In the animated movie “Frozen 2” the heroine Elsa hears a mysterious voice calling her one night. This high-pitched chant was not invented by Disney, but is inspired by an ancient Scandinavian female chant, a mystical call melody.
As a musicologist, I am excitet to explain you briefly what is the Kulning.
This chant is called Kulning, and it is an improvisation that is performed with a specific vocal technique. Moreover, it is an improvisation, but be careful! That doesn’t mean they do just anything. They use specific patterns often using intervals of 3rd, 4th and 5th and with half-tone or quarter-tone endings, which gives it a special melancholic color.
The Kulning is characterized as a song with notes in the high range. These notes are made with a special technique that is very similar to the head voice technique, but it is not the same, since the Kulning technique has more projection. The fact that they are high-pitched sounds is important because high-pitched sounds have a greater range than low-pitched ones, they are more easily perceptible.
All this about the projection technique and the treble is important because like all music the Kulning has a function, and this is a call song.
Traditionally used to call and control the flocks from a distance, it could also be used to call the children or another person who is far away for example.
Imagine for a moment in the long expanse of forests and nature of Norway and Sweden, the sun begins to set and it is time to make dinner, the cattle come in, and the children stop playing outside and go home, then the woman comes out and for miles around you hear the call.
This call song was unique and each woman had her own, so that the flock recognized it and came to the song of their shepherdess. In addition, each shepherdess’ song could change depending on the animal she wanted to call, i.e. cows did not have the same call as goats. Women could use this technique to communicate with each other, similar to the whistling language used in the gomera, only that in the Kulning is used exclusively the voice and therefore is exclusive to women (note: there are always exceptions and men who could get to perform it, but due to the physical characteristics of the male vocal system is very difficult for a man of the average to perform the technique of Kulning with that height and projection in the notes).
Around 1960 with the decline of traditional shepherding the Kulning was about to be lost, but certain shepherdesses worked hard so that this ancestral practice is not lost, and it is because of them that today the museum of Dalarnas in Sweden can show information and examples of this mystical singing, some of which you have been able to hear in the video with exemples.
Currently there are artists who have been inspired by this song to create their music, the most popular example of this is the movie frozen 2, where Elsa hears the call of her roots through the Kulning. Another example of this is the song “Road to Valhalla” (which you can listen clicking here “Road to Valhalla“) in this song is explained only through music as a warrior dies in battle and how his spirit makes the transition to Valhalla following the call of Kulning of his mother.
I hope this article has given you something and has satisfied your curiosity, if you have any questions you can write me in “about“.