Going to the symphony, attending a classical concert. There is an aura of sophistication and tradition that floats around the Icelandic Composers Society, the group that founded Reykjavík’s “Dark Music Days” back in 1980. As one of Iceland’s longest running music festivals, Dark Music Days was created as a platform for Icelandic composers to present their work. The festival has since expanded its boundaries—both physically and musically—to include international acts and mixed techniques in contemporary music.
“There is sort of a generational stratæ,” Gunnar Karel Másson, the festival’s newly appointed Art Director, tells us. “Icons of past generations, like Atli Sveinsson, are almost exclusively acoustic. Then you have a middle generation, people like Anna Þorvaldsdóttir and Hugi Guðmundsson, incorporating new elements into contemporary composition. They are working with installations, with visuals.” Beyond the middle ground are “the youngest generation, and those who never grow up (in a good way)” Gunnar says. Acts like S.L.A.T.U.R., for instance, whose performances are often site-specific, unable to be communicated between generations, once a hallmark of composition.
This year’s Dark Music Days runs from January 26 – 28 and features over sixty acts of contemporary music. We asked Gunnar for a few recommendations of what to see this year. Whether you’re a dignified old-timer or new to the scene, part of whatever generation, here are some acts to please.
Kristín Þóra Haraldsdóttir
Kristín Þóra is a violinist, composer, sound artist and improviser. She uses composition to explore space, bodies, light and movement with sound. She recently released an album through Vin Du Select Qualitite Records of acoustic guitar, improvisation and field recordings.
Úlfur Hanssón is an electronic musician and composer known under many monikers. Among them: bassist of Swords of Chaos, band member on Jónsi’s ‘Go’ tour, brother to and collaborator with artist Elín Hansdóttir, TED talker, creator of the Segulharpa (look it up), Klive and Úlfur Hanssón.
Thomas Ades was born in London and wrote his first composition, Five Elliot Landscapes, at 17 years old. His current compositional repertoire includes two operas, five orchestral works, and four chamber works, and a number of solo piano and choral pieces.
A German-Icelandic ensemble of flute, clarinet, harp and percussion. They’ve performed as a tight-knit quartet and as co-producers on large, interdisciplinary works. At Dark Music Days the group will perform ‘Longitude,’ an hour-long spatial performance that was described by the Los Angeles Times as “sonically imaginative … colonial and landscape driven … part installation, all mood, longitude discards preconceived notions of the theater, immersing the audience inside the piece as it unfolds.”
Thursday 21:30 Norðurljós
Described as a “revolutionary flutist,” someone who has “not only mastered, but redefined the instrument.” If you, like many others, have never heard those words put together in a sentence, then check out Robert Dick. His music bridges classical and modern, his style draws from jazz, Indian and African music, electronic and natural sound.
Friday 19:00 Kaldalón
Cikada is a Norwegian ensemble formed in Oslo in 1989. At Dark Music Days the group will perform three projects, including the world premier of Three Songs Without (2016) by composer Francesco Filidei.
Saturday 19:00 Norðurljós
Single tickets cost 2.000 ISK, five-pass cards are 7.500 ISK, and full-access festival passes are 14.500 ISK. For more information on the program, the artists, or to purchase tickets visit Dark Music Days.