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March 03, 2005


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I can't bring any specific titles to mind right now, but almost anything by Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek would qualify. Piercing, but in the way of frisson rather than cover-your-ears cringing; lucid, austere, meditative, serene; ardent beyond all describing. I saw him perform once, this slender slice of man, motionless, washing the room with music that fit tight against the skin, like the cold itself.


Clearly some joik (Wimme being a well-known exponent of the form, but by no means the only), and other Saami singers like Mari Boine. For starters, see this Saami discography. Also, the Swedish band Hedningarna ('The Heeathens') has a CD of Karelian Finnish songs among their magnificent oeuvre.
And then there's all that wonderful Inuit throat-singing stuff, astonishing duet singing/vocal games. See here for some links.

c bydalek

The Alaska Native group Pamyua comes to mind, as does Fairbanks composer John Luther Adams.


Check these folks out, Bryan:



Sigur Ros, though, being from Iceland, that would put them below the Arctic Circle.


Glenn Gould became obsessed with the arctic region of Canada, going on a number of explorations including a thousand-mile train journey called the Muskeg Express into far northern Manitoba.

He assembled interviews with northerners into a series of sound pieces, which he called an "oral tone poem" and described his technique as "contrapuntal radio".

You can hear the Solitude Trilogy", including "Idea of North" in its entirety at:



The CD "Wizard Women of the North" (Northside) is a nice compilation from Scadanavian. "Chants Rituels Des Nomads De La Taiga" (Musique Du Monde) is also a killer compliation.


I would add Royksopp, dance/pop, but with a twinge of melancholy.

A question that this brings up for me: what are they listening to at McMurdo or Neumayer in the Antarctic? Do they have Friday night jam sessions?


Back before the fall of internet radio, it would have been easy to find out, Ken. Remember MIT's webradio list?

Alex Ross

I'd suggest John Luther Adams, a composer based in Alaska.

Sara Grosky

More Iceland: Sigur Ros, Mum (both these bands are pretty popular in indie circles)

and I really want to push for including Finland, there's a burgeoning psych-folk scene there with bands like Es and Kamialliset Ystavat!


Bryan, your line of inquiry reminded me strongly of Duke's Oceans Connect project, a Ford Foundation grant funded project that was big in AY2000-02(ish) (that has perhaps petered out since Karen Wigen went to Stanford).

The premise is a shift in thinking, away from a continent-centered view -- treating ocean basins as cultural, political, and economic loci instead of periphery. To my knowledge there never was an Artic Basin Group, but you might find some of the work that came out of Oceans Connect to be interesting.


Pictures of polar musicians performing in Hawaii: http://www.electricfrog.com/IMAGES/photos/hawaii/index.htm


i'd suggest thomas koner's music : his permafrost cd is especially evocative of the arctic wastes.

and there's a lot of disturbing dark stuff being done in sweden & norway : brighter death now, sanctum, puissance, in slaughter natives, et al. ambient music with a death metal aesthetic, if that makes any sense.

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