Episode 18 Transcript


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Per-Thomas Eriksson: My name is Per-Thomas Eriksson from Värmland in Sweden, and I play the fiddle.

Pasi Pasanen: And my name is Pasi Pasanen. And I live in Karlstad, Värmland, in Sweden, and I play the accordion. 

And now to how we met: Per-Thomas was a class teacher before, and I worked in the same municipality of Sunne, the little town of Sunne, as a music teacher, and I got to have extra music lessons. They had a drive for that, they call it a culture class. So I was attending Per-Thomas and his colleagues’ class with extra music, and there was another teacher doing art, and another teacher doing dance. And we found out that they played lots of music in the classroom, and I play the accordion and Per-Thomas plays the fiddle, so we just…

Per-Thomas: Interacted! [*laughs*]

Pasi:  Yeah, we interacted. And then we say, “Maybe we should play together sometimes.” “Yes, why don't we do that?” And we just met up. “What tunes do you play, and what tune do I play” and then we just did it. And then suddenly, we had a gig. And then that was 15 years ago, and the rest is history. [*laughter*] And yeah, we're doing lots of concerts, mostly summertime, in churches, like folk music concerts, and we, I think we have a good effect on people. We make them happy. So they call us year after year [*laughs*], doing the same thing, but we change some tunes. But yeah, that’s how our collaborations started from the beginning.

[*Intro music starts*]

Colin Gioia Connors: Welcome to Crossing North: a podcast where we learn from Nordic and Baltic artists, scholars, and community members to better understand our world, our communities, and ourselves. Coming to you from the Scandinavian Studies Department and Baltic Studies Program at the University of Washington in Seattle, I’m your host Colin Gioia Connors.

[*Intro music ends*]

The story of how Pasi Pasanen and Per Thomas Erikson met at a municipal music class illustrates one of the substantial ways that Sweden’s local governments support musicians and music education. All children in Sweden receive music education in primary school, and in middle school, children often have the choice to specialize in vocal music, instrumental music, ensemble music, or music theory. The philosophy behind music education in Sweden is one that encourages in children freedom of expression, pro-social play, and cross-cultural learning. Beyond public schools, publicly-funded municipal art schools give Swedes the opportunity to further their musical learning, at a fraction of the cost of private schools. It’s all part of a philosophy that prioritizes making music accessible to everyone, regardless of their wealth, and recognizes the importance of music to the welfare of Sweden’s citizens and society. 

The folk music that Pasi and Per Thomas play, as well as the social events they play for and the people they play with, perhaps embodies this philosophy of education better than most. I spoke with Pasi and Per Thomas on campus in 2019 before they performed at the Skandia Ball in Seattle to learn more about what makes folk music so special and how they got their start.

Pasi: Well, my story's a bit funny. My uncle in Finland, he, he made a car deal with some man, and the buyer didn't have that much money. So he just gave an accordion in, in between. And then he asked my father, “Why don't you buy this for your son? Maybe he likes to play the accordion.” And I was five years old when my father asked me, “Do you want to play the accordion?” “Yes.” What could I say? Five years old! But it was so big, I nearly got my nose tip over the accordion, the edge of the accordion. So that's how it started. And then I just learned to play by myself. I listened a lot to how my mother sang old Finnish songs from the 40’s and 50’s, you know, and I started to pick them up. And I was gifted—I'm gifted with a good ear and understanding. So I had an easy time just to get learn those by myself. So—but that's how it started.

Colin: So the accordion chose you.

Pasi: Yes, I had an electric organ first. But it didn't really…it wasn't my thing. I think the accordion is that it's on you and you feel that it's a part of your body, you can say. So it's alive. I feel the instrument is alive. So we chose each other mutually, I think. It fits me, and I can— I feel that I can express myself musically on that instrument just perfectly. So.

Colin: The same question Per-Thomas.

Per-Thomas: Yes, I was gifted with parents who sang, but they didn't play. And my grandparents sang, on both sides. And my grandpa Edvard was playing the accordion. But I wanted to play guitar—as Beatles, as my neighbor— he played guitar, from when I was three years old, and [he] sang. He was my idol, and Beatles, too. So I decided to play the guitar, and mother and I signed the papers for the music school in Hagfors at the river Klarälven in Värmland. But I couldn't play it, it was a long queue. So I had to have the second choice, and it was just a coincidence that I chose fiddle. And now I thank everything for that I chose that instrument. So it was lucky for me.

