Wonderful to share this great recording from the premiere of Sequences performed by The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) at the New York Public Library in September 2016 ❀

Bass Flute: Alice Tessier
Bass Clarinet: Campbell MacDonald
Contrabassoon: Rebekah Heller
Baritone Saxophone: Ryan Muncy

Recorded by ICE and the New York Public Library

Seven Responses

It is wonderful to be in Philadelphia for the Seven Responses Project - a beautiful passion project of conductor Donald Nally that has been in the planning for a long time. The project is about to take place this coming weekend, on June 24th and 25th. There will be 7 premieres by composers Caroline Shaw, David T. Little, Hans Thomalla. Lewis Spratlan, Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, Santa Ratniece & myself, along with a performance of Buxtehude's Membra Jesu Nostri. The works will be performed by the Crossing Choir, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) and Quicksilver Baroque under the direction of Donald Nally.

It has been a great pleasure taking part in this project - it was truly heartwarming to work with the text by Guðrún Eva Mínervudóttir who wrote beautiful lyrics for me to put music to, and to have the piece as part of this larger project is really something special.

With warmth


For more information about the project see here
The Seven Responses program

Who is Seven Responses?

UR_ at the Reykjavik Arts Festival

The Iceland premiere of the chamber opera UR_ will take place at the Reykjavik Arts Festival on June 4th where we will have an intimate setting for the work in Norðurljós concert hall at Harpa Concert and Conference Center.

Baldur Brönnimann and I had a talk before the premiere of UR_ in Trier last September where he directed the performance.


Composer: Anna Thorvaldsdottir
Director: Thorleifur Orn Arnarsson
Stage design: Anna Run Tryggvadottir
Text: Anna Thorvaldsdottir & Mette Karlsvik
Producer: Arnbjorg Maria Danielsen - Far North

Mezzo Soprano: Melis Jaatinen
Baritone: Joa Helgesson
Vocalist: Sofia Jernberg
Piano: Tinna Thorsteinsdottir
Actor: Mike Thomsen
Production assistant: Ornolfur Eldon Thorsson
Conductor: Bjarni Frimann Bjarnason
Ensemble: CAPUT

Ad Genua


It has been an amazing journey working on the new piece for The Crossing and ICE for the 7 Responses Project. I was initially asked to choose a writer/poet to write the text and my mind immediately went to writer Guðrún Eva Mínervudóttir. She wrote a wonderful text that I have been working with for quite a while now and each word has continued to bloom throughout the process of writing the music. It is such a gift to the musical language to have her amazing words lead the voices in their expression.


The piece is ready now and I wanted to share her text here

I fall to my knees
I fall
I fall
I fall
to my knees and ask
forgiveness for
lazy thoughts,
unseemly hunger
the beautiful, wild stampede of my fear

I fall to my knees
I fall
I fall
I fall
to my knees and into
the dark haze
of the purple, innocent sky
I fall deep into the sky and beg
for clarity,
true satisfaction
and union of the soul

I give myself up
I give
I give up

I fall to my knees
I fall
I fall
I fall
to my knees and worship
the eternal music


The piece will be premiered, along with the other 7 Responses works, in Philadelphia in June and the program will also be performed at the Mostly Mozart Festival in August in New York City


I am so thankful to be a part of this wonderful project


I'm excited to share some fragments from UR_ taken at a show at the Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival in September 2015


UR_ chamber opera by Anna Thorvaldsdottir

Composer - Anna Thorvaldsdottir
Director - Thorleifur Orn Arnarsson
Stage design - Anna Run Tryggvadottir
Text - Anna Thorvaldsdottir & Mette Karlsvik
Producer - Arnbjorg Maria Danielsen - Far North

Soprano - Melis Jaatinen
Baritone - Joa Helgesson
Vocalist - Sofia Jernberg
Piano - Tinna Thorsteinsdottir
Actor - Mike Thomsen
Production assistant - Ornolfur Eldon Thorsson
Conductor - Bjarni Frimann Bjarnason
Ensemble - Bit20

Recorded at Ultima Oslo 2015

Far North in collaboration with Theater Trier & Ultima Oslo

Supported by Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation, The Nordic Cultre Point, Air Iceland
and the Norwegian Arts Council

The reception of In the Light of Air has been heartwarming


UR_ will be premiered at Theater Trier on September 11th 2015 and will be featured at Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival at the Norwegian Opera And Ballet on September 18th and 19th.

In the Light of Air

Today is the official release of In the Light of Air on Sono Luminus performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble.

