Drawing by artist Runi Langum

GEIRR TVEITT (1908-1981)  and the ”folksongs”.
Introduction by Birgitte Grimstad.

TONEN (the tone) – the tunes – the folktunes, - the unique folkscales, - these were the very foundations of Geirr Tveitt’s compositions. He delved deeply into this material and wrote his impressive ‘tonality theory’ about folkscales and the scales of early sacred music.
I think this is why his melodies sound so special and are so hard to forget.
It was not until I began editing this CD that I understood how privileged I had been to be able to collaborate with Geirr Tveitt on such a scale.
It is with great pleasure and deep gratitude that I now have the opportunity to present this unique and incomparable material.
Many of the songs were very new when recorded, and it is my heartfelt wish that young singers today will use them as a basis for further interpretations.

Tveitt wrote a large number of songs at quite a late point in his career as a composer.  In the mid-1960s the folkrevival was about to sweep over Norway in earnest, and Tveitt’s melodies were something very new and distinctively Norwegian.
We folksingers were usually given a simple melody line, and then it was up to us to work out the accompaniment. I asked him if he could simplify the guitar chords for me(!) and he did so.

I worked as an assistant director on a Norwegian television programme where the poet Aslaug Vaa recited her own poem Så rodde dei fjoran (They rowed the fjords), and it struck me that the poem was almost like a folksong. I asked my fellow members of the group “Friends of the Folk song” whether the poem had been set to music? No, but you could ask Geirr, was the answer. I mustered up enough courage to ask him, and the following day it had been written, rehearsed and recorded for radio.
That was the beginning of a 15-year-long collaboration, during which I was asked to premiere about 50 of his songs.
This collaboration culminated in a major work, the TELEMARKIN catata, with text by Aslaug Vaa, written for the official opening of the Rauland academy.

From time to time Geirr called me and asked: “Mmmm, do you think you could look at some songs?” And I went to the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation to get the written music and worked intensely with them before recording it.
 Sometimes we had a “telephone rehearsal” to discuss details, and then he came out to my house in the country with a radio technician and a tape recorder, and we held a recording session in my living room.
He was always extremely gentlemanly with me, though he sometimes could frighten people with his controversial points-of-view
and his explosive temperament.

Geirr said that when a poem “spoke to him” the process went very quickly, then everything was ready in his head and he just had to get it written down. And he was extremely particular about quality. For a long period of time he was employed at the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation to present programmes about Norwegian poets and writers. They were hour-long programs and this was when he set so many of the finest Norwegian poems to music, including works by Aslaug Vaa, Tarjei Vesaas, Knut Hamsun, Jacob Sande, Hermann Wildenvey, Ragnvald Skrede, Olav Kaste, Sigrid Undset, Ragnhild Jølsen, and also Halldor Killian Laxness from Iceland.
It seemed as though he lifted these poems to a higher sphere with his music. Often I understood a poem better through his music.
The first lines of prose from “Der Villmarka suser” (Where the wilderness Rushes) by Mikkjel Fonhus were also set to music.
It is interesting to note which poems appealed to Geirr Tveitt. This reveals something about his personality and about his moods and mood swings.
His set music to everything from the great nationalromantic epos TELEMARKIN to tiny cryptic rarities from a posthumous diary by Ragnhild Jolsen, or a poem marking the 100’s anniversary of Roald Amundsen’s birth. But none of them are uninteresting.

I am profoundly grateful for the help, support and encouragement of: Gyri Tveitt, Håvard Gimse, Birgit Gjernes, Lars Klevstrand, Stig Olav Skeie, Erik Stenstadvold and Erling Aarmo.
Warm thanks to RUNI LANGUM for exquisite art work.
Birgitte Grimstad sings Geirr Tveitt

CD 1 presents mainly songs about human life:

Love, children, human relations, and life’s autumn and end.

CD 2 presents mainly songs with descriptions of nature in all its diversity.

CD 1:

An English synopsis of the texts:

«VISE» (Song) Tarjei Vesaas

One spring night we cut two names in the bark…
One summernight we wrote two names with coal on the cottage wall…
In the autumn we wrote two names with skates on the ice…
In winter one stone was laid with a single name shining towards God ...

