Video Premiere: “strengur” by Halla Steinunn Stefánsdóttir

What if the creative relationship between composers and performers was more reciprocal? For her latest album, strengur, Icelandic performer-composer Halla Steinunn Stefánsdóttir set out to reimagine the traditional ways in which artist collaborate.

Working with a group of long-term creative partners (Halla Lovísa Loftsdóttir, Davíð Brynjar Franzson, Lương Huệ Trinh, Kent Olofsson, and Mirjam Tally), Halla Steinunn not only commissioned a new violin work from each composer, but she also created graphic scores for the composers to perform. Drawing on her connection with the natural world, Halla Steinunn allowed the gusty breeze on the Swedish shores of the Öresund strait to shape the design of each score; she dipped gut strings in red ink, then let the inked strings fly freely in the wind across a piece of tracing paper.

Halla Steinunn’s own interpretation of one of these gut string graphic scores combines live performances and field recordings of scordatura violin, aeolian violin, gut strings, and skin drum. The result, as documented in the video below, is an organic soundscape of gossamer harmonics, rasping textural scrapes, and the resonant whistling of the wind through the body of the violin.

Halla Steinunn Stefánsdóttir--Photo by Jason Lock

Halla Steinunn Stefánsdóttir–Photo by Jason Lock

Here’s what Halla had to say about the project concept and her unique reading of the graphic score:

The ‘strengur’ series of graphic scores grew out of my site-respondent practice and is part of a long durational project relating to wind. This echoes the approach of musicians and sound artists including Pauline Oliveros, Akio Suzuki, and The Landscape Quartet, whose work I hold dear, and who have explored our connection to the environment through sonic attunement.

For the strengur video track, I decided to call on the wind again, featuring the wind in its many guises and its relation to various entities, including an aeolian violin performance. The recording is stitched together from this original material, against straight live performances of the graphic score on scordatura violin (whose tuning came from the aeolian recording), gut strings (that created the score) and a skin drum.

strengur is out August 26, 2022 on Carrier Records, and you can pre-order the album on Bandcamp.

About Halla Steinunn Stefánsdóttir

Performer, composer, and curator Halla Steinunn Stefánsdóttir is one of Iceland’s leading figures within the early and contemporary music scene. She is driven by an ecosystemic outlook on creation, set to further explore music’s many mediated relationships, and has been the artistic director of Nordic Affect since its inception in 2005.

Halla’s playing is featured on albums on the Sono Luminus, Brilliant Classics, Bad Taste Records, Musmap, Tally, and Carrier Records labels. She has appeared as a soloist, chamber musician and instrumental improviser at many international festivals and toured the U.S. twice with Nordic Affect. Halla’s compositional output spans from electro-acoustic compositions to sound and media installations. With degrees from The Royal Danish Academy of Music and Indiana University School of Music, she now holds a PhD position in artistic research at Lund University, Sweden. Halla plays a David Hopf violin from ca.1780 in a baroque setup by Matthieu Besseling.


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