Colin: Yeah, [*laughs*] I grew up listening to The Beatles, and when I first learned an instrument, I also wanted to be just like The Beatles. And so I imagine that, yeah, you must have had a lot of desire to, you know, to play guitar and to become like The Beatles. But once you started playing fiddle, what attracted you to— or what— Why did you stay with it?

Per-Thomas: Do you know what, I was not gifted with an ear. I sang with my parents and grandparents, but I was not gifted to play an instrument easily. So I have struggled a lot. So I'm surprised, and I think often about that, that I get on, because I told my mother, “Now I quit. I say to my teacher, ‘I can't.’ I give back my borrowed violin.” But I didn't have the guts to tell him! He was so severe, with a tie and a suit—old man! So [*laughs*], I get back to the house with a new homework, week after week! But then, after a year, I had a new teacher. And then I had a new teacher—six teachers! during my earlier education and all of them had something good. And they sent me to a course on one week, at Ransäter Folk Festival [Ransätersstämman] for folk music—they come from whole Sweden. There, I had the first week. And then I was caught with folk music because playing without notes, playing for dancing, singing along, knowing the history, meeting old fiddlers— and I wanted to be like them! So I started to practice.

Colin: Maybe I could ask you the same question— What attracts you to folk music now?

Pasi: That's a good question. I think I've always played some music that connects to folk music. It's the music of the instrument, in one way. Although the fiddle music is much older, and it's— most of the music is written for fiddle—but I think it was when I was in college that I really got to play. I had friends who went to the folk music track, and I wanted that, too. So I choose to do some folk music course and I was caught there. And I didn't know who these young fellows were at that time, but they're really good musicians today. And well, I was caught in that and I just followed it. And I've been playing music from various countries, and it's the same thing— you just end up playing it somehow. And you, then you— I think it is curiosity! If I— if I really think about that, “How do they feel this music? What is the connection?” And it's— it's a way of getting to know another culture by playing their music, their folk music. And it's the same thing with the Swedish folk music. I wasn't aware of that before I got to play with good musicians, and wow! This is great! This is good music. This is groovy, I want to do it all. So what can I do with my instrument? And I then I tried to express myself in that.

Colin: And with Swedish folk music, there are a lot of different regional variations is that right?

Pasi: Yes, there are lots of regional variations. Although the places don't— they don't have to be so far away, like in miles, but, but maybe there's a river that makes it hard to get—or was hard before to get—to meet to each other, or big woods in the way. So the small village has just got their own language or own dialect—the same songs but—or similar songs—but played with a little twist from this and that and, and those who are really into it, they can tell by just hearing one or two bars. “Ah, this is a Helsinki song.” “No, this is Mora polska.” “This is Västerdalarna polska, you hear it right away.”

Colin: So how much of this music can you learn by studying in school?

Per-Thomas: That's a good question. We have community music schools since the 60’s in Sweden. And I'm very happy for that. And I have worked as fiddle teacher, violin teacher for quite many years now, and I do it now again, half time, teaching children playing. And then I teach them folk music because of teaching their taking up by ears. We do it by heart, and they will learn the notes, too, but first listen and play it after me, please. And the tunes are quite catchy. Then I try to vary slower tunes—a little easier—and fast. And they follow quite evenly. So there is possibility to learn if you want to. And it's not expensive. Nowadays they pay $45 each term—

Colin: Wow!

Per-Thomas: Wow! —for meeting me once a week, twenty minutes, learning the fiddle and the folk music.

Colin: Yeah, so that's really an opportunity that's open to all children.

Per-Thomas: —a democratic opportunity in Sweden that I hope they will keep because there is danger now— the hard economics make a change, here and there.

Colin: So how important are these schools for teaching the next generation?

Per-Thomas: Very, very important.

Pasi: We talked about…they talk in Sweden about the Swedish music export, or wonder. If you talk to older artists like Abba, and Roxette, and what do we have…

Per-Thomas: Europe!

Pasi: Europe, the hard rock band.

Per-Thomas: Ace [of Base].

Pasi:  And we have Avicii.

Per-Thomas: Yeah.

