OUT NOW | Composer Halla Steinunn Stefánsdóttir’s “strengur”
Released on Carrier Records, the Icelandic composer’s album comprises 15 collaborative works including those by Kent Olofsson and Mirjam Tally
Composer Halla Steinunn Stefánsdóttir is one of Iceland’s leading early and contemporary music experts. She has been the artistic director of the acclaimed Nordic Affect chamber ensemble since its inception in 2005.
Stefánsdóttir has curated five groups of three collaborative pieces for her album “strengur.” "Strengur" means the string of an instrument; a cord; or wind running along objects and geographic elements.
Along with the music, she created graphic scores for the composers to perform, which were inspired by her connection with the natural world.
She allowed the winds on the Swedish shores of the Öresund strait to shape each score's design and dipped gut strings in red ink, as they flew freely in the wind across a piece of tracing paper.
The works on the album were written and performed by Stefánsdóttir and her long-term creative partners, Halla Lovísa Loftsdóttir, Davíð Brynjar Franzson, Lương Huệ Trinh, Kent Olofsson, and Mirjam Tally.
Stefánsdóttir asked each collaborator to explore the performance of a score created by her gut strings. The result is an album of works for solo violin, including electronics and voice. A video showcasing the making of the album can be watched below.
“When I invited each partner to participate in this project, they graciously accepted and so the journey began,” Stefánsdóttir explained in the press release. “As often with long creative processes, the project took unexpected twists and turns and so, what started off as a wish to collaborate differently, ended up as a deep and personal journey mediated by these longstanding creative relationships.”
The first collaboration is with Stefánsdóttir’s great-grandmother, singer, poet, and farmer Halla Lovísa Loftsdóttir, whose past recordings inspired Stefánsdóttir to “meet her” through sound.
U.S.-based Icelandic composer Franzson’s work with Stefánsdóttir involved wavefield synthesis technologies, telematic performance, and artificial intelligence. “Violin fragments…[build] on artificial intelligence-driven resonances that respond to my playing, placed in a relationship with sounds found in the field recordings,” Stefánsdóttir said.
Vietnamese-born composer Trinh is part of the third set of collaborations which involves her “Departure of a Leaf” and “Thinh không” (Ether). Swedish-born Olofsson’s works on the album with Stefánsdóttir include “Violin with Þytur” and “strengur Zona.”
Based in Sweden, Estonian composer Tally first worked with Stefánsdóttir when the latter commissioned her to write a new work for Nordic Affect. “I was immediately taken by Mirjam’s sonic world and her way of writing where she asked me to explore the sonic resistances and possibilities of my instrument.”
Tally’s works on the album include “Frost” and “In the Bottomless Hollow of the Winter Sky,” the latter whose title is an excerpt from Estonian poet Kriistina Ehin’s writings.
To listen to and purchase the album, click here.