from Evertsberg in Dalecarlia (Dalarna), attracted much attention, thanks to a fiddlers contest in 1906. In the contest, a flute player, Sväs Anders Ersson, took part with tunes that he had learned as a shepherd when he was a young boy.There are not many documented flute players, at least not in comparison with fiddlers. This probably has to do with the fact that the flute players did not often take part in official musical contexts. Olof Jönsson and Sväs Anders have both become an eye of the needle for the folk flute tradition.

The Swedish folk musician Magnus Bäckström published the booklet ”Jag blåste i min pipa” (I blow in my pipe) (1980) that contains a useful repertoire for spilåpipa. But at the same time, the publication makes a case for flute playing and is an attempt to raise the status of flutes in folk culture. ”I hope that the flute stops being regarded as a curiosity, and that musical Sweden discovers and takes advantage of the flute’s many musical and pedagogical advantages.”[6]

[8] Bjårskpip – a new name for an old instrument

Wooden duct flutes in the Swedish folk tradition have had many different local names. Terms that refer to playing, like spelpipa (playing pipe), dominate. But names that link up with building materials have also been used, like wood pipe, bone pipe, or pine pipe. During the latter part of the twentieth century, flutes began to be reappear under another types of names. Flutes have been named after their origin – a flute type from the county Härjedalen in central Sweden is simply called härjedalspipa (Härjedal’s flute). But to give an instrument a geographically connected name is at the same time a kind of ”distance-keeping.” The name reveals an approach that is obviously scientific or ”museumized.” This is a common method for archaeologists when they want to connect their findings to place – c.f. the Oseberg lure, the Gallehus horn, the Birka flute, etc. Gunnar Stenmark and I came to an agreement that we would not call the flute ”Laxviken flute” (the name of the village) or ”Hotagen flute” (the name of the nearby lake). Instead we wanted to use another method, that of naming it after the material it is made from.[7]

We decided to call the flute ”birch flute” or in dialect bjårskpip.[8] As soon as we had agreed on the name, we tried to use it as consistently as possible among flute players and scholars. The name-giving is essential for the future use and understanding of the instrument. My role as knower in this process is interesting in several respects – Gunnar Stenmark would hardly have chosen this name himself. Because of our discussion of the importance of the naming process, he became aware of its mechanisms. From Stenmark’s point of view the name ”Laxviken flute” would have been the first choice, since it corresponds to his other flute categories. But he agreed that it would have made the flute more ”archaeological” and he found my arguments for a more ”traditional” naming appealing. At the same time, he needed support from me to raise the credibility and legitimacy of the flute, and we had to establish that the name was a constructed emic term that probably never had been used by the tradition bearers themselves.[9]

[9] The tuning of the Bjårskpip

The instrument that Gunnar Stenmark received from the granddaughter of Daniel Danielsson is in fact, unplayable. Due to age and changes in humidity, the wood has warped and the duct has been deformed. Instead of trying to repair the original pipe, Stenmark produced a copy from Daniel Danielsson’s flute as exactly as possible. When we measured the newly made copy of the flute at the Svenskt visarkiv, we discovered that the flute’s scale without fork fingerings or partly covered holes, deviated greatly from the Western tempered diatonic scale. At the same time, it is important to point out that most wind instruments give the player great opportunities to affect the intonation by simply changing the air pressure. The large diameter and the cylindrical bore of the bjårskpip make it even more flexible. During the measuring I tried to play as straight as possible, and deliberately tried to avoid affecting the pitch. The lowest tone of the flute is a somewhat low G. Beginning on this pitch, the scale is in many ways divergent of a ”normal” tempered major scale. The flute was recorded with a ”neutral” playing, and each tone was measured with a Korg OT-12M electronic tuner. All numbers in the scale of the bjårskpip in the figure are rounded off.

The scale

Fig 5. The scale of the bjårskpip pipe in comparison to a equally tempered Western scale and an exact equidistant scale.