Here is a video that Sono Luminus did for the first movement of the work and was premiered at I care if you listen in August - video material by Collin J Rae & Hrafn Asgeirsson

UR_ premise

I am currently in Germany where we are staging the new chamber opera UR_. It is wonderful to have such a substantial rehearsal period, thanks to our premiering Theater Trier and our wonderful project manager and Far North founder Arnbjörg María Daníelsen.

The rehearsals are going well and we are all very excited and looking forward to the premiere in September in Trier and then at the Ultima Contemporary Music Festival in Oslo.


UR_ combines two main narratives, told through an abstract metaphorical persona, the various aspects of which are portrayed by the different elements of a trilogy (the three singers) which together forms a single character in the work. The elements merge and divide throughout the work, but are fundamentally tied together through the presence of a central being (ambiguously portrayed by the actor). The grand piano is a separate character, representing the “Mother” – the protecting element.

One narrative looks backward, the other forward: The first narrative, which is the primary focus, is the story of the human being struggling to find a way back to the UR_ – the perspective of this narrative is primarily that of the trilogy; the other, the secondary focus (more theatrically presented), is the story of how we got here, so far removed from the UR_.

The progression in the voices primarily represents the backward element – the UR_ in the human being waking from hibernation and finding themselves in an unfamiliar environment, struggling to find their voice and to be heard – this is the struggle of the human being rediscovering the UR_ in itself (in its several forms, which – although different – are part of the same), the abstract persona conflicted and confused by its seemingly unheard voice and presence. This struggle is characterized by the struggle of each to find its voice, their struggle to communicate with each other, and their struggle to communicate as a unity with the “other” side of the abstract persona, the one responsible for this alien state. This is all part of the struggle to find a way back to “nature”, which can have many meanings. Once found/heard, it is liberating and beautiful but also difficult in many ways. For all its presence and importance for the human being, however, this wondrous achievement all but disappears as we become aware of the UR_ itself, its vast and massive expanse. The human being, despite its (perhaps inevitable) perception of the significance of its own values, its place in the world, and the impact it has had on it (for good and bad), may “disappear overnight”, its time here “a blink in the eye of evolution”.

The forward element – how the UR_ in the human being was pushed into hibernation – is less represented in the music and more in the theatrical elements. This narrative contains elements of the trajectory of Western culture which got the human being to where it is, for good and bad. This current environment in which the UR_ elements find themselves, and find to be alien to them, is also represented primarily theatrically – it is the “other” side of the modern human being whose UR_ has now woken up, confused and desperate to find its way back, to be heard.

The primary narrative – the search for a way back to the UR_, the struggle to be heard/included – is spoken through sequences of musical imagery and phonetic sound structures where language merges with music in sound and expression. Phonetic patterns become an instrument where elements of various languages are dispersed and recombined, generating a strained and fragmented idiolect. Language – in its familiar form – in part represents the emphasis on human reason which partly underpins the ideology of Western culture that got us to where we are. Language facilitates an important kind of understanding, but there is also a certain kind of understanding that it can limit, be a barrier to. It can mean the difference between “us” and “them”. Being heard, understood, can change these boundaries, redraw the line – being truly heard means being genuinely included, and true inclusion is a kind of freedom or liberation, an elimination of hierarchy.

Communicating through expressive phonetic gestures is a mechanism that allows for important conversations that cannot be had in language, but can still be understood and appreciated – conversations that remain lost until the UR_ elements find a natural way to communicate and a natural voice to speak with.

Without these, they are truly voiceless.

In writing the opera I really had to dive deeply inwards in a unique way to search for themes, layers of metaphors and expressions, and to find ways to carefully weave the threads together but still to leave elements open for theatrical interpretation. It took me on a substantial inner search for sounds, textures and expression for the human voice, to find the "right" lyrical materials and textures to construct the whole and the text for each part. The process was extremely personal but at the same time in constant realization that in the end the music would be placed in the hands of another to interpret the work visually and theatrically and thereby growing it into its ultimate existence.

The layers of metaphors in the work can be interpreted in different ways and one of the several interesting approaches that director Thorleifur Örn Agnarsson is taking is that of an "opera in the making", a kind of contemporary self-scrutiny of the operatic form. I am very excited to see what the production will become and can't wait to share it with everyone!

Anna Rún Tryggvadóttir is doing stage design and costumes, Bjarni Frímann Bjarnason is coaching the music during rehearsals and conducting, Baldur Brönnimann will be conducting the premiere, the rotating ensembles are BIT20 and CAPUT, and the performers on stage are: Melis Jaatinen mezzo-soprano, Joa Helgesson baritone, Sofia Jernberg singer, Miké Thomsen actor & Tinna Thorsteinsdóttir pianist.