Here, Listen to an 800-Year-Old Icelandic Hymn Sung in a German Train Station

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Because why wouldn’t you?

And yes, like you, and because we are nerds, it reminded me of parts of the Lord of the Rings soundtrack.

Found here.

By John Scalzi

I enjoy pie.

18 replies on “Here, Listen to an 800-Year-Old Icelandic Hymn Sung in a German Train Station”


Yeah there is at least one of us reading this blog.

Note, while the words are truly 800 years old the tune is from the nineteenth century

I Facebooked this, and expressed amazement that harmony that sophisticated was being written in the 13th Century. I was quickly told that the music and harmony were from the 1970s.

Now, it may be, oskar, that the tune is 19C and the harmony (only) is from the 1970s. I don’t know.

All twidging about the exactly date of composition aside, this is a gorgeous piece, sung beautifully* in an appropriate space† by this excellent group.

* In addition to normal rules like being exactly on pitch and having beautiful vocal quality, this kind of music‡ must be sung entirely without vibrato (that is, straight tone) for the harmonics to develop properly.

† That is, an acoustically “live” space, which is more or less to say it’s a bit echoey. The echo helps those lovely harmonics develop. I used to be able to sing harmonically, and it worked a LOT better in a live space (like this one, or like a stairwell) than in a dead one (like a hotel room).

‡ Yes, it was written in the 70s, but plainly in imitation of early music, with harmony that wouldn’t work nearly so well if sung with vibrato (because the vibrato is a pitch waver, the chords don’t develop fully).

It’s wonderful!

My daughter’s principal passion is medicine but music is a close runner up; she’s a very first first soprano and has done a number of early music pieces.

Her fiancé is Director of Music at one of England’s oldest cathedrals, so he too has a thing for old, older, oldest music; Zopher, you are absolutely correct in noting (sorry) that vibrato destroys these pieces. Unfortunately most singers are trained in a one way street; once you have the vibrato you can’t get rid of it…

Xopher: oh, is *that* what I encountered? I was once waiting in an ugly concrete back/fire exit stairwell for my ride and was amusing myself by singing with my echos. I thought it was a really neat experience. (Note: I am in no way a trained singer.)

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