Ólafur Arnalds “Árbakkinn” and “1995”

Ólafur Arnalds' 7 part journey through Iceland begins with "Árbakkinn" and "1995"

Written by Steve Farrell and Johanna Baumann on July 7th, 2016


Olafur ArnaldsNeo-classical composer and electronic artist Ólafur Arnalds has teamed up with filmmaker and fellow Icelander Baldvin Z to create Island Songs, a seven part journey through Iceland. The first two components,  “Árbakkinn” and “1995”, have been released, with the rest to follow each week. Both are shot in one take and in specific locations meant to showcase the beauty and tranquility of Iceland.

In “Árbakkinn”, Arnalds collaborates with Einar Georg, a poet from Hvammstangi, to create a piece about the river where Georg grew up. The piece features Arnalds on piano accompanied by a string quartet as Georg recites his original poem. At the conclusion of the poem, the string quartet gently takes over with slowly building chords and floating counterpoint. As the music becomes louder, the camera steps back to show the surroundings of the rustic cabin where they recorded.

“1995” takes place in the remote Önundarfjörður, where Arnalds’ cousin, Dagný Arnalds, works as a music teacher and church organist. An organ melody persists through the haunting harmonies of the piece, which was inspired by an avalanche that devastated the area in October 1995. The video begins with two children playing in the surreal landscape, then focuses in on a small church. This appears to be the only scripted moment between the two videos. This brief innocent moment on a rainy day accentuates the mythical environment that is the only home they know. This creative decision in “1995” begs the question of will there be any more moments like these throughout the remaining five installments of this Island Songs series.

Technically and creatively, Island Songs is minimal and sparse, allowing the viewer to focus on the landscape and how it relates to the music being played. Watch “Árbakkinn” and “1995” below.

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