Intangible instrument building as folk musical materialization

The contemporary building of folk music instruments is an area where negotiations of historic authenticity and product development for a living tradition take place. A common feature of this field is strongly held ideals of natural materials, environmental sustainability and specific ideas of authenticity, which sometimes is challenged by demands from musicians for playability and changing aesthetical ideals.

What factors come into play when choosing materials for the instruments? The functional aspects of different materials in a technical sense are mixed with aesthetical, ethical, nostalgic, medical and economic aspects as well as notions of both material and intangible cultural heritage. In this ethnomusicological project Madeleine Modin examines and systematises the choices involved in folk music instrument building and the aim is to contribute to an understanding of the notions at play.

The sources used are personal archives and instruments in the collections of Swedish Performing Arts Agency, and documentation materials such as recordings of music and interviews. Other sources outside the collections are for example ongoing discussions and statements made in social media and on homepages. New documentation material will be added to the collections with new interviews with people active in the field.

The project started in January 2021 and will continue through 2023. The Project is financed by the Swedish National Heritage Board.


Madeleine Modin, PhD musicology, research archivist at Musikverket/The Swedish Performing Arts Agency.