CURIOUS SOUNDS: Kulning, the ancient Scandinavian music that controls animals.
Jonna Jinton is a 26 year old Instagram star living in Sweden. She’s not a fashion icon, nor a lifestyle influencer; she practices Kulning, a traditional voice technique used by women in Scandinavia to call cattle when herding. Apart from being able to control animals with music, Jinton is also a talented photographer who knows how to capture the magic of the vanishing natural world. Her story sounds like one most of us dream about when we’re slumped behind our desks on a Monday afternoon.
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Originally from Gothenburg, Jinton slammed the door on her city life 5 years ago. She was suffocating in the concrete jungle and felt trapped in her urban daily routine. Feeling miserable and longing to change her way of living, Jonna moved from city life to a cabin by the forest next to a small hamlet (population: ten). Jonna now takes amazing pictures for a living and lives a “traditional” Swedish life, which includes foraging, self-sufficiency and chanting Kulning.
Kulning, or Kaukning in some parts of Norway, is a medieval form of Scandinavian singing often used to call livestock down from inaccessible mountain pastures.Although the ethereal bordering-on-eerie songs have been kept alive by people like Jonna Jinton, the tradition is slowly dying out.
How Does It Work?
Much like yodeling, Kulning is music made for long distance sound propagation. When a call is made, it rings and echoes in the valley. The animals respond to the call. Some calls include specific animal names to call the animals that tend to lead the herd. The herds are never very large so it’s easy to call them. Kulning is also used to scare off predators such as wolves.
Where Have I Heard Kulning Before?
Edvard Grieg’s classical works were greatly inspired by Scandinavian herd-calling and it’s still used by certain Scandinavian folk groups like Frifot. More recently, the technique was featured in one of Disney’s award-winning movies, Frozen. Every time Elsa conjures snow, a high-pitched singing can be heard in the background. It might seem like someone playing the flute, but it’s actually Christine Hal using Kulning.
Christine is a Norwegian-Swedish film composer and singer who provided the vocals to some of the scores in the first Frozen film. In the Norwegian version of the sequel, she voiced Iduna and sang the song “All Is Found” or “I elven finnes alt,” a lullaby about a magical river where all the answers lie.
Christine first learned the Kulning technique as a child, when she used to call goats on the icy slopes of the Norwegian mountains.
The talented singer-composer graduated from the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, Sweden, where she earned a master’s degree in film scoring. Prior to her Disney stint, Christine lent her voice to a handful of short movies, features, and documentaries. After graduating from the University of Southern California under the mentorship of A-list composer James Newton Howard, Christine was scouted by Disney Studios.
As if that’s not impressive enough, she went on to compose lyrics in ancient Norse for the Coronation scene in Frozen. The song, entitled “Heimr Árnadalr,” was performed by a choir. She is also scording a WWII movie, The Battle of Narvik. The film, directed by Erik Skjoldbjærg and produced by Aage Aaberge and Live Bonnevie, will premiere in December 2021.
If you like Sigur Ros or music that is heavily connected to the natural world, vast nordic landscapes, or otherworldly sounds, you’ve come to the right place.