What did they sound like? Reconstructing the music of the Viking Age
By Chihiro Tsukamoto
Master’s Thesis, University of Iceland, 2017
Abstract: There has been much scholarship over the years regarding Scandinavian culture during the Viking Age (c. 793–1066 CE). However, often missing from these discussions is the study of music. This paper attempts to fill that gap by offering a reconstruction of Viking Age Scandinavian music. Archaeological evidence, literary records, and medieval music theories were used as the basis of this study. Archaeology indicates that Scandinavians played wind, string, and percussion instruments, while later Old Norse literary accounts detail the many circumstances wherein music was performed, and suggest the likely existence of different musical genres.
I have consulted Arabic, Greek, and Latin accounts for contemporary sources, as the Scandinavian people did not have a written culture during this time. Marking a departure from typical historical analyses, I have also conducted a cross-cultural comparison of medieval Arabic, Greek, and Western European music theories in order to recognize what Scandinavian music could not have resembled. By combining archaeological, literary, and musical evidence, it is possible to propose a highly educated hypothesis on how Viking Age Scandinavian music may have sounded.