It is obvious that the scale of the bjårskpip is close to the equidistant scale (c.f. fig. 4 above). The deviations from an equidistant scale in the lower pentachord are within a reasonable margin of error, that is, the variation of the intonation that easily can be compensated for with the manipulation of the air stream. In the upper register, the scale does not follow the equidistant scale any more. The sixth is closer to the tempered sixth than it is to the equidistant one. The seventh tone is sharply intonated – 150 cents higher than the narrow seventh and thereby 50 cents higher than the tempered major seventh. With an increased air pressure it is even possible to intonate the tone all the way up to the octave.

The similarities with the equidistant scale are interesting. In his study Tonspråket i äldre svensk folkmusik (The tonal language of older Swedish folk music), the Swedish ethnomusicologist Sven Ahlbäck (1995) examines folk intonation. Much of the scale of the bjårskpip coincides with Ahlbäck’s ideas of a Swedish and, in some cases, a Norwegian, tonal language. The neutral third is common in many musical dialects, not least when it comes to music played on cow and goat horns, and on bagpipes. The somewhat higher fourth can be found for example in the scale of the sallow (willow) flute.[10] Variation in scale types is discussed by the Norwegian scholar Reidar Sevåg (1973). Sevåg presents the idea that the placing of the finger holes can have other grounds than just the purely musical ones. The folk flute makers could perhaps sometimes try to copy professionally made instruments without having the right tools. The intention could, in the first place, have been to create an instrument that looked like its model. To copy the intonation was less important. Other Norwegian researchers have discussed the use of ”adornment scales” on the Norwegian langeleik (traditional zither).[11] The equidistant placing of the finger holes on Danielsson’s flute could very well be a parallel to the adornment scale of the langeleik.

Bjårskpip measured

Fig 6. The bjårskpip measured at the Svenskt visarkiv. Drawing by Lena Forsgren.

The distance between the finger holes can be related to the change of pitch for each hole. As can be seen in fig. 5, the four first holes[12] produce a scale that could be called equidistant. In cents, the sequence is 180-165-170-175, which gives a reasonable intonation of the scale’s fourth (+15 cent) and fifth (-10 cent). The deviations are so small that it would be possible to intonate both tones as the tempered scale. But when the fifth hole is opened the change is suddenly much bigger – the interval between the fifth and sixth is as large as 230 cents! The same thing happens between the sixth and seventh. The result is that the seventh ends up only 50 cents from the octave. The acoustical explanation for this is that the same distance between two finger holes this high up on the flute, relative to the lower end, is a larger part of the active air pillar. The relative shortening is thereby bigger. But this is not the only reason for the sudden and large change of pitch between the fifth and sixth finger holes. My experience is that cylindrically bored flutes with a wide bore diameter easily become a bit unstable in the higher part of the register. On these kinds of flutes, the pitch is harder to control when the two top-most finger holes are open.[13]

[10] My role as musician and musicologist

Gunnar Stenmark sent the flute to me because he wanted an opinion on the instrument’s usability. I answered in an email in October 2003:

The whole flute ought to be a little higher in pitch. When I play with an even and ”normal” air stream I tend to be a bit low (I have to calibrate the ”a” to 438–440). That is an older standard – the way you tuned in the nineteenth century.

Other comments on the tuning:

The keynote in the lower octave is a bit harsh – but it might have to be that way. The keynote of the second octave is perfect. The third keynote is a bit high (+10 cent). The second (second tone in the scale) in the lower octave is harsh. The second in the next octave is perfect. The third in both octaves is superb. Very blue (+45 cent). The forth in both octaves is OK (High but normal for folk music + 10-15 cent). The fifth is a bit low (ca 10 cent) in both octaves. Should be higher! The sixth in the lower octave is a bit too high (+20 cent). Should be lowered! The sixth in the higher octave doesn’t work and needs adjustment. The seventh is far too high – close to a cent… The seventh in the higher octave doesn’t work (needs adjustment).

