Nothing says Sigur rós like a winter music festival that also includes lectures, dance performances and movie screenings. But hey, if there is someone who can pull off squeezing a lecture on extraterrestrial life between a twirl of baton and a harpist’s performance, that’s indeed Sigur rós.
Like an oscillating pendulum
Among the impressive list of artists who hopped on board with the Norður og Niður festival is the prodigious ensemble amiina, who worked with Sigur rós in the late ‘90s and for the following decade. Their impossible-to-categorise, man-on-wood orchestral performance at Airwaves oscillated between theatre, cinema and music like an unstoppable pendulum.
The group was providing the soundtrack to a screening of the 100-year-old silent film ‘Fantômas.’ The movie was in turn funny and ridiculously dramatic, but it was through amiina’s live soundtrack that it acquired a soul. Every low and high point of the movie—the accidents, the gunshots, the smooches and the over-acted fights—was highlighted and emphasised in an exciting performance by the ensemble that was literally one of a kind.
“It’s tempting when you’re scoring a movie like this, which is quite abstract and doesn’t really have a clear story, to just improvise, go with the flow and interact with it live,” says band member Sólrún Sumarliðadóttir. “But we decided we wanted to sort of work the film and make it easier for us and for the audience to stay focused, because the tempo of the film is quite different from the tempo we’re used to today. Some scenes are excruciatingly long and sort of about nothing, while others that have a lot going on and are over in a moment.”
Amiina was originally asked to score the second of five movies in the ‘Fantômas’ series, on the 100th anniversary of the films, when French film company Gaumont restored the old 1913 film to a 4k resolution. The project, which was sponsored by various European cultural institutions, was curated by French musician Yann Tiersen, best known for his ‘Amélie’ soundtrack.
Scoring a movie is an art in itself. One needs to be able to capture the weight of every single moment and put it into a melodic perspective. And if the creative process involved in making an album weren’t already difficult enough, the fact that there are points to connect and structures that needs to be adhered to makes scoring a movie a different endeavour altogether. Far from being claustrophobic, however, the architecture of the movie ended up being almost liberating.
“In a way it’s nice to have a frame to work into—it releases the pressure of inventing the frame yourself,” Sólrún explains. “It’s also quite clearly defined in sections, so it was tempting to define the characters and sections and really work on the details.”
The process was quick but intense, and after a three-week-long tour de force, amiina was done. It’s hard to do the results justice in words. Between the thrill and excitement of the movie and the jaw-dropping talents of the band, amiina’s performances are well-rounded experiences that need to be felt first hand.
Read more about Norður og Niður here.