Pasi: You know, and all of those have said that it's thanks for the Swedish government of the communities that they provide this cheap, it's that the music is available for all, even those who haven't economically have maybe the possibility to do, they can attend the music school for a low fee, and they can rent or borrow one instrument. And a lot of these artists, the top Swedish artists today and before have said that this is one reason why Swedish music export is so big, and we should thank them. Then getting back to your question about if you can learn the music, also, how you can learn this music. In the last decade, some decades back, you can also study this at college and universities, you can study folk music, and become a teacher in folk music

Colin: Is studying or learning folk music different from learning other kinds of music?

Pasi: Yes, in the way that it should be orally taught, and it's being aware of the heritage of your music and, and there's a responsibility, I think. I don't think everybody agrees with me, but you should have a responsibility of knowing the old music and preserving it…and developing it! Of course, it's another way, if you will— it could be the same thing with classical music also, you know, you have to know your Mozart, you have to know your Beethoven if you play the grand piano. So it's the same thing but you don't, you don't read from the sheets the first time, you learn it by heart and you learn by ear.

Per-Thomas: And I felt so free when I was young, meeting the folk music, it was a free— first it was difficult. But then it was— you could play along, and you took after your teacher. And I do that now. Play one bar or two, and then, soon they can play the whole tune. Oh, magic! And then I gave them the sheet music so they can practice at home or record it. It's a free! —and we can, we can improvise quite easily, but still keeping the tune traditional and the same tune, but you are free to do it! —and the freedom! —and play for dancing! You don't do that with classical music: you sit on your chair in your orchestra and follow the conductor. He tells you to do. I do what I want to do with the dancers. I'm free with that. So that's the difference.

Colin: Well, who are your Beethovens and Mozarts?

Pasi: [*pauses*] That's a good question.

Per-Thomas: Yes!

Pasi: You answer that first.

Per-Thomas: That’s a really good question. I would say my teachers who brought me along, putting me there on the stage with shaking legs, and standing there secure with me. I have so many people to be grateful to, and playmates three times older than me—they are playing in heaven now. I have a full hand or more that I thank very often, still, because of their gift to me, being an idle, being a mentor, and a friend. So there are my Beethovens and Mozarts.

Pasi: I have— I have had various—I shouldn't say Beethoven and Mozart.[*laughs*] Well, you— just like you for expressing yourself on the instrument, I said Astor Piazzolla, Argentinian Bandoneon master, he has made a huge impact on me and how you can express yourself and take out most of the accordion. Richard Galliano is one very famous accordionist today, making impact on young accordion players, how to play jazz and improvise on the accordion and make modern tunes. Maria Kalaniemi, Finnish accordionist who is pioneering in Finnish folk music. It also makes—it's a palette, one of the palettes in my musical Jigsaw that I like to do, and I blend all these influences in my own playing, lots of Irish musicians, Celtic musicians. So. Well, there you have it.

Colin: I think in the class, you told us that you also compose new music, yes? Do you consider your compositions to be traditional music? Or can it become traditional music?

Per-Thomas: It's traditional music because it's— the base is the rest. So when I improvise and let it go fluently and feel well, then the tunes will appear quite easily. If you want to do that, you open your heart and you— the music will come, and has come quite many times, I started in the early years.

Colin: Maybe another way to ask the question is do you— do you write the song thinking this is going to be a Per-Thomas song, this is going to be— this is going to be a Beatles song? Like that, or?

Per-Thomas: If I explain a little: I often make music when I want to give away as a gift, because people like to have something, something personal—and that's something personal that I can give—and they are very happy on a wedding or 90th birthday or a christening. Most of my tunes—about 30 tunes, something, I have composed—is like that. And then I think about them and I just let the music flow, and it will come. And important thing that I have realized, that— don't feel so tense about it. It mustn't come! And it mustn't be an advanced technical tune. And it mustn't be a Per-Thomas tune or a Pasi tune, it mustn't nothing! I decide what's possible to give away and possible to play. It can be so simple. And that I like with Pasi’s music, too. It doesn't need to be advanced. It’s from the heart. And then you will have the Per-Thomas touch and the Pasi touch.