My interpretation of the flute’s scale was that the lower part – the first pentachord-corresponded well with an older Swedish tonal language (c.f. Ahlbäck 1995). My educated guess is that the fifth should be intonated up and that the positions of the sixth and seventh tone levels simply were wrong. Nothing is known about Danielsson’s abilities as an instrument maker and, it is of course possible, that he had failed to put the two holes in the right place. I passed this information on to Gunnar Stenmark, explaining that, if the flute were to be useable in ensemble music, it had to be adjusted as I described.

To find out more about Danielsson’s skills and about the use of the flute, I interviewed two of his grandchildren. Both of them are retired and still live in the same area.

Excerpts from an interview with Ingegerd Reinklo, interview by Dan Lundberg, January 20, 2005:

IR: He was the kind of man that could do everything. He was good at turning and he could mend almost anything.

DL: When we were on his farm in Laxviken we saw a lathe. Could that have been Daniel’s?

IR: Could be. He had a small smithy in the yard. It is pulled down now, but we used to go there when I was a kid. It was exciting.

DL: What did he forge?

IR: At that time there were many things that could get broken. Things that were needed for the work at the farm. He repaired shafts and things like that. He was the kind of person that always had many irons in the fire. He worked as a timber floater. He inspected the shores of the lake. He was supposed to check that no timber got left behind.

DL: We found two note books in the house; could they have belonged to Daniel?

IR: Probably. But he was a close friend with the organ player in the church in Laxviken. His name was Nils Olsson, or Nils Orsja and he was Daniel’s brother in law. He composed a lot of music.

DL: Were there more people that made flutes in the village? Was it common?

IR: No, not that I know of. But he never got it exactly as he wanted. He was not entirely satisfied with it.

DL: Was it out of tune?

IR: Well, I don’t really know. He played on it.

DL: Did he ever play flute together with other people?

IR: I have no memory of that. I don’t remember him playing flute with others.

DL: Is there any picture of Daniel playing the flute?

IR: No, but there are pictures of him when he played in the brass band.

The interview strengthens the suspicion that Danielsson’s flute was not perfect. Ingegerd remembers that he was not content. She also remembered that he made more flutes. An inquiry among Danielsson’s other relatives gave a fast and unexpected result. There were three more flutes in good condition. Gunnar Stenmark collected the flutes and it turned out that they all had an almost identical form but showed some variation in the positioning of the finger holes.

Gunnar Stenmark’s role as maker is obvious in this context. My own double position as doer and knower is a bit more diffuse but not at all unusual in connection with folk music. It is important to remember that we are talking about ”roles” where the same person can hold many at the same time. In revival contexts, it is not unusual that a musician (doer) fulfils the knower role, since the seeking of repertoire and playing technique often have the character of research. We can see many examples of this in the early music movement where musicians are often doers, knowers, and makers in the same person (c.f. Lundberg et al 2000).

Stenmark continued to experiment with the flute, according to my remarks, as well as the new knowledge he gained from the three other flutes he gathered from the Danielsson’s relatives. The result was a flute with a neutral (blue) third and seventh and a somewhat high sixth. The seventh tone level can be altered with fork fingerings.

Scale after adjustments

Fig. 7. The bjårskpip’s scale after adjustments. Notice that the seventh tone level can be varied – a quartertone intonation is also possible.

Daniel Danielsson’s flutes were turned and drilled on a simple peddled lathe in his workshop on the farm in Laxviken, and we found one like it in the barn when we visited in January 2005. As a consequence of the slow speed of the lathe, the drilling had to be interrupted after every third centimetre to empty shavings from the borehole. This resulted in a number of small recurrent scores in the pipe. Thanks to its length, the original flute could still be played with a relatively strong tone quality in the second octave. On the other hand, it was probably hard to play in the lower octave. Gunnar Stenmark makes his flutes on a modern lathe where he can prepare the wood and drill the whole flute in one drilling. Thus, the instrument has a more consistent tone quality in the different octaves, as well as a larger register. Stenmark’s flutes are also adjusted to modern tuning (A=440 Hz).