«FLØYTELAAT» (The Flute Song) Jacob Sande

The spring willow is ready for making flutes -

The tone of spring comes drifting -
Everything stops and listens – the riddle of life is hidden therein –

The old man remembers when he himself could run barefoot in the Mountains ...

«TONEN» (The Tone) Knut Hamsun

A tone is singing within me- it carries me to other worlds- it is as if my Heart could die of joy ...

«SAA RODDE DEI FJORAN» (They Rowed the Fjords) Aslaug Vaa

They rowed and drove and rode and waded to church- the heavy skirts Swung in on the tiles – men to one side, women to the other. Knut Looked at Tone and Rannei at Levaar, the old woman from Fjone kept Thinking of Styrkaar. The churchbell rang and they rowed and drove And rode and waded home again…

«TORA SYNGER» (Tora Sings) Knut Hamsun

His gifts were easily hidden for he owned nothing,

But I will never forget his words ...
His dances were wild, I saw no-one like him ...
His arms were soft, his songs were endless

Until the day he had to die ...
My days are so long and death so late,
My thoughts are so many, though I have only one.

«EG MÖTTE DEG ALDER» (I Never Met You) Astrid Krog Halse

I never met you but knew you were there ...
I saw your tracks far in the mountains ...
I never met you but I know you are searching

Like me on your lonely road ...

«SKINNVENGBREV» (The Bat’s Letter) Aslaug Vaa

Once I thought you had gone hiding, that I was forgotten by you and By God, and I was the least of created things
There was no life and no silence, it was hell to exist.
Then came the message

That you wanted to hold me, to have me ...
Spring went over the meadows,
A storm went through the woods
It was so quiet and it roared with life ...
It was Heaven to exist ...

«BARNET OG KISTA» (The Child and the Chest) Tarjei Vesaas

The child's heart wastes everything ...
The chest in the corner hides it all
The chest in the corner sings
The child wonders, will it open?
Seven times seventy the childs goes around
The lid will never open, dreams are eternal ...

«STUTT ER FOLARS FLYGELOV» (Brief is the Freedom of Foals) Tarjei Vesaas

Klink, klink horseshoe ... fly, fly foal ...
Brief is the freedom of foals ...

«LURLEIK» (Playing the Lur – a Wooden Horn) Per Sivle

In the mountains lives a troll
His name is Hein
He listens to the girl playing her lur ...
Hein says: Come to my house of stone
I shall spread a golden fleece for you ...
She says: Oh no, you're too old
And cannot kiss because of your snout ...
I'll never be yours!

«INGEN FARE» (No Danger) Olav Kaste

Shivering in frozen days…

No danger, it’s warm innside…

Fell down in the woods

Ripped my trousers…

No danger, Mom will mend…

Shadows dance,

Giants with horns and beards…

No danger, Dad is home.

«SKO, SKO, HIRDMANNS HEST» (Shoe, Shoe the Horse) Sigrid Undset

... how shall we shoe the herdsman's horse?
An iron shoe is best ...
... how shall we shoe the Earl's horse?
A silver shoe is best ...
... how shall we shoe the King's horse?
A golden shoe is best ...

«NATTA, GUNNAR OG BJÖRKA» (Night, Gunnar and the Birch) Tarjei Vesaas

The moon shines behind the wall
The birch stands lonely outside ...
No light in Gunnar's window
No-one can harm Gunnar
The birch will watch for Gunnar.

«MARIAN» (Marian) Jacob Sande

Marian, the pale child, lonely, hurt and shy ...
Her eyes tell of her sorrow ...
But deep inside lies Marian's soul
Like a dreaming violet ...

«FANN EG DEI STIGAR» (Did I find the Paths) Aslaug Vaa

Did I find the paths to long abandoned ruins
They told tale after tale ...
But a deer jumps by
A girl sings a call ...
North in the mountains ...

«VAKA OG VENTE» (Wake and Wait) Aslaug Vaa

What shall I do to my nights?
... sleep for one, and wake for seven ...
But the days are so long they never end ...
... wait for the many, and live for one brief ...

«SVARA MEG MI HARPE» (Answer Me My Harp) Aslaug Vaa

Answer me, my harp, did I chose you
For her I met on my way?
Inside I feel the tears from when she left ...
Who was waiting, she or I?

