Summary, in English
The polska, under lots of different spellings and titles, was the dominant music and dance repertoire in Sweden for nearly 300 years. The main purpose of this thesis has been to clarify some of the principal characteristics in both its dance and music forms. The thesis has both a historical and an ethnomusicological perspective and moves in the intersection between different types of traditional music and music for which the original source or documentation has been preserved. With a starting point in the melodies (polskas) from one of the most well known Swedish collections, Petter Dufvas notebook from 1807, I have tried to present a picture of the geographical and human context surrounding this repertoire. One purpose has been to present a plausible picture of the socio-musical and procedural processes that lie behind the contents of this music collection. To be better placed to discuss different approaches and aural interpretations of the polska, several ways in which to analyse forms and motifs are presented from a selection of folk music collectors and researchers. Based in part upon this, I have developed my own method of analysis that has then been applied to every melody in the collection. Despite obvious problems with demarcation, I have chosen to write about both the polska and fiddlers’ notebooks. The ambition has been to follow the melodies (polskas) both forwards and backwards in time. An important goal has therefore been to investigate the background to some of the polskas that were transcribed during the early 1900s. According to my calculations, there are at least 800 handwritten notebooks preserved in Sweden. During my work for this thesis, I have examined the contents of these notebooks, a little over 90,000 melodies, spanning a period from circa 1640 to circa 1880. The melodies have been divided by the frequency of different types of dance during three historical periods: 1640–1730, 1730–1810 and 1810–1880, as well as the total presence of the dance types, and to what extent they appear in Svenska låtar. The oldest polska melodies in the Swedish fiddlers’ notebooks have strong connections to the couple-dance forms of the Renaissance – influences and impulses which reach Sweden and the Nordic countries in the 1500s, and which gradually manifest in the polonaise, polska, pols and springlek. The early impulses came, by all accounts, from both Poland and German-speaking areas. A great number of the oldest polska melodies we have in this country – nurtured with national romantic overtones as national treasures over a few hundred years – are in actual fact a part of something bigger: the great northern-European flow of melodies which partly go hand in hand with what is sometimes described as the figured couple dance.