In March 2004, I sent a picture of the bjårskpip via e-mail to the Norwegian instrument researcher, Bjørn Aksdal. I asked him if there was a possibility that the flute had Norwegian origins. Considering the geographical closeness and the fact that people in the district around Lake Hotagen had close connections with Norway through timber floating, the flute could as well have Norwegian roots. Aksdal answered that according to his knowledge the flute was not Norwegian at all and looked more Swedish to him.

The instrument looks a lot like the ”Härjedalspipa.” I have never seen anything like it in Norway, except for one flute that according to one source originates from Telemark in Norway. But in my opinion also this ”Telemarks-fløyten” is probably also Swedish. I will bring the pictures to Ånon Egeland [well known Norwegian flute player] in Rauland next week to ask him if he could have seen something like your flute (E-mail from Bjørn Aksdal, April 16, 2004).

But the flute player, Ånon Egeland, from Telemark could not strengthen the assumption either, that the flute had Norwegian origins.

[11] The knower’s reflections

The bjårskpip is in many ways a perfect folk instrument. Its scale shows significant modal traits and is not adjusted to modern major/minor modes. It belongs to a family of European six-hole flutes and seems, from its appearance, to be closely related to other folk flutes from the areas nearby, for example, the Swedish härjedalspipan, which in turn borrowed features from Baroque recorders. In the third volume of Studia Instrumentorum Musicae Popularis, the Slovakian ethnomusicologist Oskár Elschek suggests that a folk music instrument is defined as one that it is made by the same person who plays it (Elschek 1976). Indeed, this is true of Daniel Danielsson and his flute, as is evidenced by the old lathe, still on his farm, that bears witness to his many talents.

We found a variety of sources that show Danielsson as a maker of flutes, but it is much harder to research his repertoire. On the farm there were two hand written notebooks that might have been in Danielsson’s possession. Judging from the repertoire, the books were probably not used for flute music. One of the books has obviously been used for arrangements of instrument parts for the brass ensemble in Laxviken, in which Danielsson played the cornet. The other book contains mostly church hymns and could possibly have belonged to the church organist Nils Olsson, who was Daniel Danielsson’s brother in law and a frequent guest in the house. The books seem to have been used to help to remember melodies and instrument parts, and it is likely that the flute playing was not of that character.

Danielsson’s flute repertoire remains unknown, but it is reasonable to assume that he, like many other musicians from that time, did not have a ”pure” folk music repertoire, in the sense we think of it today. When I asked Danielsson’s granddaughter about what he used to play on the flute, she answered that she did not remember. She was only a small child when he died.

The documented repertoire of the flute player, Olof Jönsson, which was used as a model when the härjedalspipan had its revival, is exciting and quite miscellaneous. In total, 35 melodies of Olof Jönsson’s repertoire were recorded on tape. Among them were popular songs, religious melodies, broad side ballads, waltzes, and polskas. Olof Jönsson does not seem to have made any differentiation between folk and popular repertoire. It is reasonable to assume that Daniel Danielsson’s repertoire had a similar content. Another aspect that, at first sight, would seem easy to establish, but at second sight, is hard to be sure about, is the question: Were the flutes of high quality? His granddaughter, Ingegerd Reinklo, reveals that Danielsson himself was not fully content with his flute.

The old bjårskpip is in many ways a new instrument. Through deliberate changes of the scale, the instrument has been shaped into a working musical tool, suited for many different types of musics. Since January 2006, the bjårskpip is one of many Swedish folk flute types that are offered for sale on Gunnar Stenmark’s web page. With its archaic sound and scale, it will probably attract flute players from all over the world. Many of those will certainly look for repertoire with origins in the area around Lake Hotagen in northwestern Jämtland.


