DARK MUSIC DAYS (MYRKIR MÚSIKDAGAR) REYKJAVIK
Saturday, January 26 – Saturday, February 2, 2019
Festival shines a light on the dark heart of new Icelandic music and introduces Nordic and international elements
A brand new work by Georg Friedrich Haas, Solstices – played, appropriately, in total darkness – opens Dark Music Days (Myrkir Músikdagarx), Iceland’s annual festival of pioneering contemporary music, which takes place during the darkest period of the Icelandic winter in venues throughout Reykjavik from Saturday, January 26 – Saturday, February 2, 2019.
Founded in 1980 by the Icelandic Composers' Society as a platform for the work of Icelandic composers, Dark Music Days has evolved to become a showcase for new music with an emphasis on new Icelandic compositions and performers as well as international artists. Currently programmed by composer Gunnar Karel Másson, the Festival’s focus lies on works with mixed techniques which push the boundaries of contemporary music.
The 2019 Festival draws to a late, late night close seven days later with another darkly immersive experience of a rather different stripe – Hermetic Electronics – which takes place in the inky recesses of downtown bar Húrra. In the days in between – and especially from Thursday, January 31 – Saturday, February 2 - there’s an opportunity to hear all of Iceland’s leading ensembles. Iceland Symphony Orchestra presents a programme of new and recent works by leading lights of the new generation of composers, including the orchestra’s current Composer in Residence, Anna Þorvaldsdóttir. There are also concerts by DMD’s resident ensemble Nordic Affect, Caput, Reykjavik Chamber Orchestra and newcomers Kúbus – all performing cutting edge programmes of music by the latest generation of Icelandic and Nordic composers.
Venues range from Harpa, Reykjavik’s state-of-the-art harbourside concert hall, through landmark cultural buildings such as Alvar Aalto’s Nordic House, the Reykjavik Art Museum and the soaring Hallgrímskirkja, to a gamut of cool downtown clubs and bars.
An integral part of the Festival is an emphasis on the solo performer/composer with inventive, genre-bending programmes from, amongst others, soprano Heiða Árnadóttir, violin and harp duo Elísabet Waage & Laufey Sigurðardóttir and Lilja María & Berglind María who make new sounds on fantastical invented instruments.
And there’s a new strand in this year’s Festival – Puls - which exposes audiences to the beating heart of innovative new Nordic music, as Dark Music Days becomes part of the Nordic Culture Fund’s dedicated Puls programme. Norwegian composer and vocal artist Maja Ratkje, lauded for her extravagant imagination and ‘feral disregard for conventional form’ will compose and perform a piece with DMD’s resident ensemble, Nordic Affect. British ‘cellist Zoe Martlew presents a program choc-full of new Scandinavian music for solo cello and electronics, Reykjavik-based Danish composer Jesper Pedersen reflects on his country’s post-colonial relationship with Iceland in Resterne af Rigsfællesskabet (The Remains of the Commonwealth) and the up-and-coming Danish ensemble Neko3 presents a programme of new music for percussion, piano and electronics.
The international aspect of the Festival, principally concentrated during its opening weekend (Saturday, January 26, Sunday, January 27), is represented by UK-based Riot Ensemble, giving the World Premiere of Georg Friedrich Hass’s Soltices, a 70-minute work for ten musicians which takes place entirely in darkness - a process of deep listening for musicians and audience alike. And the multi award-winning choir of Reykjavik’s Hallgrímskirkja, Schola Cantorum Reykjavicensis performs Alfred Schnittke’s Requiem alongside Icelandic choral works.
Part of Dark Music Days’ appeal is its voracious eclecticism. From the so-called Mrykabörn concerts - including violin and harp duo Tinna Thorsteinsdóttir & Gudrún Hrund who bring new sounds to young ears - to a bespoke late-night performance (the aforementioned Hermetic Electronics) by Lithuanian performance/sound artist Arma Agharta joining forces with local musicians at a neighbourhood bar in downtown Reykjavik – Dark Music Days covers the widest possible range of musical territory.
About Dark Music Days
Dark Music Days is an annual festival of contemporary and new music which takes place during the darkest period of the Icelandic winter at the concert hall Harpa and at venues in downtown Reykjavík. The festival was founded in 1980 by the Iceland Composers' Society as a showcase for Icelandic composers to present their work. Today the festival is a platform for performing and getting to know new music with an emphasis on new Icelandic compositions and performers as well as international artists. The Festival’s focus lies on works with mixed techniques where the boundaries of contemporary music performance are explored.
The Artistic Director of Dark Music Days 2019 is composer Gunnar Karel Másson. Másson studied composition at the Iceland Arts Academy and The Royal Conservatory of Music in Copenhagen. He is an experienced concert producer who co-founded and runs the Sonic Festival in Copenhagen and is one of the artistic directors of the music collective Jaðarber/Peripheriberry.