From Iceland — Halldór Eldjárn: Finding Stillness In This Hectic World

Halldór Eldjárn: Finding Stillness In This Hectic World

Published October 25, 2019

Halldór Eldjárn: Finding Stillness In This Hectic World
Lea Müller
Photo by
Matthew Eisman
Sigga Ella

Eldjárn—the Icelandic word for “fireiron”—suggests a sort of burning rage, but Halldór Eldjárn evokes anything but. Taking a seat at the Grapevine office, the computer scientist-cum-musician, calm and centered, carefully observes his surroundings. Halldór just dropped his solo album ‘Poco Apollo’ in mid-October, garnering instantaneous attention. The effort is a powerful manifestation of his calm energy and a captivating listen.

One small step for man…

‘Poco Apollo’ started as a web app, which used algorithms to generate musical soundscapes based on the approximately 15,000 images in NASA’s photo archive from the Apollo space mission.

“I basically went through the photo library and picked my favourite parts,” Halldór says with subtle excitement. “Some of the generated pieces are really spot on and I got goosebumps listening to them, so I decided to turn them into a richer orchestration, with strings and percussion.”

Halldór Eldjárn

Halldór Eldjárn. Photo by Matthew Eisman

Strange paths

The outcome is a highly inventive mix of low-key ambient and neo-classical music. “I try to go on strange paths,” Halldór explains, smiling. “The string orchestra on the recording is what I call a deep string quartet. It’s a term that has never been used before. I chose to have two violas, a cello, and a contrabass, so the instruments are all deeper and deliver a slightly darker sound than a conventional string quartet.”

“Meditation is not only the hype of drinking some raw coconut drink and lighting a candle.”

“When you’re an electronic artist, you tend to be a little bit introverted,” he admits. “I’m not classically schooled in composition, so writing the songs for the instruments can be a bit of a headache; I’m not always aware of what is possible. I just write what I want and then negotiate later with the musicians what they can actually play. They were very supportive” he concludes.

Time and focus

Performing on stage, Halldór radiates the same meditative energy of his music during the interview. “I did not make this music with meditation in mind, but it’s great if my music can be used in that way,” he explains. The idea seems to resonate with him.

“Meditation is not only the hype of drinking some raw coconut drink and lighting a candle, it’s focusing on a single thing. Our attention is everywhere nowadays and our most precious resources are time and focus.”

Halldór doesn’t just talk the talk. He practices mindfulness exercises frequently—something that has certainly informed his musical output. “I try to remind myself regularly about the ‘now.’ And the songs are maybe created in that state. That state where you can just leave time for a little bit and get into a flow where the music just comes.”

Halldór Eldjárn. Photo by Sigga Ella

And he was alright

Halldór Eldjárn is most well-known for his work with iconic Icelandic electro-pop act SYKUR—a band that is sonically about as far away from his solo work as you can get. “It was good to get my own space to work on my ideas, my concept,” Halldór says, contemplating the creation of ‘Poco Apollo.’ SYKUR, meanwhile, is about to drop—or perhaps has already dropped, depending on when you are reading this—their long-awaited third album.

The vacuum of space is said to be silent—no sound waves can travel in the ether—but Halldór’s work finds tones in the never-ending darkness. Calibrate your telescope, he’s one-to-watch.

Halldór Eldjárn released his solo debut album ‘Poco Apollo’ in mid-October. You can listen to it on Spotify. It will be released on vinyl in the coming weeks.

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