Fiddling with Perfection

Hans Jóhannsson icelandic luthier

It was half past four on a Sunday afternoon inside the Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre in Reykjavík.Three-hundred-and-sixty chairs, nearly all of them occupied, had been arranged in meticulous fashion within the Norðurljós auditorium. Twenty-five musicians, tickling four different kinds of stringed instruments, were performing Richard Strauss’ Metamorphoses on stage. And two people, who […]

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Oscar-Winner Hildur Guðnadóttir Composes for Video Game

Hildur Guðnadóttir Oscar

Composer and cellist Hildur Guðnadóttir is composing the music for the video game Battlefield 2042, RÚV reports. Hildur, who won both an Oscar and a Grammy for her score for the film Joker, is writing the soundtrack in collaboration with her husband, the English composer and sound artist Sam Slater. This is the first time she’s composed for a video game.

Battlefield 2042 is a massively multiplayer first-person shooter game and the seventeenth installment in Swedish developer Dice’s popular Battlefield series. It is published by Electronic Arts.

“We are thrilled to be writing our first video game score for Battlefield 2042 and teaming with Electronic Arts,” Hildur and Sam wrote in a prepared statement. “It was such a deeply creative experience to dive into this world and create a truly unique and disruptive musical environment for the game.”

Battlefield 2042 comes out on October 22 on PC, PlayStation, and Xbox. The game score will be released on the same day on both vinyl and via leading streaming services.

Hildur Guðnadóttir Wins Oscar for Joker Score

Hildur Guðnadóttir Oscar

Icelander Hildur Guðnadóttir made history last night, becoming the first Icelander to win an Oscar. Hildur was awarded in the category of Best Original Score for the film Joker. She was the first woman to win in the category since 1997.

Joker received 11 nominations in total, taking home two awards (the other was Best Actor, snagged by Joaquin Phoenix). Hildur beat out an illustrious group of fellow nominees, including John Williams, nominated for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and Alexandre Desplat (Little Women).

After thanking her family and collaborators, Hildur ended her speech by saying “To the girls, to the women, to the mothers, to the daughters who hear the music bubbling within: please, speak up. We need to hear your voices.”

Hildur’s music for the film and her score for the series Chernobyl have been in the spotlight lately, winning her an Emmy, Grammy, Golden Globe and BAFTA this season. Iceland Review interviewed Hildur last year about her work on the two projects.

Watch Hildur’s full acceptance speech below.

Hildur Guðnadóttir Wins BAFTA Award

Hildur Guðnadóttir BAFTA

Icelander Hildur Guðnadóttir has won the 2020 BAFTA for Best Original Score for the film Joker. It’s the latest award in a streak of wins for the composer, whose scores for Joker and TV series Chernobyl have garnered her a Golden Globe and an Emmy this awards season.

“Working on Joker was the journey of a lifetime and Todd [Phillips, director] is a master for having steered that ship,” Hildur said in her acceptance speech. “It was such an incredible, incredible honour to work on this film and create it with so many amazing artists that are here tonight who did such an incredible job and I would like to share this with all of you.”

Hildur’s fellow nominees in the category were Thomas Newman for 1917, Michael Giacchino for Jojo Rabbit, Alexandre Desplat for Little Women and John Williams for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. All of those composers, except Michael Giacchino, are also nominated for the 2020 Oscar for Best Original Score. The Oscars ceremony will be held on Sunday, February 9.

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.

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.

Daníel Bjarnason Receives Optimist Award

Conductor and composer Daníel Bjarnason.

Conductor and composer Daníel Bjarnason has received the 2018 Bjartsýnisverðlaun, or Optimist Award, Vísir reports. The award is granted yearly to an Icelandic artist who through their art has contributed to an optimistic outlook on life.

Daníel Bjarnason, born 1979, studied music in Iceland and in Freiburg, Germany. As conductor he has worked with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, BBC Philharmonic, Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, and Toronto Symphony Orchestra, among others. His first opera, Brothers, was premiered in Denmark in 2017 and received its Icelandic premiere last year.

The Optimist Award was established in 1981, and is awarded by the President of Iceland. It includes a monetary prize of ISK 1 million ($8,500/€7,500).

Three Icelanders in New York Times’ Top 25 of Classical Music

Three Icelandic musicians have made the New York Times’ list of Top 25 Classical Music Tracks for 2018.

Joshua Barone, one of the list’s coauthors, celebrates Víkingur Ólafsson as “a master of finding and exploiting unexpected pockets of musicality.” Víkingur’s interpretation of Bach’s Fugue in A minor was his favourite track from Bach: Solo Piano Works, an album that “offers an array of ways to consider Bach, including through transcriptions by the likes of Busoni and Rachmaninoff.”

Composer Maria Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir’s haunting Loom from the album He(a)r was selected by Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, who describes it as beginning “with a thin thread of sound that is patiently roughed up and smoothed out in ways that seem both generous and brittle, with the light seeming to enter right where the texture appears most broken.” Corinna notes that the full album, both composed and performed by women, will reward “[l]isteners equally equipped with patience and openness.”

The album AEQUA by Anna Þorvaldsdóttir (who records as Anna Thorvaldsdottir), takes listeners on a “tour of vivid sound worlds,” says Joshua Barone, at the core of which is Aequilibria. The composition is “a piece with rich contrast and surprising balance between spaciousness – conveyed through airy fifths – and knotty smallness.”

See the full list and listen to each of the tracks above here.

Composer Hildur Guðnadóttir Hired for “The Joker” Film

Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir will be writing the music for The Joker, set to release in October 2019, RÚV reports. Joaquin Pheonix will star in the title role, making him the fourth actor to portray the well-known character on film, following Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, and Jared Leto. The movie will focus on the Joker’s origin story.

Hildur was a long-time collaborator of late composer Johann Jóhannsson, working with him on the music for Sicario (2015) and Arrival (2016), among many other projects. Hildur’s music has also appeared in The Revenant (2015). She has won two Edda Awards for her work in Icelandic film and television.