Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir (b. 1977) is a force to be reckoned with in modern music. In 2015, she was named the New York Philharmonic’s Kravis Emerging Composer, and her works have been performed by the Berlin Philharmonic, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, International Contemporary Ensemble, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic, and others, many of whom have commissioned her works. (It’s also worth pointing out that Thorvaldsdottir was educated just down the road a ways; she received a PhD in composition from UC San Diego in 2011).
Thorvaldsdottir’s music is also connected to the Music Academy’s Alumni Enterprise Awards through 2020 winners Clara Lyon (’03, ’04) and Doyle Armbrust (’01, ’03). For their AEA winning project their Spektral Quartet will record and release an immersive, 360-degree format visual album called Enigma
, which features Thorvaldsdottir’s music along with the work of video artist Sigurdur Gudjonsson. You can read more about that project here
Thorvaldsdottir herself describes her music as, “an ecosystem of sounds, where materials continuously grow in and out of each other, often inspired in an important way by nature and its many qualities, in particular structural ones, like proportion and flow.” Her 2014 work, In the Light of Air
, was written for the International Contemporary Ensemble and is scored for viola, cello, piano, harp, percussion, fixed electronics, and installation (more on those last bits in a moment). Structurally the four movements – titled Luminance
, and Remembrance
– function as one continuously flowing piece, which she says connects to her interest in “perspectives of details and the unity of the whole and the relationship between the two.” Similarly, throughout the work you’ll hear the individual instrumentalists acting variously in concert with one another and in more soloistic fashion. A live performance of the work is intended to include a lighting display and a set of metal ornaments called Klakabönd, or “a bind of ice,” in Icelandic.