This Ancient Herding Call Is Unlike Any Sound You’ve Heard


Considered medieval Nordic melodies, these are still sung in parts of Scandinavia today

What can be sweeter to us, dear ones, 
than this voice of the Lord inviting us?
Behold, in his loving-kindness
the Lord shows us the way of life.

—From the prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict

Listening to this ancient herding call known as “kulning” brings to mind the fascinating beauty of nonverbal sound, the special connection between humans and animals and the ways God calls us to listen to him as we go about our day.

Kulning is an ancient practice in parts of Scandanavia with roots in the Nordic medieval ages. Its high-pitched sounds, which have a beautiful and haunting tone, are still found in the music of the region and were used to call and communicate with animals and people over very far distances. Kulning melodies were most often used by women since they were the ones tending flocks and herds in the fields and mountains, but men have sung them too. Some kulning melodies are unique to an individuals, and others are handed down in families. Animals would come to know their calls and respond by heading back toward home.

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