continental drift 9/25/23 – denmark

Welcome back to Continental Drift, where today, we shall be drifting continentally to Denmark! You can find the playlist here and listen to the episode here.

The Kingdom of Denmark is a country comprising the Northern European mainland of Denmark, the Faroe Islands, and the North American island of Greenland. The mainland, simply called Denmark, lies south of the other 2 Scandinavian countries, Norway and Sweden, and is bordered by Germany to the south. Its capital is Copenhagen, and with a population of around 6 million, most of which is concentrated in the mainland, Denmark’s population is 112th in terms of size. The official language of Denmark is Danish, but other recognized languages throughout the kingdom include Faroese, Greenlandic, and German.

Bronze Age Lur found in Denmark

The musical history of Denmark dates as far back as the Bronze Age; there’s a type of horn called a lur and the first few to be discovered date back to 800 BCE. Of the 56 total lurs that have been discovered, 35 of them are Danish (and actually some of them are still playable!) I sadly do not have any lur music for you, however, so today’s episode will start with classical music.

Classical Music Segment

5 Klaverstykker, Op. 3: No. 1 // Carl Nielsen

Aquarellen, Op. 19, Book 1: No. 1. Elegie in E Minor // Niels Gade

Morgenstund har guld i mund // Thomas Laub

Champangegaloppen // Hans Christian Lumbye

Funny story about that last piece; basically the composer was invited to a formal celebration at some embassy, but then he flaked and never went, so when he came home and his family asked about the celebration, he went to his piano and improvised what would eventually become that piece. In other words, IT WAS FOUNDED ON A LIE (lol jk but that story is true)

Worth noting is that of the composers from this past section, half of them, specifically Carl Nielsen and Niels Gade, were some of the most powerful men in the Copenhagen music scene. They were both at one point directors of Musikforeningen, which was like Denmark’s most important concert hall from the 1830s to the 1930s, founded on a desire to preserve Danish musical works. Thomas Laub was also something of a conservationist, but in the sense of trying to preserve the integrity of various Protestant hymns. Just goes to show that the importance of music preservation isn’t an especially new concern.

Folk Music Segment

Entertaining Song // Hendrik Singerdât

Livsvandet // Phønix

Mítt føðiland tað fátækt er // Regin Dahl

So, the thing about countries like Denmark is that they aren’t localized to any one area. That means different groups native to the area are going to have different folk music. For instance, the last song in this segment was Faroese, and has a very different vibe from the song before it, which was from Denmark proper. Greenland also has this sort of unique musical landscape in that its traditional music can come from either the Danish population or the Inuit population of the island, the latter of which was played at the beginning of this segment. But now we must move away from tradition and into the clutches of the jazz era. 

Jazz Segment

St. James Infirmary // Theis Jensen

All the Things You Are // Max Brüel

Regnvejr Og Blaest // Erik Moseholm

Dansevise // Grethe and Jørgen Ingmann

The Danish jazz scene really began to flourish in the 1930s, but then in the 1940s, the Third Reich took control of Denmark, and that meant jazz as a musical practice was discouraged in the area, but this did little to stifle creativity, as many musicians would either escape to Sweden and perform there, or just continue to perform regardless. This point in time is actually considered Denmark’s golden age of jazz, and after World War 2 was properly over, Danish jazz musicians would sort of schism into 2 groups which preferred either New Orleans jazz or the then-new jazz style bebop. Ultimately, in the 70s, the popularity of jazz started to fall with the advent of rock.

Rock Segment

Den Dejligste Morgen // Gnags

Timmissat Taartut // Nanook

Lust // The Raveonettes

The Danish rock scene has always been somewhat closely intertwined with American and British musical stylings. Denmark started importing American rock and roll in the 1950s, whereupon Danish jazz musicians would bring the style before a new Danish audience. After this, Danish rock musicians, a new group in their own right, would begin to be influenced by British music, and then again by American rock, through the latter half of the 20th century. You can sort of see this in the way that it starts to be more common that Danish artists like The Raveonettes would perform with English lyrics. You also see a little of that in Danish pop that springs up, especially in the 21st century.

Pop Segment

Smuk som et stjerneskud // Olsen Brothers

Only Teardrops // Emmelie de Forest

I feel like I almost had to include these songs at the very end because as it turns out, Denmark won Eurovision 3 times, and all 3 of their winning songs have been featured in tonight’s show; two of them in this past segment, and the third being Dansevisen at the end of the jazz segment. One last interesting fact is that the first song by the Olsen Brothers has an English version that they used for Eurovision; it’s called “Fly on the Wings of Love” in English. 

That’ll be all for this week’s episode of Continental Drift!