«NAAR HEGGEN BLÖMER» (When the Willow Blooms) Olav Kaste

They go out to feasts and fun…

…I go out to meet myself…

What do I want with stage and dance hall

When the willow blooms…

«SPÖR VINDEN» (Ask the Wind) Olav Kaste

Sometimes I meet myself

And ask what became of me ...

Ask the wind that gave me wings.

Ask the waves that sing under the keel.

«TO» (Two) Ragnvald Skrede

I'm not worthy of you, will never be so...
You're not worthy of me, will never see me...
We can never find salvation and none give,
Only live the gray days at end...

«DET STUSSELEGE ROMET» (The Barren Room) Aslaug Vaa

I crushed a crate and lit the fire,
The flames were humming like a dove ...
... You were seldom here, yet you always hover between the walls ...
Now I'll tear it down, -

The cabin and all we gathered here ...
The cabin says no, and I say a no
But all comes back as a YES from the hill.
The cabin is gone, but the world is mine.

«FRA HIMMELBREV TIL BYRON» (From Heaven’s Letter to Byron)

Knut Hamsun.
A tone was heard from your islands
Of girls and heroes and glances of love -
It is no longer heard
When will you come back, you old heretic?
Here is only one to catch your tone
Your greying brother in Denmark
(Holger Drachman) – the last of all singers.

«ROALD AMUNDSEN» (Roald Amundsen) Inge Krokann

You flew the final day
Where sun is never seen,
To an unknown graveyard ...
Your epitaph will shine from pole to pole ...

Three Songs from a Ragnhild Jölsen Diary:

The guitar accompaniment for these songs is Geirr Tveitt’s only composition for guitar, written for Erik Stenstadvold.

«OG DEN TREDJE» (... and the Third One) Ragnhild Jölsen

... and the third one rises with shining eyes
And the fourth one hides with frightened eyes ...

«AAH, FREMAD FREMAD» (Oh Foreward, Foreward) Ragnhild Jölsen

... Oh forward, forward over the world
Like wide bat's wings
The first stood forth in the first one's light
The others bring only shadow ...

«KUN SKINNER ET SMYKKE» (A Jewel but Shines) Ragnhild Jölsen

... a jewel shines, a glance glitters
In the great darkness of times gone by
... and dust falls, and grass grows

And fire grows where life lives
And fingers write in the dust ...

«FERGEMANN TID» (Ferryman Time) Hermann Wildenvey

Walk into your autumn garden
And you may hear a boat row away
With a summer's life on board.
TIME is the ferryman,
And the flowers and bushes and trees are
Whispering: Will you come back soon?

«ETTERKLANGEN» (Resonnance) Aslaug Vaa

I am a shell between sea and land ...
Between air and earth ...
Once I dozed in fields of seaweed
Cradeling life in my unawakened womb.
I am an eve in the fall of life.
In holy hours between night and day
The white sands beat a song
About what I once was.

«SÖVNEN OG DÖDEN» (Sleep and Death) Knut Hamsun

... sleep, sleep, sleep ...
Not a sound is heard
Sleep from wind and wave
Tomorrow will see me happy,
I will laugh as I once laughed
All things will I promise.
If my heart stops tonight
Nothing ends with death.
We are born and die and are born anew.
Life is an endless dawn ...

CD 2:

«STEV» – Short Folk Songs Sung a Cappella

Geirr Tveitt recorded them for me at home

on my old Tandberg tape recorder. (B.G.)

«AA HÖYRER DU SONGJEN I FOSSADUREN» (Can You Hear the Song in the Waterfall?)

..if you can hear the song of the waterfall
You will be happy although you are sad and weary
..if you can make sense of women's talk
It would be better to wear a skirt!...

«FURUSKI» (The Pine Skis)

I went to the high mountains
A storm was blowing, a fox was howling...
In my mind a girl was spinning gold...
She said: Never slide on pine skis!...

(pine skis are so slippery that you must be related to the devil if you try!)

«FAGRASTE VISO PAO JORDE» (Most Beautiful Song on Earth)

If I could I would sing
The most beautiful song in the world for you
But my poor song is just not good enough…

«UPPSKOKO» (Initiation of the New Beer)

Be seated in peace.
I'm happy you have good beer in your tankards.
I came just now from the mountains
I'm cold and weary...
I'm glad to rest at Huse.
Be seated in peace, I see you have
More good beer in barrels ...

«STAVKYRKJESTEV» (Stave Church Song)

... the sound of the churchbell is so beautiful
But even more beautiful is the song
That I will sing for you ...


