Every year, the Grapevine Music Awards give a shout out to someone who has made the musical world a better place over the preceding 12 months. But for 2022, we’re highlighting a project that set out to make the actual world a better place too.
So we doff our caps to Minningar, a collective that evolved around musicians Daniele Girolamo and Eyrún Engilbertsdóttir, who met while studying music in Reykjavík. They decided to create a project to document the tragic beauty of Icelandic glaciers as they disappear due to human indifference, which led to the magnificent album ‘From the Ocean/ To the Ocean (Memories of Snæfellsjökull)’.
After teaming up with Eyrún, Daniele had a chance encounter with location sound recording expert Magnús Bergsson—a man renowned for his work capturing the audio of natural environments. “I asked him one night if we could create some musical art from what he was doing,” says Daniele, “and he agreed”. Daniele then asked musical synthesis innovator Úlfur Hansson to complete the project team “because I love his music, and he’s an amazing composer and musician.”
The quartet decided to focus on Snæfellsjökull glacier in West Iceland. They named themselves Minningar—which means “memories”—to reflect their mission to create an audio document of what may soon be gone.
Weekends spent recording in the field yielded hours of pristine natural sounds; wind, water and shifting ice all contributing to the rich soundscapes captured by Magnus. Many of those recordings were earmarked to appear on the album in their raw form. Others acted as guiding scores for the three musicians when they later laid down studio tracks to accompany the natural sounds. The rule was that the music should never eclipse the sounds of nature. “The subject is the field recording,” says Daniele, clarifying the priorities in that creative process. “Our music is like a frame.”
A cave on the glacier also offered the chance to record music on location in a unique acoustic, which Daniele wasn’t able to resist. “I was thinking of bringing the cello that day, but we had so much stuff for recording,” Daniele recalls. So instead he took his kalimba, (a small thumb-piano), as a more portable alternative, and Eyrún used it to create a track for the album.
‘From the Ocean/To the Ocean (Memories of Snæfellsjökull)’ is a sonically striking work; evocative of the wild expanses at its source, and poignant in the message that it carries. Its powerful effect isn’t lost on Eyrún. “The whole project has been very eye-opening for me, sonically and just showing a new way to play,” she says. “It’s very different to the other projects that I’ve been working on.”
The experience—along with the audience reaction to the album, and their live performance of it—has inspired Minningar to continue their work. Recordings are currently taking place on Sólheimajökull glacier for a second album due later this year.
Cell7, Inspector Spacetime, Ólafur Arnalds, DJ Sley og Jamesendir, Pósthúsið.
Reykjavík Grapevine Music Awards Panel
Alexander Jean de Fontenay: Graphic designer, music expert and DJ
Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen: journalist with a Ph.D. in sociomusicology
Hannah Jane Cohen: performing artist and former culture editor at The Reykjavík Grapevine
Nína Ricter: musician and culture journalist at Fréttablaðið
Valur Grettisson: editor-in-chief at The Reykjavík Grapevine
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