Pasi: I have another way of looking at it, but I— it's the same thing. I want to give away to you, and so often it's the night before christening or the birthday, and I think “Shit. I didn't buy the present.” [*laughter*] I just forgot it. “What to do? Well, where’s a staff paper…” and I just sit down for an hour or two, and then, then it comes, and then it's— it is what it is. [*laughter*] Often they’re good. But I also know because I've studied and I teach music theory in the high school where I work every day. So it's my job to teach the kids how to write music. Of course there's a lot of strategies you could do. So I can think of, is it traditional or not? Yes, I can write a tune in a certain style. Let's say I will learn— I will write a slängpolska with lots and lots of 16th notes, or a triolpolska, a "triplet polska," then I write one because I know how to do it. And then I use different techniques to construct the melody. But if it's good or not, that's the—that's in the area of creativity, if it ends up to be a good melody or not. But I can construct and I can make it in different styles. That's the craftsmanship of making music. It's not so hard, but then if it's good or not, that remains to be seen when you’ve played it a couple of times. Yeah.

Colin: I really like this idea of giving a song to another person. And I think it emphasizes what you've been saying now in different ways, that this is very social music, that you can't have the music without people.

Per-Thomas: Exactly. Exactly.

Pasi: Yeah, that's true. We mix— when we are out playing concerts and we choose tunes we know people like to sing along with and so on. And then we also mix it with our own tunes because it's important to continue to be a creative artist and to want to share our music. If they come to listen to a certain music style, they— then I'm not important. But if they come to listen to me, I want to tell them something about me. I want to present something about myself. Otherwise, you can just— it could be anybody. So I think it's important to be personal because it affects the people also. You reach out to them with your music.

Colin: Or maybe I can ask a different question then about the dancing, because you said how important that is with the music. Do you dance as well? Or do you as musicians, sit in the corner and just play your music? What's the interaction between you and people who dance?

Pasi: In my case, I dance very little. I'm usually stuck up playing the music [*laughs*]. But I know to dance somewhat, I have danced a little. So I know the— I, of course, I feel the beat and I feel and I watch the dance. It's a communication— not only listening, but it's also watching the dancers move. And if you feel that they are happy, if they're in the groove, then you see, “Okay, now I'm having the right beat. We're having a communication.” But as a dancer? No, I don't dance. I play.

Per-Thomas: [*laughs*] I— I can't sit still. I dance when I play. And when I'm not playing and listen to others, mostly I, I’m— I must up on the floor. But I play mostly. So, home, I don't go for dances. I don't have the time because I play so much. And I do other things with my family. So, but I like dancing. And I teach children to dance, because it's a good way to socialize and think that all people are equal holding a hand of another. And those who dance in the class, those will not hit another person. That's my experience.

Colin: It teaches empathy.

Per-Thomas: It teaches empathy! And understanding to other people.

Colin: Is dance then a gateway into playing music to becoming a musician?

Per-Thomas: Yeah. A lot of people say that, “I started with dancing,” here in Seattle and Vancouver that we play. “I started with dancing, and then I started to play, and now I do both,” they say. They have time to do it both. Or the other way. They started to play, but playing… it's so much practice. And dancing too, of course. But perhaps they get stuck to the instrument more. Perhaps? [*pauses*] Good question.

Colin: Well, what have I forgotten to ask?

Per-Thomas: That's a good question! [*laughter*] Have you forgotten something? Vad tycker du, Pasi? [*pauses*] This international thing! Thinking about it, perhaps, because we—don't we love? I love to meet people abroad. And then you realize your own identity. I just love to have that mixture. I like to meet other nations' style and people, and they like my— then you get happy. And you don't need any language, because only by music as to say “hello” and know you're a dancer, a singer, a musician. You know each other. That's— that's a magic thing. Mostly I have felt that for many years. Going to Scotland, States—I was in California last year teaching at the camp—Denmark, Norway, Finland, Japan, I played. And different countries. And Pasi, too. We don't mention all of them.

Pasi: Yes, it's as I said before that getting to know another culture through music is a great way of doing it and learning if you give yourself the time to find out. “What is this music that I don't understand? How can I—can I perform that? Yes!” See, if I can perform the music, then I have learned something from another culture. And then the reaction will come from, if they should be from Turkey for instance, “Oh! You play Turkish music, but you're from Sweden! How, how come?” “Well, I'm interested in this music!” and they say “Yo! That’s incredible.” And we feel the same thing when we come here to Seattle and we see these Skandia dancers, and they know perhaps more of this old Swedish traditional music than we do! Like, “Oh, do you know this?” “Yes.” And they have seen all the famous fiddlers. They have brought them here for workshops and—

Per-Thomas: and travel to Sweden, going to camps every second year.

