From Iceland — Track Premiere! "Þoka" By Herdís Stefánsdóttir

Track Premiere! “Þoka” By Herdís Stefánsdóttir

Track Premiere! “Þoka” By Herdís Stefánsdóttir

Published December 4, 2020

Hannah Jane Cohen
Photo by
Dustin O'Halloran

Composer Herdís Stefánsdóttir is most well-known for her soundtrack work—you might have heard her compositions on HBO’s ‘We’re Here’ or Russo-Young’s ‘The Sun Is Also A Star’. But today, she’s here with a new solo work entitled “Þoka“, released on 7K! Records’ ‘Ambient Layers’ compilation.

The nuanced soundscape, which manages to feel at once both delicately toned-down as well as warmly imposing, is truly the perfect soundtrack for early December. Let it play during a long snowy twilight walk and indulge in the beauty of nature and loneliness.

We sat down with Herdís to talk about the track, which you can check out below.

Hey Herdís! Thanks for chatting with us. Let’s start with “Þoka”—what inspired the work?

“Þoka” was originally written for the opening scene of a film. I was exploring and challenging myself to compose a little differently to my normal process and I wrote melodies without any harmonic support, which led me down an interesting path. “Þoka” is really inspired by nature, sounds of water, dark colours and mystique.

You’ve quite known for your earlier project East of My Youth, which could loosely be defined as electro-pop. What was it like moving from that genre to such a radically different sound?

I have a classical background and when I started writing music, I was into writing for choirs and string quartets etc. I got into electronic music production a bit later and that’s when I started EOMY! Now I really just write depending on my mood and what inspires me each moment!

Herdís Stefánsdóttir

Herdís Stefánsdóttir. Photo by Dustin O’Halloran,

You’ve been composing quite a bit for film and TV in the last few years. How do you approach doing your solo work in contrast to soundtrack composition? What are the different mental facets of creativity there?

I feel like I’m using two different parts of my brain. I approach film music and my own music quite differently. When writing for films you are storytelling and serving a bigger picture. The music is inspired by a story, the aesthetics of the film, the cinematography, the colours and so on. You are also working under direction from a director and ultimately you are writing to serve the film and the story—sometimes not creating exactly the music that you want. You really have to put your musical ego to the side at times!

“Writing my own music is like running a marathon at the speed of a turtle.”

When writing my solo music there are no restrictions and the only director is myself. At times, I find that even harder and it can take me a really long time to finish my own music. I feel like it’s never complete. But the good thing about mixing it with writing film music is that film music really gets you into shape. It’s like music-CrossFit—you have to write a lot of music under immense time pressure and after finishing a film project, I can be very inspired to work on my own music, grateful for the freedom of doing what I want! So if I’d use the metaphor that writing film music is like doing CrossFit/Bootcamp and writing my own music is like running a marathon at the speed of a turtle.

So we must ask—we are huge drag fans at the Grapevine and you recently scored HBO’s ‘We’re Here’. How did you approach creating music for such an over-the-top show? Especially when drag is so intimately sonically connected to pop hits?

There was a lot of pop music in ‘We’re Here’ serving as the fun and driving force of the show! The score was more intimate and gentle—the heart of the show. The moments of the score were to help people tell their stories. Because the show featured real-life people, I found it extra challenging to give every story the right emotion! It was important to never go over-the-top or into melodrama. I tried to give every person or story on the show it’s own sound and I was inspired by the people on the show as well as the surroundings and strange small towns the drag queens visited!

Herdís Stefánsdóttir

Herdís Stefánsdóttir. Photo by Dustin O’Halloran,

To end, how’s your 2020 experience been? What can we expect next from you?

2020 has been busy and good; I’m very grateful for having been able to work. I am working on an Icelandic TV series called ‘Verbúð’/’Blackport’, it’s really good! And I’m writing my first solo record, planning to start releasing next year! Currently, I’m working on shooting a music video for the first song with my friend and director, Ugla Hauks!

Check out Herdís Stefánsdóttir on her website

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