Bergrún Snæbjörnsdóttir is an Icelandic composer based between Brooklyn and Reykjavík. She is coming to Bodø with the piece Areolae Undant, performed by Esbjerg Ensemble.
Within her works, Bergrún seeks to establish an internal logic from which soundscapes emerge, often integrating visual and aural phenomena into an indivisible whole.
Her work has been performed widely in festivals like Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, Tectonics Festival, Only Connect, SPOR Festival, Cycle Music and Art Festival, Dark Music Days, Sigur Rós’s Norður og Niður Festival, Klang Festival, ISCM’s World New Music Days and Sound of Stockholm, by ensembles such as the International Contemporary Ensemble, Oslo Philharmonic, Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Avanti Chamber Ensemble and Nordic Affect among others. She is a recipient of the Elizabeth Crothers Award as well as a winner of the National Sawdust’s inaugural Hildegard competition.
As a performer Bergrún has a diverse background, having been a touring and recording musician for Icelandic bands Sigur Rós and Björk, as well as performing experimental music in various constellations. She is a member of S.L.Á.T.U.R. (Society of Artistically Obtrusive Composers Around Reykjavík), and an alumni of the Iceland University of the Arts as well as Mills College, California where she completed an M.A. in composition in 2017. Bergrún is currently an artist in residence with the International Contemporary Ensemble.
The festival theme is «truth?». Can music be true? Is this something you are struggling with in your compositions?
I have often struggled with thoughts on what is real and what is not, and am always coming to terms with my ever-changing perception of reality. I think music is as true as the next thing, and the next – I have no bias on what is and what isn’t. But then I do think that music – because it can be so abstract – can then become a manifestation of truth for different people as they sense different sides of the same “object” in real-time, a multi-verse of truth.
Can you say something about the way you think as a composer? It seems as natural for you to work with traditional classical ensembles as with machines?
My attraction to combining media with live performers has a lot to do with my musical upbringing. I am a classically trained performer and going through that sort of training of course meant that I was repeatedly putting myself in these situations where there was a precedent for everything. There is an ideal sound to be attained, idyllic phrasing, and always – pitch. I think at the time I developed negative energy around such a strict way of being around music, and when I started composing myself I very quickly found my way to making systems with more freedom inherent. I aspire to allow room for the unexpected both in my process and within pieces and this is what gives me life.
Is music, often wordless, freer than other art forms? Any thoughts on this?
I’m not sure I know which way to go with this notion. It is, of course, true that music can be very amorphous and abstract. Because the narratives and structures are laid out in time rather than space it sort of calls for a concentration on the forming structure for the duration, allowing varying contexts to come and go. Because processing sight takes up more brainpower than hearing, it’s certainly possible that this allows for a quicker interpretation in terms of visual arts, and possibly, therefore, a more rapid conclusion – less mindfulness on what is being experienced. But while visual shapes and forms can be symbolic for specific things, there is also often “symbology” in sound and music that traditionally implies certain things. We all have different relationships with these symbols, but ultimately I think it is possible to experience both the aural and visual in a similar, temporally abstract kind of way.