Pasi: Yeah, they travel to Sweden, wow, what an effort! [*pauses*] So sometimes you underestimate your own culture because it's not exotic to you, because you live in it. But then if you understand the effect on people when you are willing to be curious about other people, like, “Who are you? What, what do you what do you think? How do you— what do you eat? How do you clothe? What do you listen to? What kind of music do you love?” And then you have the an exchange. And that's, that's the way to get to know another culture: be open minded, and be curious and try to get the meaning in between. That's how I look at it.

Per-Thomas: And do you know Gordon Tracy? He isn't alive, he died in 1988. But 1949 he started Skandia Folkdance Society here in Seattle, after being in Sweden and Norway, and felt so happy about that dancing. So he didn't do anything else his whole life. He bought recordings and brought back. Every money he had, all money he had went to that. And now on Saturday, we are honored to play at the Skandia Folkdance Society that he started in ‘49, seventy years ago, at Skandia Ball at the Swedish Club. And we are going to play for dancing there. That's why we're here, partly, and we have been here now for more than a week.

Colin: Have you ever gone to another country and encountered music that you’re like, “Oh! That's just like this kind of thing that we play back home.” Ever been surprised by similarities like that, or?

Pasi: Yeah, one one occasion I was in Turkey— you know, I'm from Finland. In Finland, tango is the most common thing. We think the Finnish tango is really a super, super Finnish thing. Then I was to Turkey for some years ago, and I discovered that in Turkey, they felt the same thing. “Tango is really—that's a Turkish tradition.” I was— I was like, “What? [*laughs*] Turkey?” And they play the same songs! —the same songs made by Argentinian composers in the 1930’s, 40’s, and the same arrangements. But now they sing in Turkish. It was totally weird. But the same arrangements and the same songs. And me, as I felt, the finished Tango is the core, that's the origin. But it's not! It's the most exotic thing. When the tango, the dance, tango music had the 200 years anniversary in Argentina, they made a big encyclopedia of tango. If you read in that—I haven't read it, but I have gotten this told to me—and you look in the chapter of Finnish tango, they write: “This is the most exotic and weird thing ever, you know?” So that's one way to see that. Yes, that music is everywhere. The tango is everywhere, and every country has adapted it, like, the tradition. And it was the dance that made it—the tango dance, that was a fashion dance in the 1910’s, 1920’s, just spreading all over the world. That's one thing. Now, well, tango is not Finnish, but it has become a Finnish national dance. Everybody dances and sings tango in Finland.

Colin: So now it's part of the traditional music.

Pasi: It sure is, yes. And they have tango competitions, they have tango dance competitions annually, they vote for the— it's like the American Idol, you know—but they have this “tango idol” competitions when they crown the tango queen and tango king of the year. And when they win that, they will have gigs for two or three years ahead, just signed up. It’s so weird. And you even can call yourself, “I'm a tango musician.” Not just a musician playing tango. “I'm a tango musician.” So that's your occupation. It's very weird.

Colin: Did you— you said that your parents sang for you when you were young. Did they ever sing tango songs for you?

Pasi: Oh yes, because that's— that was like the pop tunes in Finland that way. Tango is— in Finland, as those older tunes were much about longing and much about love, and Finnish people, they usually— you see Finnish people, like, quiet and not really talkative, you know, but I think… [*pauses*]

Per-Thomas: They have a lot of emotions.

Pasi: Yes, they have a lot of emotions.

Per-Thomas: And they show it, too.

Pasi: And they show it in the dance and they show it in the lyrics. And theFinnish people [*pauses*] I don't know now, but before, they all loved to sing along and they knew the lyrics and it's important to them. So yes. It's a part of the national identity. And Finland is a young country, just had its 100th birthday. It is just 100 years old, the whole country. So yeah, they have during this 100 years just tried to find out what is the nation? What—who are we? What kind of nation are we? And I think music and art matters there very much. And tango? Well, I don't know how it come in but it has. They have embraced that music and that music style.

