Österreichisches VolksLiedWerk
Volksmusikland Österreich
The voice of the people

For many centuries folk music was an oral tradition. It is thus difficult to identify the early growth and characteristics of this music based on tangible examples. However, historic descriptions show that an active musical life has existed beyond courts and monasteries since the Middle Ages. First evidence of songs is to be found in broadsheets, hand written notes date back to 1702. In the 16th to 18th century bourdon instruments (hurdy-gurdy, bagpipes) were the dominant instruments. As the art of violin building started to spread from Italy string instruments, typically in groups of three or four, became more popular at the beginning of the 18th century. (violin, viola, cello, bass).


Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803) was the first person in the German-speaking countries to promote the idea of collecting and typifying this kind of music. In the 2nd Edition 1807, entitled "Voices of the People", by Herder's friend Johannes von Müller, folk music was categorised for the first time by national characteristics and its embedment in life.