Didier François

Falling Tree

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Falling Tree, a very personal collection of traditional Swedish music, focuses on the talents of Frenchman Didier François on the nyckelharpa, a uniquely Swedish instrument that's part fiddle, part hurdy-gurdy. Bowed, the notes are played with keys, not fingers, and a drone is provided by sympathetic strings. It's become an accepted part of the Swedish folk revival, but it's rarely paired with the North African ney flute or the Armenian reeded duduk -- or, for that matter, the hurdy-gurdy. These pieces are meditations on Swedish music, drawing from the tradition, rather than outright renditions. As such, they have as much in common with 20th century classical music as folk -- indeed, there's a feel about "Song of the Clouds" that is almost Bartok. And even when there's a gaiety about the music, as on "Kringellen Polska," with its dance rhythm, it's infused with a spare daintiness that move into slow thought. François is equally adept on violin, as he shows. And on the album's few songs, Ulrika Bodén from Ranarim uses her luminous voice as another gorgeous instrument. Categorizing this album might be close to impossible, but that's no bad thing. François can obviously see the tradition from the outside, and comes to it with no baggage, taking it somewhere it doesn't usually travel -- and making some wonderful music along the way.

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