Colin: I think with Americans that part of our self-identity is to be very loud and friendly and outgoing, but I noticed when you played that— I think that we Americans still keep some of our emotions inside, and we're waiting for someone just to come and give us permission to let it out.

Per-Thomas: Ah. We don't ask for it [*laughs*], we just give it away

Colin: No, but I saw it when you played that you—that you brought such good energy to the people—

Per-Thomas: You think so?

Colin: Yeah! 

Per-Thomas: You like that?

Colin: Yes, I thought it was very good.

Per-Thomas: Thank you. And the pupils liked it, I think. They opened their hearts.

Colin: Yes.

Per-Thomas: Yeah.

Colin: Is this an experience that you have in Sweden a lot? Do you feel that Swedish people are as reserved as people say that they are?

Per-Thomas: They can be. There, too, yeah. All people are different and a lot of people don't

feel secure about—let it go—singing and dancing. And yes, yeah.

Pasi: There's a famous expression in Sweden. It's called the Jante Law [Janteloven], like,

yeah, the law means—the Jante Law…[*pauses*]

Per-Thomas: Don't think that you are something! [*laughs*]

Pasi: Yeah, you're— you are nothing. And if you think you're good at it, don't be saying it.

Per-Thomas: Don’t be better than others [*laughs*].

Pasi: And who are you to say that you are better at something than anyone else, you shouldn’t say that. And… [*pauses*] that drives through the people.

Per-Thomas: Mm-hmm.

Pasi: It's an unspoken law. [*pauses*] They say that you should express yourself, do that—but always there you have someone sitting on your other shoulder saying, “Ah, don't. You shouldn't sing. Maybe you're not that good, anyway, you know. Yeah, you shouldn't go to— you shouldn't call— you shouldn't call up that person just because you like him or her. Ah, just don't do it. You shouldn't perform. You shouldn't— and even I—

Per-Thomas: Go and hide [*laughs*].

Pasi: —I can feel it sometimes when I've been performing and the audience is, like, applauding, “Yeah! This was so nice, thank you very much!” and I said, “Well, that was nothing. I mean, come on, you don't say that for real.” And you just don't embrace that. So yeah, Jante Law is a very negative thing.

Per-Thomas: Yeah, but don't you think, Pasi, that music helps us to not feel the Janteloven? It helped me a lot because singing, you must— you can— you must get it out. And if you want to sing, you can't be quiet. Then the music and it's music— everyone loves some sort of music, so music has helped me a lot about Jante Law.

Pasi: Yes. Yeah, well, maybe we're not typical Swedish [inaudible] [*laughs*].

Per-Thomas: Perhaps not—[*laughs*] to each your own.

Pasi:  But of course, as you said, that maybe maybe you need a driver, something, who just wakens you up, and…[*pauses*]

Colin: Just someone to give you the permission—

Pasi: Yes.

Colin: —to start tapping your foot.

Per-Thomas: Yes!

Pasi: Yeah.

Per-Thomas: Yes!

Pasi: “Can we do that? Is it okay? Nobody is…” Yeah, maybe it's that.

Per-Thomas: And was it okay to ask the teacher for a dance, do you think?

Colin: Oh, of course!

Per-Thomas: As I did, spontaneously?

Colin: She— she said afterwards, like, “Oh I— I couldn't say yes, I'm a married woman.” 

Per-Thomas: Yeah.

Colin: [*pauses*] She's my wife!

Per-Thomas: Yeah?!

Colin: And I'm okay with it. [*laughter*] I think it's good. She needs— I ask her to go dancing with me, and she's— and she says, “Oh, no, I'm not—”

Per-Thomas: Janteloven! [*laughs*]

Pasi: I think she has the Jante Law.

Colin: Yeah, I think she has the Janteloven on her shoulders.

Pasi: Yeah, that narrows people's minds and, and yeah, it's not a good thing if you have too much of it. Of course, it would be chaotic if everybody just wanted to yell out and everyone wants to sing—then you will have another kind of society. [*laughter*] But sometimes it restrains people too much, and they—you hold back your dreams, you hold back your inner wishes to maybe express yourself in art, or writing, or whatever. So you should— we have, as teachers, both of us, we have the responsibility to be the drivers in that matter. And maybe we do that when we play, also, that we encourage people to, “Come on! Do the clapping, do the— Come on! Let's dance, let's have a good time together.”

