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Polskas


Sarah Swett
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Jim suggested a new thread for this fascinating topic, so here it is. I'm off in a bit for a couple of electricity (and of course internet)-free days so won't be able to do further polska exploration, but perhaps other people have things to say about them so when I return I can gobble up all your links and information?

 

In the meantime, I'll work on the 1/16 notes of the one I have.

 

thanks

 

Sarah

 

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I know next to nothing on the topic. Over on Melnet, I found several references. One interesting hypothesis is that Polska came about in the early 19th century as a response to the waltz; it ended up as a sort of mash-up including elements of waltz, polka and older traditional fiddle tunes. I don't know how true this is, but it's fun to think about.

 

Here is a sample of the dance that goes along with the tunes:

 

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10200456855410488

 

Tallship, that vocal/string quartet is amazing...

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I know next to nothing on the topic. Over on Melnet, I found several references. One interesting hypothesis is that Polska came about in the early 19th century as a response to the waltz; it ended up as a sort of mash-up including elements of waltz, polka and older traditional fiddle tunes. I don't know how true this is, but it's fun to think about.

 

Hypothesis?

No need for a "hypothesis".

 

It's well documented (in Sweden) that the polska (a word which happens to mean "Polish" in both Swedish and Polish) derives from old Polish dance forms. I'm terrible with dates and don't have my references to hand, but I'm pretty sure that happened at least a century before the waltz and polka crazes. Krakow was once a cultural center rivalling Paris and Vienna, and a number of Polish dances -- Polonaise, Mazurka, Varsovienne, and more -- spread throughout the Western World and can still be found in many non-Polish folk traditions.

 

Polskas -- including various subtypes that went/go under different names (e.g., the Swedish "hambo") -- became quite popular throughout Scandinavia, but while in Norway and Denmark it's now just one of many dance forms, in Sweden the polska became the national dance. However, it's Polish roots are still evident. Though the number and variety of polska melodies has virtually exploded over the intervening years, a few of the currently popular "Swedish" tunes are actually Polish originals from long ago.

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Here's are two sample dances: slängpolska and another.

 

Both examples of slängpolska, yes?

Rather a different dance from brandon's example, which is the "ordinary" polska.

 

While most Swedes today who are into traditional dance can and gladly will do both sorts, I'm told that historically the one (I forget which) is more common in eastern parts of Sweden while the other is more common in the west. And in my (admittedly limited) experience, I don't believe I've ever seen some couples doing the one sort while others do the other sort at the same time. In fact, my friends often distinguish individual tunes as either "polska" or "slängpolska".

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It's quite common nowadays for people to dance slängpolska to some types of polska tunes, while others will dance a polska. This doesn't work with say bodapolska which has a very specific rhythm - neither will it work with eg pols, springlek or finnskogspols, or any of a miriad of other regional/village dances (bygdedans).

 

Bondpolska (lit. peasant polska) often be mistaken for hambo and danced as hambo (the hambo style in the video is a very specific type of dance called nighambo (lit. curtsey hambo) in which the first beat is marked with a curtsey).

 

Slängpolska is characterised by having evenly spaced beats - though written in 3/4.

 

There are tunes that are called polska and are played as slängpolska, although to see them written it may not be immediately apparent that they are played this way. Sometimes a tune will have slängpolska in its name. In this video, we play the tune as a polska (Brudpolska av Jonas Börjesson - Bridal Polska by Jonas Börjesson), but slängpolska is often danced to it, and some musicians may even mark it as a slängpolska with evenly spaced beats.

 

When dancing polska it's always a good idea to listen out for the musicians' foot stomping, and interpret the music by the way they mark time.

Edited by SteveS
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Oh my goodness, leave home for a couple of days and return to a plethora of Polskas! I had no idea.

They are such elegant dances. The dancers look like they are floating. At first I thought I'd listen while I wove but of course couldn't keep my eyes on loom. And the Hambo contest -- how not to love that. As a textile person, the clothing alone could keep me entranced. The aprons!!!!

 

When we were discussing the complimentary sound of concertinas and string instruments, Steve, http://www.concertina.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=16647

I didn't register ( didn't know to notice, really) that the gorgeous tunes you were playing with the cello were polskas.

