by Rita Leydon ©2001

Who would have guessed that a scant four years after I first dared to imagine myself learning to play that bizarre Swedish instrument called a nyckelharpa, I would be partners in a pioneering business venture with two time world champion of the instrument—Peter Puma Hedlund, the king himself? Not me. No sir. Never in a million years. Not on my map. But here we are, Peter and I, on the verge of releasing upon the, as yet unsuspecting, nyckelharpa community a revolutionary new type of learning tool.

Fireworks! Cizz ... Boom ... Bah!!

Spanning the centuries in a great leap of faith, we have joined together, in intimate exchange, the nyckelharpa and dvd—the information darling of the decade. An imperceptible eight hundred year age difference stands between the nyckelharpa’s roots and the appearance of dvd on the ever moving technological timeline. Can it work? What will the neighbors think?

Peter, ever the instructor, has dreamed for years of creating a teaching aid—utilizing both video and audio, with the inclusion of printed text and notes—that could optimally illustrate how one goes about learning to play his beloved nyckelharpa. I am a creative, visual arts, right brain, type with a deep and long standing attachment to my Macintosh computers. We two volatile volcanoes chanced to meet a couple of years ago and our brains intermingled and found common ground in the delicious desire to bring a perhaps-not-so-wild idea to fruition. Our personal motives are, of course, quite different, being that we bring totally unique skills to the task, he as artist, me as producer, both of us resonating with yearning to create something where there was nothing before. To blaze a new trail. To reveal a new horizon.

It is now one year since we decided to do this and our project is just about ready for harvest. Gigabytes upon gigabytes have been delivered—on cd-rom, dvd-r, and DLT tape—and are in the capable hands of a replication facility in western Canada. I am Nervous Nellie, pacing the floorboards, awaiting my shrink wrapped babies to be delivered to me in time for winging our way to the mid June spelmansstämma at Österbybruk in Sweden for their official send off into the wild blue yonder.

Perhaps you are wondering what in the world I am talking about. I am talking about the first volume in a planned series of three nyckelharpa workshop volumes in dvd format. If you touch no controls and make no choices on your dvd player and just lamely sit and watch your TV screen, it takes two hours from start to finish. But that’s not how you’ll use it. The power of the dvd format is that it can utilize different languages and angles as well as jump instantly between locations. We take full advantage of this power. Peter speaks in Swedish and English. You can select to view the full figure angle or the closeup view of the left hand angle with the touch of a button on your remote control. You can instantly switch between slow tempo and normal tempo. Using this dvd volume as it is intended—while practicing and perfecting your own playing—you’ll be occupied for a year.

This is not an entertainment product. This is your own private teacher working with you, showing you, again and again how it is done, allowing you ample time to work it out, patiently encouraging you. I am preparing a series of pages for my website (http://www.ritaleydon.com) to showcase the dvd and explain a bit about it. You are most welcome to stop in.

This has got to be one of the hardest and most intense passages of my entire creative professional career—and I’m no spring chicken. Never have I been so tested and so challenged and so exhilarated by a project. I won’t bore you with details, suffice to say—I survived the flaming inferno and will go back into the raging heat for more.

I smile to myself because I can’t help but see the similarity between this undertaking and the gestation and birth of a child. I have borne two, now aged 22 and 24. This dvd title is my child as well. It is a product of all my energies. I have lived and breathed nothing else for months now and I am bracing myself for the postpartum blues that I know are coming. I’ll wander around the house totally at a loss of what to do with myself—adrift and bobbing up and down until I can sink my teeth into the next project.

I haven’t seen Peter for a while—what with him being in Sweden and me in Pennsylvania—although we have been in daily e-mail communication forever it seems. He’s anxious to see what I have done with his dream. At the same time, I’m anxious to see his reaction to what I have done with his dream. It is after all, no small matter to entrust the realization of one’s dreams to another. I know this. I understand this. I made sure I kept Peter painfully abreast of the highs and lows as I experienced them traversing the treacherous landscape from conception to actualization. The man knew just when to zap me a chirpy note to keep me from going under during the especially dark moments. He tells me he wants to have a BIG CELEBRATION to coincide with the first advance copy in his hands. I fired back that he’d better hold his horses until I arrive so we can do it together—no Rita, no party!

In the fall, production begins on the next volume. We are eager to see what sort of reception our effort receives out there in the world. Time will tell. I’m already imagining a few years down the pike—the lesson tunes on volume one will become old favorite standbys much like tunes we are all so very familiar with now. Peter’s choice of tunes is unexpected, courageous and well reasoned. Just imagine having Puma as your personal trainer. On your own terms. Any time it tickles your fancy. Mmmnnn ... yes.

Published in Nyckel Notes, May/August 2001, Number 22