The Mindful Bard

Books, Music, and Film to Wake Up Your Muse and Help You Change the World

Album: North Sea Stories

Artists: Irmelin (Eva Rune, Karin Ericsson Back, Maria Misgeld)

Genre: Folk, World, A Cappella

?I’ve spent hours and hours doing research into Appalachian folk music. My grandfather was a fiddler. There is something very immediate, very simple and emotional, about that music.?

Renee Fleming

?I mean, the genuine roots of culture is folk music.?

Johnny Rotten

A Tender and Exquisite Expression of Northern Folk Consciousness

I’m sure you can remember some a cappella harmonies that made you shiver?the Roche Sisters? rendition of the ?Hallelujah Chorus,? for example, or Sweet Honey in the Rock singing ?Bring Me a Little Water, Sylvie.? Here’s another listening experience to leave the mouth ajar.

These three lovely Swedish ladies sing a carefully chosen set of old and new Northern folk tunes, entirely a cappella, producing the most exquisite sounds in the most beautiful arrangements imaginable. they’re not just pitch perfect and in perfect step with each other, there’s an incredible synergy?sparks fly at frequent junctures in the music. And their accents are delightful.

There are a number of songs in Swedish and Finnish that are total ear candy even if you don’t understand the languages, but Anglophones will be delighted to hear a number of folk songs from the British Isles, including more modern repertoire. Ewan MacColl’s ?The Moving On Song,? a moving tribute to the rejection experienced by Irish travellers, and ?Follow the Heron Home? by Scottish singer-songwriter Karine Polwart are stunning examples that have been given beautifully sensitive interpretations by Irmelin.

Another delightful experience is hearing ?kulning??polyphonic Swedish herding calls. All three members of Irmelin are music instructors who teach kulning and diddling (mouth music). On ?Ackjag som mÃ¥nga andra? you’ll even hear ?bent? notes, slightly dissonant flattened tones like blues notes, but different.

For a Northerner, It’s a helpful experience to be permitted for a spell to look away from the North as the seat of imperialism and oppression and to appreciate the beauty of folk traditions testifying to the universal solidarity of old things, the marginalized, the rejected, the simple, and the homely. North Sea Stories sheds a bright noonday light on what unites us all as human beings.

The icing? You can hear the whole album here on Spotify for free. Enjoy.

North Sea Stories manifests seven of the Mindful Bard’s criteria for music well worth a listen: 1) it is authentic, original, and delightful; 2) it harmoniously unites art with social action, saving me from both seclusion in an ivory tower and slavery to someone else’s political agenda; 3) it provides respite from a sick and cruel world, a respite enabling me to renew myself for a return to mindful artistic endeavour; 4) it is about attainment of the true self; 5) it inspires an awareness of the sanctity of creation; 6) it displays an engagement with and compassionate response to suffering; and 7) it makes me appreciate that life is a complex and rare phenomenon, making living a unique opportunity.

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