The Two-pulse “Dipod” in Norwegian Stev, When Sung


  • Jacqueline Pattison Ekgren J.P. Ekgren Musikkinstitutt


Norwegian stev, short 4-line songs, are performed in southeastern Norway in a reciting-singing style in Telemark and Setesdal that may stem from a millenium ago. The reciting-singing style, called kveding, has been thought to be an unsystematic “free rhythm”. However, solo reciter-singers called kvedarar (pl.; kvedar, s.) often foot-tap the irregular rhythm. Groups of listening kvedarar can foot-tap the irregular rhythms simultaneously, independent of whether the solo kvedar foot-taps or not. This raises the question: how can these irregular rhythms be predictable? Analysing foot-tapping in stev performance documented by film reveals a short-long two-pulse rhythm that can vary considerably. This two-pulse may be called a “dipod”, meaning that 2 poetic (metrical) accents establish the backbone or core of each two-pulse phrase. It seems that poetic accents in stev are always word accents, bringing sung stev close to “speech” and in that sense “reciting”. The reciter-singers (kvedarar) traditionally foot-tap these poetic accents and only these; they never foot-tap linguistically unaccented syllables (such as “ble” in “syllable”). This then is accentual poetry, literally. The poetic dipod and its two-pulse in performance is old, reminiscent of two-accent lines in Old Norse folk poetry, yet still emerging in popular and classical lyrics, which will be demonstrated.

Author Biography

Jacqueline Pattison Ekgren, J.P. Ekgren Musikkinstitutt

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, she studied at Stanford University, Calif. (Bachelor of Arts, Music), Vienna, Austria: studied voice, classical guitar; completed opera school (Reifeprüfung); also gave concerts of folk songs from many lands, Lieder, and opera arias, accompanying herself on guitar. Debut in Vienna and Oslo. Concert tours (sacred and secular music) in Norway introduced her to nooks and crannies in mountainous regions and the rich Norwegian tradition of unaccompanied folk songs. Unlike folk songs from other countries, these songs could not be set to guitar accompaniment without losing there inherent vitality. In 1975 she wrote her thesis on the oral tradition in the repertoire of traditional singer Aslak Brekke (Master’s degree, transcriptions published 1983 as book; cand. philol. degree 1979 Univ. of Oslo, music, pedagogy, psychology). She has continued researching the unusual, irregular but systematically two-pulse rhythm of the 4-line stanza called “stev”, and presents findings to conferences on folk music and metrics of poetry. She is founder and head of Ekgren Musikkinstitutt, Oslo, for voice workshops, performance of all genres, concerts, and research. In 1996 she published the complete songs of Norwegian composer Andreas Haarklou (4 CDs and book of music) and of Aksel Berg, poet, composer, and organist in 2005 (limited edition). Recent publications include: 2009 “Dipod rules:..” in Versatility in Versification. Multidisciplinary Approaches to Metrics; 2011 Article to appear in publication from Conference on Metrics: Meter and Rhythm, Vechta Univ. Germany, 2009. Doctoral dissertation under revision.