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date: 16 October 2019


  • Pandora Hopkins
  •  and Thorkell Sigurbjörnsson


Country in the North Atlantic. The history of Icelandic music has many gaps, since the country has always been sparsely populated. In the absence of cities of any size until recently, and without an aristocratic ruling class, Icelandic society has evolved in patterns different from those of other European nations. Iceland was first settled in the 9th century; it came under Norwegian rule in the 13th century and later under Danish, until 1944, when the country became a republic.

Icelanders possess an abundance of cultural information about their past from aural and literary traditions more than 1000 years old. Traditional music in Iceland exemplifies both insularity and cosmopolitanism, originally as part of Nordic interaction; later in connection with the political domination of Norway and Denmark; and, since independence, by assuming an increasingly international voice.

Early written sources document both instrumental and vocal traditions, although there is no evidence of instrumental accompaniment for vocal performance. Icelandic manuscripts dating from the end of the 11th century to the 15th contain written versions of legal, historical and mythological material that had been transmitted orally from previous eras; some concern events occurring during the time of settlement (...

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Sammelbände der Internationalen Musik-Gesellschaft
C. Burney: A General History of Music from the Earliest Ages to the Present Period (London, 1776-89); ed. F. Mercer (London, 1935/R) [p. nos. refer to this edn]