The Hardanger fiddle is a popular instrument for folk musicians in Norway (and in Norwegian-American communities here in the US). It's got quite a haunting sound, and they're absolutely gorgeous to look at.
From the Wikipedia entry:
A Hardanger fiddle or hardingfele (Norwegian) is a traditional stringed instrument from Norway. In modern designs, the instruments are very similar to the violin, but typically with thinner wood. It is different enough that a luthier accustomed to repairing violins could easily ruin a hardingfele. The instrument typically has eight or nine strings; four are played like a violin, while the rest (aptly named sympathetic strings) resonate under the influence of the other four, providing a pleasant continuous sound environment for the tune.
You've heard a hardingfele before, though you probably didn't realize it: the theme for Edoras and the Rohirrim in the Lord of the Rings movies is played on a hardingfele.
You can hear samples of the hardingfele at:
- As Quick as Fire: The Art of the Norwegian Hardanger Fiddle
- Traditional Norwegian Fiddle Music
- Wizard Women of the North - a silly name for a very cool CD
neume: "medieval musical notation, derived from the Greeks, showing relative pitch"