Halldor Killian Laxness.

I shall be good to my little friend

When dawn paints the mountains blue

And the harp sings a harpsong..

If you dream of a winged horse

I shall give you sugar and cream..

Just as she (Iceland) gave you Icelandic blood

May our little people find consolation

While the Spring sings her harpsong…

«I HASSELDOKK» (In the Hazelgrove) Aslaug Vaa

... I raked the leaves and cleared the rocks
In the hazelgrove ...
All night I rested my foot
In the hazelgrove ...
I slept all night till my dreams stopped
When morning broke
In the hazelgrove ...

«FÖRSTE SNÖ» (First Snow) Tarjei Vesaas

Geirr Tveitt, harpsichord.
The air is still, the hawk hunts home
Soon the first tracks are seen in our yard
Then it is winter in the north ...

«TIL EIN FALK» (To a Falcon) Ragnvald Skrede

Soar on strong wings and the world is new
Get out of the flock! Soar, falcon, soar!

Sad to see you in a crow's quarrel!

«MØTE PAA FJELLET» (Encounter in the Mountains) Tarjei Vesaas

Strange was the first leaf
Lonely mountain men saw
When they came down from the heights.
Month-long staring at stone
And then without warning
A caress – a leaf on a branch.
Robbers and lawless thieves,
They gazed at the leaf in awe ...

«DER VILLMARKA SUSER» (Where the Wilderness Rushes) Mikkjel Fønhus

... It was an April night and Venus glittered ...
And stars sailed their usual path over the Earth.
In a narrow valley with no people, wild animals shrieked,

And the wilderness sang its spring song.
Crooked pine, snow-bent birch and handsome young spruce

All spread their twigs and sang along ...
Far to the north a waterfall lay awake ...

«NORDLYSUN» (The Northern Light) Aslaug Vaa

Cold and frozen lie the fields
A long hard night drifts in from the woods ...
The light rises from the sleep of the Earth
As light as dreams, as heavy as revenge
As secret as promises in prayers.
It bends and bows and flows among the rocks.
In such a night you fell Earth turn ...
In such a night a tiny human
Feels capable of grasping
That souls are born in such a night.

«SJAA DEG VEL IKRING PAA JORDA» (Look Around You on the Earth) Ragnvald Skrede

From deep in your dream come the words

Like a song from the Underworld.

Look around you on Earth

Look from flower to sea and mountains

It may be the last time…

«BLAA KVELD» (Blue Night) Aslaug Vaa

... while the forest takes the many words
And cradles them to sleep,
A drop of dew for the violet's mouth
A hand of night, a word from the heart
Leads me in the ground.
Oh Lord, you who are Earth, teach me your will.

«TELEMARKIN» (The Telemark County) Cantata

Soloists: Birgitte Grimstad (Soprano), Olav Aasmundtveit (Narrative), Sigbjørn Bernhoft Osa (Hardanger Fiddle)

Do you know the fields from Mosstrond in the north
And south to Ulefos?
Up to Goksto that bends it’s back into the sky

And reigns over the entire country?
Where falcons fly and eagles glide in the air
That is so clean and clear like nowhere else on Earth?
This is TELEMARKIN ...
With cured fish from Mosstrond, mittens from Mo
Poets from Vinje, folksongs from Rauland,
Butter from Smorklepp and logs large as houses
From Heddal and Boe.
Nowhere in the world is like this place
Between the mountains
What did the Lord think about
When he created these people
And let them settle in the valleys?
All you young people who leave for the city!
Do you know that this is your home?
Remember, if you want to find friends you must find yourself
Take it with you, -
Take it and use it, girls and boys,
And examine it, enjoy it, exploit it
Take it and make it your own
For this is what you were created from.

Warmest thanks to:

SHARI GERBER NILSEN, English consultant.



Distribution: MUDI A/S
Design/layout: BORG A/S.

The production is financed by: Hordaland County Administration, NOPA (Norwegian Society for Composers and Lyricists), FFUK (Fund for Performing Artists), FLB (Audio-Visual Fund), MFO (Norwegian Musicians’ Union), ARTS COUNCIL NORWAY, HAUGE-TVEITT-08 FOUNDATION.

Contact: Birgitte Grimstad
© Bente Elisabeth Finseraas