Composition in the Faroe Islands

Composition in the Faroe Islands has developed rapidly over the last couple of decades. Historically, music has always played a major part in Faroese culture, with ethnic ballad dancing, hymns and rhymes, which for centuries have been inherent parts of people’s daily lives. These traditions also have a unique position in European music history as they until recently have been preserved only by oral communication. Consequently, the melodic material from these ballads, hymns and rhymes has no known composer, contrary to the lyrics, where you can find original scripts as well as transcripts dating back several centuries and documenting one aspect of the strong artistic heritage in this small island society.

Faroese composition in its form of contemporary artistic expression is a fairly recent phenomenon with the earliest works dating no further back than the late 19th century. These works, often in the form of strophic songs, were inspired by the rising nationalist movement, which peaked in the late 40’s and during which period the Faroese written language was also established. The first known instrumental composition is a short piece for organ, composed by Jógvan Waagstein (1879-1949) in 1932. The pioneer of Faroese instrumental composition is however the internationally acclaimed writer William Heinesen (1900-1991), who during the 1950’s wrote a cantata as well as two pieces for solo viola and piano respectively. These pieces are still performed on a regular basis and have been an inspiration for following generations of Faroese composers.

In regards to jazz, rock and other popular music the level of activity in new composition was low until the late 1950’s. Up until then, the majority of music played was cover tunes and it wasn’t until the 1980’s that the Faroe Islands’ music scene saw a significant amount of new works being created within those genres.

follow the individual links to read more about respective genres.