Music from the Nordic region has had and continues to have an extraordinary presence in the United States. From the long history of Swedish popular music, like ABBA, Robyn, Lykke Li or Max Martin (who has written dozens of Top 40 U.S. songs over the last 20 years) to the more experimental and ethereal music of prominent Icelandic artists, such as Sigur Rós, Múm, Björk and many more. The cultural exchange between this part of the world and the U.S. is also well represented in the programming and presence of the American Swedish Institute in the Twin Cities community. On May 9, Liquid Music is excited to join ASI in a co-presentation of new contemporary chamber music from Icelandic record label and composer/performer collective, Bedroom Community. (Tickets and info)
As purveyors of contemporary chamber music with a growing and increasingly adventurous audience, we are wholeheartedly committed to the creation and cultivation of new and diverse types of music. An essential part of this process is providing bridges and context for new listeners to discover and appreciate what could sometimes be considered "challenging" music – context that we will attempt to provide through our 'Extracurricular Listening' blog series. Below is a sampling of music from the artists performing on Liquid Music's Bedroom Community & Friends concert, as well as a taste of other contemporary Nordic chamber music.
In addition to founding Bedroom Community and engineering/producing albums for Icelandic artists like Sigur Rós and Björk, Valgeir Sigurðsson is also a prolific composer and producer of his own albums and compositions. His recently released album, Dissonance, takes inspiration from Mozart’s String Quartet No. 19, known as the “Dissonance” quartet. Sigurðsson takes the chaotic opening bars of Mozart’s work and stretches them out over the course of 23 minutes, creating a vivid and profound meditation on clashing dissonances.
Comprised of classically trained multi-instrumentalists, just one song from Amiina can use violin, xylophone, tuned wine glasses, dulcimer, guitar, electronics and a musical saw. Initially known for their arrangement work with Sigur Rós, Amiina’s music has taken on a life of its own. Their soft and unique timbres draw listeners in, creating an intimate experience of a subtle yet broad sonic landscape.
Although he’s L.A.-based, composer, percussionist, and singer Jodie Landau has strong ties both professionally and sonically to Bedroom Community. His debut album with them, you of all things, was recorded in Iceland with musicians from new music collective wild Up and the Icelandic women’s choir Graduale Nobili known for their work on Björk’s Biophilia tour. On this track, titled as we sway, Landau’s gorgeously plaintive melody floats over a rumbling, slowly expanding texture of muted piano strings, harp tremolos and ethereal electronics.
Sam Amidon is another U.S. based musician on the Bedroom Community label. Drawing directly from traditional Appalachian folk tunes, Amidon creates contemporary interpretations and arrangements of these humble melodies and lyrics. Amidon’s voice can range from melancholy and raspy to calming or joyous, simultaneously sounding from the past and present.
The title track of Icelandic composer Daníel Bjarnason's album of orchestral music reacts to the art of two abstract expressionists of the New York school. Commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the first movement, "Over Light Earth" takes its name from Mark Rothko’s painting Dark Over Light Earth, the second from Jackson Pollock’s Number 1, 1949. Bjarnason gives an evocative description of the music and his inspirations below.
“For this piece I wanted to make music that was somehow frozen in time, like a painting. So that you would not feel like you had been experiencing a narrative that is moving chronologically from A-Z, but rather that you are looking at the same object from different angles and in different light. For me this was a challenge because it is more natural to me to make music that is dramatic and has a forward thrust. But recently, and especially as I was thinking about the work of Rothko, I started to yearn for music that was not ‘doing’ anything. Music that was simply present, that you could spend time ‘inside’ and belong to without emotional attachment.”
Another established Icelandic contemporary classical composer is Anna Thorvaldsdottir. Her album Rhízōma, was recorded by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Daniel Bjarnason. The Icelandic title of the opening orchestral work, Hrím, refers to the gradual growth of ice crystals, a notion paralleled in this piece not only by the frosty shimmer of individual sounds, but also in the ways these sounds cling together: as clusters of activity outlining moments of greater structural importance and as threads of memory echoing throughout the work’s duration. This music sits more on the modernist/spectralist side of the classical music spectrum when compared to Bjarnason’s more minimalist and pop sensibilities, yet composers use great nuance and detail to craft elaborately lush textures.
See Bedroom Community and Friends live in Minneapolis Wednesday May 9 at 7:30PM at the American Swedish Institute
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