Composing personality

Hugi Garðarsson, 25 Jahre

Harpa is hosting many of the Dark Music Days concerts. One program is called „Flekarnir“, tectonic plates in English, and includes pieces from various Icelandic composers.

“Mar” by Kjartan Ólafsson reminds one of the oceans, like the title says with its free and wavy phrases. The percussion section is very interesting. We meet Kjartan during the interval and are curious about the sounds he is creating for them. “We have placed a cymbal on top of the timpani“, Kjartan says, „which can make a glissando sound effect. Another one is what we call a thunderblade.”

Anna Þorvaldsdóttir, another respected Icelandic composer and a former student of Kjartan enters the conversation. „Mar“ is very personal as it is written in honor of Kjartans former teacher who died as Kjartan was starting this composition. Would she, in honour to her teacher, have written something similar? “I wouldn´t do anything differently or in the same way. But we all have our own style of composing. Like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones have their own different styles. But I´ve been a student of Kjartan and Ingibjörg Ýr Skarphéðinsdóttir has been a student of mine, so we all learn from each other. Kartan Ólafsson is very lyrical with his music.” – “Thank you. I think your music is lyrical as well”, Kjartan adds, smiling.

„Capriccio” by Áskell Másson had the best drum solo I have seen since the movie Step Brothers.

But „Pons papilloma” by Ingibjörg Ýr Skarphéðinsdóttir is by far the most personal piece in the program “Flekarnir”. Her composition process is inspired by her own experience with a personal illness. The physical symptoms and side effects are written into the piece, and it is definitely not vague. You can feel her headaches, disorientation, vision impairment and loss of balance in the music. I have a chat with Björg Brjánsdóttir, flautist and a member of Iceland Symphony Orchestra about the performance. How does it feel to perform a piece with such a deeply personal and tragic background? “It is beautiful, in a way, to know what the piece is about. It gives it more depth to know where the inspiration comes from. I do know Ingibjörg rather well, so it wasn´t too personal for me, but I think it was very brave of her to write about such a traumatic experience. I can only imagine. I didn´t think she was diving into her feelings towards the shock but rather into what the body itself was experiencing.”