Librarian’s Corner: Vuelie

About Librarian’s Corner:

Leeds Vocal Movement loves to sing music from a wide range of genres, and my aim is to better understand what we are singing. This blog adds some context and analysis to the notes on the page, for the benefit of members and listeners alike!

Vuelie – Frode Fjellheim (2015)


This entry contains mentions of the songs and events in the film Frozen.

Frode Fjellheim’s ‘Vuelie’ first grabbed listeners’ attention in 2015, as the opening song of Disney’s Frozen. Both the film and its soundtrack are recognised world-wide, and ‘Vuelie’ has gained particular attention due to its tribe-like sounds of Scandinavian origin.

The Song of the Earth

‘Vuelie’ is adapted from the piece ‘Eatnemen Vuelie’,[1] translated as ‘Song of the Earth’. This piece is known as a yoik or vuelie, traditionally sung by the Sami people.[2] Yoik music is written to replicate the sounds of nature, as Ursula Länsman explains:

“A yoik is not merely a description; it attempts to capture its subject in its entirety: it’s like a holographic, multi-dimensional living image, a replica, not just a flat photograph or simple visual memory. It is not about something, it is that something.”[3]

In ‘Eatnemen Vuelie’, the sounds of the Earth are expressed through pure vocals in the upper voices, and homogenous chanting in the lower voices. Norwegian composer Frode Fjellheim[4] also added lyrics of the hymn ‘Fairest Lord Jesus’ to the original yoik, which describes Jesus as the “ruler of all nature”.

After being approached by Disney to include the piece in Frozen, Fjellheim adapted ‘Eatnemen Vuelie’ with film composer Christophe Beck, by shortening the piece and removing the lyrics. However, the the yoik melody and indigenous sound is carefully preserved in the film.[5]

The yoik in Frozen

‘Vuelie’[6] is the very first experience in the film Frozen, its opening bars heard against a blank screen before accompanying the opening credits.[7] After it finishes, the men of Arendelle sing about their work on the glaciers in ‘Heart’.[8]  The two opening songs, including the indigenous sounds of Scandinavia that ‘Vuelie’ provides, give the audience an initial understanding of the film’s setting, community and cultural associations. This technique is well practiced by Disney composers; similar songs can be heard in the opening scenes of such films as Pocahontas,[9] Lilo and Stitch[10] and The Lion King.[11]

Much like The Lion King, Frozen uses a reprise of its opening song to celebrate the return of normality to the community. In ‘Vuelie’s reprise, ‘The Great Thaw’,[12] string, brass and woodwind instruments are slowly introduced to the vocals, and the piece increases in texture and volume to signify the restoration of Arendelle. Both pieces show the importance of ‘Vuelie’, not only as the spirit of Arendelle, but the sound of familiarity, safety and contentment within the film.

The sound of Norway

‘Vuelie’ has maintained its cultural relevance outside of its Disney narrative, by Norwegian female choir Cantus. The choir originally recorded ‘Eatnemen Vuelie’ for their 2011 album, ‘Norwegian Voices’,[13] and later recorded ‘Vuelie’ and ‘The Great Thaw’ for the original Frozen soundtrack.

The choir have been celebrated as depicting the hidden voices of Norway, with a pure vocal sound that complements traditional Nordic singing; Kristin Asdal describes Cantus’ sound as “heavenly voices…with steady chanting reminiscent of repetitive rain or snow, mimicking the sounds of nature”.[14] The choir have solidified this legacy through their album ‘Northern Lights’, released in 2017, with ‘Vuelie’ as the lead track.

Whether recognised as a traditional yoik or the opening song in Frozen, ‘Vuelie’ is still celebrated years after its release by listeners worldwide.

Written by Rosa Stevens – Choir Manager and Librarian

Reference list

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=114&v=LTNQAL4nV5A

[2] http://www.boosey.com/teaching/news/New-arrangements-of-Eatnemen-Vuelie-from-Disney-s-Frozen/100627

[3] https://www.laits.utexas.edu/sami/diehtu/giella/music/yoiksunna.htm

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frode_Fjellheim

[5] http://animatedviews.com/2014/composer-frode-fjellheim-on-frozens-native-spirit/

[6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zldOELlIXI4

[7] http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Vuelie

[8] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3t-cd4vMq6E

[9] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7v7m1XSrj6Q

[10] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtsV4bWPHsY

[11] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwSKkKrUzUk

[12] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKe7ORhHMPo

[13] http://www.norwegianamerican.com/arts/29183/

[14] http://norwegianarts.org.uk/frozens-norwegian-choir-cantus-releases-new-album/

Feature image source: https://www.musixmatch.com/lyrics/Christophe-Beck-Cantus-Frode-Fjellheim/Vuelie

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