Hildur Wins Grammy for Chernobyl

Hildur Guðnadóttir grammy award

Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir continued her winning streak last night in Los Angeles, taking home a Grammy award in the category of Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media for the series Chernobyl. Hildur won an Emmy for the score in September, and was named Television Composer of the Year at the World Soundtrack Awards last October. Hildur is currently nominated for an Oscar for her film score for Joker.

Emmy win, Oscar and BAFTA nominations

The Chernobyl score was created using field recordings from a nuclear power plant. It beat out four other nominees in the category, including Alan Silvestri’s Avengers: Endgame, and Hans Zimmer’s score for The Lion King. Hildur’s statue collection could receive a couple more additions next month: she has been nominated for a BAFTA Award and an Oscar for her score for the acclaimed Joker. The BAFTAs will be presented on February 2 and the Oscars on February 9.

First solo Icelander to win a Grammy?

Only one Icelander has previously won a Grammy award: violinist Sigurbjörn Bernharðsson, who won as part of Pacifica Quartet for the group’s 2008 recording of Elliott Carter’s String Quartets No. 1 & 5. In 2018, both the band Kaleo and Hildur’s former collaborator Jóhann Jóhannsson were nominated for Grammy awards. Björk, unsurprisingly, also belongs to the group of Icelandic Grammy nominees – she holds the distinction of being the female artist with the most Grammy nominations without a win: 15.

Iceland Review interviewed Hildur about her work on both Joker and Chernobyl.


Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Hildur was the first Icelander to win a Grammy.

Hildur Guðnadóttir Nominated for Golden Globe

Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir’s music for Joker has newly secured her a Golden Globe nomination for best original score. Hildur’s music for the screen has been in the spotlight lately: the composer won an Emmy award in September for her soundtrack for HBO miniseries Chernobyl, which was composed using field recordings from a nuclear power plant.

Joker has snagged four nominations in total – the others are for Best Motion Picture in the drama category; Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (Drama) for Joaquin Phoenix; and Best Director (Motion Picture). Hildur’s fellow nominees in the score category are Alexandre Desplat for Little Women, Randy Newman for Marriage Story, Thomas Newman for 1917, and Daniel Pemberton for Motherless Brooklyn.

The awards ceremony will take place on January 5 in Beverly Hills, California, hosted by Ricky Gervais.

EGOT on the way?

Hildur has been raking in recognition for her soundtrack work in recent months. Besides the aforementioned Emmy, the composer was also named Television Composer of the Year at the annual World Soundtrack Awards in October. Last month, she received a Grammy nomination for her work on Joker.

Considering the well-deserved attention, some are speculating it is likely that Hildur will also receive an Oscar nomination this year. This would put the musician well on the way to the coveted EGOT distinction – winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony award.

Iceland Review interviewed Hildur recently about her work on Joker and Chernobyl.

Icelanders Nominated for Grammy Awards


Film composer Hildur Guðnadóttir and classical composer Anna Þorvaldsdóttir both have a reason to attend the upcoming Grammy awards in January. Hildur has been nominated for her music in HBO series Chernobyl, while Anna’s album Aequa has been nominated in the category of Best Engineered Album (Classical).

Hildur’s music in Chernobyl has been nominated in the category of Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media. The score, built from recordings of a nuclear power plant, won her an Emmy earlier this year. Her fellow nominees in the category include Ramin Djawadi for Game of Thrones (Season 8), Hans Zimmer for Lion King, and Alan Silvestri for Avengers: Endgame.

Iceland Review spoke with Hildur about her work on both Chernobyl and the Joker film earlier this year.

Hildur Guðnadóttir Named Best Television Composer at WSA

Hildur Guðnadóttir

Icelandic cellist and composer Hildur Guðnadóttir has been named Television Composer of the Year at the annual World Soundtrack Awards. The award ceremony was held in Ghent, Belgium yesterday. Guðnadóttir received the award for the score of HBO’s Chernobyl (she won an Emmy in September for the same score).

In her acceptance speech, Guðnadóttir praised her colleagues: “The whole cast and crew were so phenomenal and I’d like to thank them for trusting me with this incredible journey.”