Fig. 8. Polska dance from Föllinge on the south shore of Lake Hotagen. Very suitable for the bjårskpip! (c.f. Svenska låtar: Jämtland & Härjedalen II:427). Recording of the piece –

[12] Final thoughts

Daniel Danielsson was a man with many and varied occupations in Laxviken, Jämtland. He worked as timber floater, but was also a talented black smith, wood turner, and stonecutter. Danielsson also applied his talents in different musical contexts. He played the cornet in the village brass ensemble and often played at home together with the church organist. Sometime at the turn of the twentieth century, he started to make flutes – we don’t know how many, but today we know of five specimens. Danielsson’s flute project was a success even if he himself was not totally content with the result. After his death in 1937, the flutes remained on his farm and were used by his grandchildren. As they grew up and moved to other places they brought the flutes with them. But they became heirlooms and were kept in bookshelves and drawers, or hung on walls. About 100 years after they were built, Danielsson’s flutes have been brought back to life through the efforts of the flute maker Gunnar Stenmark. In a way, this is a ”true” revival, because the flutes were essentially dead, unused, for many decades. Nobody really knows how long the flutes were in the hands of Danielsson himself. But with the help of Norwegian models and recordings of flute playing in Sweden, we can recreate a trustworthy playing technique for the instrument.

The tuning of the instrument has been altered by Gunnar Stenmark to make the instrument closer to the folk music instruments of today. Stenmark’s recreation of the bjårskpip includes elements of reshaping as well as renewal, to go back to Åkesson’s terminology (c.f. p 3). This corresponds very well to Åkesson’s observations.

As I define the concepts, recreation, reshaping/transformation, and renewal/innovation are rather broad and inclusive concepts. […] The concepts should not be seen as isolated categories: both reshaping/transformation and renewal/innovation mostly include an element of recreation, at least on a general level; the border between unconscious and conscious change might be debated in the case of forgetfulness, which may result in unconscious reshaping of a musical item (Åkesson 2006).

One could say that the defined roles of the actors in the model point in different directions. The doer, like the maker, wants to create a functional tool for music making, which means that they can negotiate with the demands of authenticity. A good example from another genre is when makers of Arabic and Turkish ney flutes use plastic instead of reed for there flutes (c.f. Lundberg 1994). The compromise, in that case, is that they paint the flutes so that they look like natural material. In the same way, PVC pipes are used in the production of Swedish and Norwegian sallow flutes – afterward, the flutes are covered with birch bark to look older and more rural (jfr Lundberg, Malm & Ronström 2003:150).The ”academic” approach of the knower can be regarded from different perspectives. From a museological perspective, recreation is important to produce copies that closely correspond to the original. But the knower may also be interested, as a doer, in the process of change itself, as in my case. And, as a result of the actions taken by the different actors involved, the flute is, today, part of a living musical tradition. The bjårskpip seems to have survived its own revival.


View over Laxviken. By Birgitta Brandt Rubensson (watercolor)


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[1] ”Early music” usually designates music from the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods. Sometimes the Baroque is excluded.

[2] In Swedish ”återskapande,” ”omskapande” and ”nyskapande.”

[3] Another common role is of course that of the listener/consumer which is not included in this model.

[4] A survey of Scandinavian folk and historical flutes is Herman Alexander Moeck (1954).

[5] The Turkish name for the most common edge blown flute is çoban kaval?-literally ”shepherds flute.”

[6] Bäckström 1980: Jag blåste i min pipa. Falun: Dalarnas museum.

[7] Danielsson’s relatives do not remember a special name for the flute. The grandchild Ingegerd Reinklo tells me: ”Mother said ‘blockflöjt’ (recorder). ‘Try to play something on the recorder’.”

[8] The term ”bjårskpip” was created in consultation with Svenskt visarkiv’s former colleague Sven-Bertil Jansson, professor in history of literature and born close to Laxviken.

[9] With emic terminology one usually refers to the local way of denominating phenomena or activities. A strong simplification could be to say that this is an insider perspective. The opposite is usually referred to as an etic terminology-when the scholar looks from the outside and creates and defines his/her own concepts.

[10] The sallow flute (sälgflöjt) is an over tone flute with no finger holes that is traditionally played in Sweden and Norway.

[11] Eggen 1923.

[12] ”The first finger hole” refers to the hole opposite to the mouthpiece.

[13] Differences and characteristic features of scales on Scandinavian ancient and folklore flutes is discussed by Moeck (1954).

©Dan Lundberg, 2007

STM-Online vol. 10 (2007)


ISSN: 1403-5715