Colin: How is it like working with children?

Pasi: I worked with—

Colin: Do they have the Janteloven sitting on their shoulder?

Per-Thomas: Do what?

Colin: Do children—

Per-Thomas: Ah! Janteloven!

Pasi: Yeah, yeah, yes, some of them are. Some—we call that they're shy and if that shy person or reserved person gets to grow in them, they will become shy persons as adults, also. You never know what happens, but I think small children, as I teach them—eight, nine years old—they are often very open.

Per-Thomas: Open, natural.

Pasi: They, they want to— you feel that you can connect with them directly. They don't have any— if I show that I like them to being there and they're comfortable, they will tell you that back

and that's very nice. Mostly my time I teach high school students in music, and there's another one. Then the Jante Law is really getting into effect. Try to put a 16 year old girl or a boy on a stage and sing for the first time performing, and they are going nuts, you know, of nervosity. And I— you have to be there and try to support them all the way and say this is going to get great and even if it fails, you have to just, you know…[*pauses*] …and that's another one. We are important there, I think.

Per-Thomas: And I like to teach before the Janteloven appears so I catch them very early. I teach younger children and try to let them be natural whole life, hopefully going on being a child in heart and soul. Never stop that.

Colin: [*pauses*] I think I'm out of questions.

Pasi: Yeah, that's good! [*laughs*]

Colin: Should we play some music?

Pasi: Yeah!

Per-Thomas: Yeah!

Colin: Yeah, okay. That was really good conversation 

Per-Thomas: Really good.

Colin: Thank you both.

Pasi: Thank you.

Per-Thomas: Thank you for asking.

Pasi: So! These three tunes we play a set of Halling. Halling is a Norwegian macho dance for, especially, for the men who can do this very acrobatic dance. And we'll play three Hallings from Värmland, our province, yes. You can tell about—

Per-Thomas: The first is from Höpsi-Kersti that didn't play fiddle. They asked her to sing if they had no fiddler and she came. She was quite old, later on, and she played on her lips, [*Per-Thomas demonstrates by strumming his lips*] and that was okay! And she sang old tunes. And we have two tunes left from her, luckily. This is a Halling from Höpsi-Kersti first, and then another, and the third one is from “Halteguten,” [who] just lived on the border on the Norwegian side. He was— he was magic. The best fiddler on Finnskogen, in the Finnish/Swedish forests.


Per-Thomas: Thanks, you liked it?

Colin: That was great, thank you!

Pasi: Yeah so, let's do one more piece, then.

Per-Thomas: Yeah? November?

Pasi: November? Yeah?

Per-Thomas: Yeah, don't you think so?

Pasi: Okay, here we go. So this piece I wrote two years ago. It's called “The 30th of November,” and it was for a local church. They had a party for all the volunteer workers, old people, and those who work in the church community. And we were invited to play at their Christmas party, the annual party for all these. So I thought, “Yes, I want to make a tune for it.” And it was on that date and I was playing with two friends that also play some Celtic music, so I made a tune that got in that, a little of that vibe, also, in this modern Värmland music with some Celtic influences, maybe.

Per-Thomas: And Pasi heart.

Pasi: Yeah.


Yep! That was it!

Colin: That was great, thank you so much.

Pasi: Welcome.

Per-Thomas: Thank you so much.

[*Outro music starts*]

Colin: Crossing North is a production of the Scandinavian Studies Department and Baltic Studies Program at the University of Washington in Seattle. Today’s episode was written, edited, and produced by me, Colin Gioia Connors. Today’s music was used with permission by Pasi Pasanen and Per-Thomas Eriksson, and Kristján Hrannar Pálsson. Visit scandinavian.washington.edu to learn more about the podcast and other exciting projects hosted by the Scandinavian Studies Department. If you are a current or prospective student, consider taking a course or declaring a major. You can find complete course listings for the Scandinavian Studies Department and Baltic Studies Program at scandinavian.washington.edu. Once again, that’s scandinavian.washington.edu.

[*Outro music ends*]


Release Date: March 18, 2022

This episode was written, edited, and produced by Colin Gioia Connors.

"Farsarven från Rösbäckstäppan" used with permission by Pasi Pasanen and Per-Thomas Eriksson.

Theme music used with permission by Kristján Hrannar Pálsson.