For twelve years, this remarkable band has been playing its wildly original and
totally entrancing music to an ever-growing audience. Their latest album, Takk,
has taken their reputation to new heights and they have toured extensively,
playing to large crowds around the world. Their songs are almost symphonic in
structure, atmospheric, effects-laden and essentially unique, haunting melodies
driven by insistent rhythms, often building to an indescribable crescendo with
lead-singer Jónsi’s high voice and bowed guitar driving fans into ecstacy.
Sigur Rós collaborated with Radiohead to write music for the modern dance piece
Split Sides by Merce Cunningham.
They are a string quartet but they supplement their violins with electronics,
xylophones and musical boxes to produce an ethereal sound of great complexity
and charm. Their performances bring to mind the Javanese tradition of the
Gamelan as well as more modern associations with serial music and electronic
pop: A hard-to-define but highly accomplished mix. These four young women began
playing together as a classical quartet in 1998 but since 2000 they have played
and toured mostly with Sigur Rós. They are now, however, striking out on their
Iceland’s ancient musical tradition revolves around the poetical tradition
known as rímur, highly structured poems of up to hundreds of verses dealing
with mythological and historical subjects. Today, Steindór Andersen is the
best-known performer of this old poetry, sung to melodies that have been handed
down orally through the centuries and only recently written down or recorded,
often involving scales and tonal intervals no longer found in established
Western music. Steindór Andersen’s collaborative efforts with such musicians
as Sigur Rós, Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson and rapper Erpur Eyvindarson have renewed
interest in the musical tradition and brought his chants to new audiences, not
just in Iceland but all over the world.
ODIN’S RAVEN MAGIC
Odin’s Raven Magic by Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, Sigur Rós, Steindór Andersen
and María Huld was performed at the Barbican Centre in London in 2001, at the
Reykjavík Arts Festival 2002, and to full houses at Grande Halle De La Villette
in Paris in 2004. In addition to the above, the piece features a full choir and
a large string orchestra, as well as the unique stone harp, played by its
builder Páll frá Húsafelli. Odin’s Raven Magic is an old Icelandic poem in
the ancient Edda tradition. The poem recounts a great banquet held by the gods
in Valhalla. While they are absorbed in their feasting, ominous signs appear
that could foretell the end of the worlds of the gods and men.
HILMAR ÖRN HILMARSSON
Somewhat of a legend on the Icelandic music scene, Hilmar Örn has worked in
many capacities, as composer, performer and producer. He was a presence in the
band Ţeyr which was one of the most influential groups of the early 1980s and
later played with various groups in Icleand and abroad, including Psychick TV.
He has also written music for a number of motion pictures. Hilmar Örn has
worked extensively with ancient Icelandic music and poetry in collaboration with
such artists as the traditional singer Steindór Andersen and Sigur Rós. Hilmar
Örn is also the head-pagan of the old pagan religion in Iceland, worshipping
the old gods Odin, Thor and Freyja.