She dedicated the award to her mother – singer and radio personality Ingveldur G. Ólafsdóttir – who taught her daughter that the beauty and profundity of music easily transcend worldly possessions; Guðnadóttir later added that her mother had put those words into action by selling her car to finance Guðnadóttir’s first cello: “Mamma, þetta er fyrir þig,” Guðnadóttir declared, in Icelandic, at the conclusion of her speech (“Mom, this one’s for you”).

The World Soundtrack Awards have been held annually since 2001. This is the third consecutive year that an Icelandic composer wins an award at the ceremony. The late Jóhann Jóhannsson won in the category of Film Composer of the Year in 2017 and 2018. He and Guðnadóttir collaborated on the music for the film Mandy, Mary Magdalene. 

Chernobyl Composer Hildur Guðnadóttir Wins Emmy

Hildur Guðnadóttir

Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir received an Emmy last night for her score for HBO’s historical drama miniseries Chernobyl, Vísir reports. The miniseries chronicles the tragic events of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster and features a score by Guðnadóttir, entirely made from sounds recorded at the site of the infamous calamity. This is the first Emmy win for Guðnadóttir, whose upcoming scores include Todd Phillips’ highly anticipated Joker movie, starring Joaquin Phoenix.

The 71st Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards were held over the weekend to honour outstanding achievements in U.S. primetime television, with Chernobyl sweeping up seven awards, including one for Guðnadóttir’s score.

As previously reported, Guðnadóttir’s score is made from sounds recorded on-site at a nuclear power plant. “I wanted to explore what a nuclear disaster sounds like – to go into the plant, put on the gear, walk through the huge spaces, smell how it smells,” Guðnadóttir told Iceland Review in a recent interview.

Read the interview with Hildur Guðnadóttir

Guðnadóttir’s next score is for Todd Phillips’ upcoming Joker film, which is awaiting an October release. Joker has already garnered considerable praise, winning the coveted Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Film Festival, with Guðnadóttir winning the Premio Soundtrack Stars Award for her score.

Hildur Guðnadóttir was not the only Icelander who was victorious over the Emmy weekend. Aron Hjartarson won an award alongside his team at Framestone, a production and visual effects company, for their involvement in Free Solo, the documentary about rock climber Alex Honnold.



Full-Bodied Sound

Hildur Guðnadóttir

Hildur Guðnadóttir talks about music as a physical process. Her classical training is a “trampoline to jump from,” while listening to doom metal is “like getting a full body massage.” Yet for the composer of HBO series Chernobyl and upcoming Hollywood film Joker, this physical approach doesn’t make the art any less intellectual. On the contrary, the body serves as a way into the complex characters and plots, and into the essence of the musician herself.

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Icelandic Composer of Chernobyl Nominated for Emmy

Hildur Guðnadóttir

Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir has been nominated for a 2019 Emmy Award for her original music for the TV series Chernobyl. Hildur’s atmospheric soundscape, sculpted from live recordings made inside the nuclear power plant where the show was filmed, has been praised for how its weaves seamlessly into the action of the series.

HBO production Chernobyl is a historical drama miniseries which centres around the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of April 1986. To write the score, Hildur visited the shooting location, a nuclear power plant in Lithuania, and made live recordings of its atmospheric sounds. “I wanted to explore what a nuclear disaster sounds like – to go into the plant, put on the gear, walk through the huge spaces, smell how it smells,” she told Iceland Review in a recent interview. Alongside sound engineer Chris Watson and score producer Sam Slater, Hildur observed and recorded the plant’s hums, echoes, and thuds, produced by everything from dosimeters to doors.

It’s these recordings that were moulded into the score for Chernobyl in the place of traditional instruments. “Often film music is boosting the emotion on the screen,” Hildur explains. “But because the events at Chernobyl were so devastating in themselves, I found it was really important that I wasn’t exaggerating anything with thriller music or dramatic strings, I wanted to approach the music very honestly.”

Hildur is featured in the August-September issue of Iceland Review magazine, where she talks about her work on Chernobyl as well as upcoming Hollywood film Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix. Subscribe to Iceland Review here.