 

So how differently are they played when they are to be listening pieces rather than something for dancers? I've never played for dancing and wonder how the musician's thinking might shift --other, perhaps, than fretting over the absolutely essential importance of keeping the rhythm exact for dancers.

 

Any thoughts about finding notes for any of these? Falling Polska perhaps? Beethoven's polska?

 

Sarah

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I know next to nothing on the topic. Over on Melnet, I found several references. One interesting hypothesis is that Polska came about in the early 19th century as a response to the waltz; it ended up as a sort of mash-up including elements of waltz, polka and older traditional fiddle tunes. I don't know how true this is, but it's fun to think about.

 

I'm terrible with dates and don't have my references to hand, but I'm pretty sure that happened at least a century before the waltz and polka crazes. Krakow was once a cultural center rivalling Paris and Vienna, and a number of Polish dances -- Polonaise, Mazurka, Varsovienne, and more -- spread throughout the Western World and can still be found in many non-Polish folk traditions.

 

The most likely period in history when polish court dances made their way to Sweeden was between 1594 and 1599 when Poland and Sweden both had the same Polish king, Zygmunt III Waza. The clash of these two cultures have continued over half a century, leading to the "Sweedish flood", a Sweedish invasion and heavy looting of Poland, but I doubt that they have danced a lot then :P

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The most likely period in history when polish court dances made their way to Sweeden was between 1594 and 1599 when Poland and Sweden both had the same Polish king, Zygmunt III Waza. The clash of these two cultures have continued over half a century, leading to the "Sweedish flood", a Sweedish invasion and heavy looting of Poland, but I doubt that they have danced a lot then :P

The looters? Why not...

Edited by blue eyed sailor
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So how differently are they played when they are to be listening pieces rather than something for dancers? I've never played for dancing and wonder how the musician's thinking might shift --other, perhaps, than fretting over the absolutely essential importance of keeping the rhythm exact for dancers.

 

Any thoughts about finding notes for any of these? Falling Polska perhaps? Beethoven's polska?

I think when played as listening pieces a player is free to arrange tunes. But in my opinion, as a player and as a dancer, if I say hear a bodapolska being played any other way, then it feels very wrong - this type of polska for example is very specific in the way it is played and the way the 2nd beat is stretched. I feel, playing it any other way detracts from the essential characteristic of the tune, and this may be true of other types of polskas.

 

Some polskas from the provinces of Småland and Skåne can work being played as polskas (Sw. polskor) or as slängpolskas (Sw. slängpolskor). The best idea is to listen alot to Swedish music being played, and maybe even try to get to try out the dances. Understanding the dance, helps with the understanding of the music, and vice-versa. Sarah, not sure if there's a dance group in Idaho, but I know there are groups dotted around the US (Seattle comes to mind). There are also lots of videos on YouTube.

 

One good resource for tunes is folkwiki.se where tunes are arranged by eg region, collection, type, key.

Edited by SteveS
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This is off topic, and perhaps needs to be moved. But....I just checked out the folkwiki.se resource above, and found it wonderful except for one thing: I haven't the foggiest idea how to pick out representative tunes from the extensive collection. Can someone conversant with the repertoire suggest a cross-section of tunes of a wide variety of types as a starting point. I've enough understanding of the general styles to muddle through given that (though of course I need much more study to do justice to the details of style differences). Thanks for any help offered.

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This is off topic, and perhaps needs to be moved. But....I just checked out the folkwiki.se resource above, and found it wonderful except for one thing: I haven't the foggiest idea how to pick out representative tunes from the extensive collection. Can someone conversant with the repertoire suggest a cross-section of tunes of a wide variety of types as a starting point. I've enough understanding of the general styles to muddle through given that (though of course I need much more study to do justice to the details of style differences). Thanks for any help offered.

A good cross section of tunes can be found in Music and Dances from Sweden.

 

This may be good place to start, and it comes with a CD.

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My wish (and tunes to learn) lists get longer by the moment.

 

My list of tunes to learn is very long - wonder if I'll ever get the time to play them.

 

Right now I'm working on learning tunes from Älvdalen, western Dalarna and across the Norwegian border.

 

I need to get cracking on some of these tunes: I'm hoping to play in a session at a festival in Sweden in a few weeks.

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