Kulning is an ancient, sweet and sorrowful form of Scandinavian music used to herd cows and goats back down from their high mountain pastures in parts of Norway and in certain provinces of Sweden, Jämtland and Härjedalen. In practical use since medieval times, the mysterious tones were also thought to be a deterrent to potential predators like wolves and bears in ancient times.
Traditionally done by women although occasionally done by men, kulning is performed at high-pitched soprano tone which can be heard over vast distances. It’s ideal for communication with livestock over valleys, fields and mountains as it echoes and and bounces off features on the landscape.
Livestock wear bells that jingle in response to their movement as they make their way towards the caller. The sound of the kulning, also known as the kulokks is often unique to each family and handed down over generations, so that the cows belonging to particular families respond to the particular song.
I wonder if this is what Kate Bush was trying to convey in the evocatively titled and fitting ‘Night Scented Stock’, a song full of echoing high-pitched harmonies
I’ve delved into a lot of Scandinavian and Viking culture in the past, explore ancient Viking maps, the mysteries of an ancient Viking chess set and how Old Norse became modern English.
4 thoughts on “The art of Kulning: Night-scented stock are called in for the long summer evening”
Elemental, ethereal. And now I’m wondering if such sound systems or their like weren’t a normal feature of our prehistoric European landscapes. What better way to communicate from valley to valley, hilltop to hilltop.
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Yes so incredible isn’t it, and it’s what I imagine too, our ancestors having this mystical relationship with animals, mountains and trees, enjoying the raw beauty of the world every day. It would have been a hard life, but one filled with these daily pleasures I would imagine. Thanks for the comment Tish and have a great weekend 😽👍
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