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Island Songs

A Living Musical Film Project

by Ólafur Arnalds & Baldvin Z

Olafur Arnalds

Journey Begins June 21

21 JUNE 2016 (Toronto, ON) - Icelanders make up one of the most musical nations on earth with one of the highest rates of ensembles per capita in the world. How do the beautiful yet harsh Icelandic conditions affect their music-making? In Island Songs, the innovative and brilliant composer Ólafur Arnalds (BAFTA Award winner for Broadchurch) teams up with director Baldvin Z (BBC’s Trapped, Life in a Fishbowl) to explore the vibrant artistic life of his fellow countrymen and women in a fascinating, real-time, audio-visual portrait of his home country of Iceland. Beginning today, over the course of seven weeks in the summer, Arnalds will be traveling to seven very different locations in Iceland - one per week - to record a series of new compositions. In each location Arnalds will be collaborating with artists local to the town to create and perform a new song. Each artist has their own unique story to tell and individual way of contributing to the project. They come from various musical backgrounds in their hometowns, ranging from a vocalist from a world famous rock band to a church organist in a village of 100 inhabitants, making this a diverse and evolving project. Each week, Arnalds will publish one audio track and one performance video by Baldvin Z. These will be distributed via Apple Music, Spotify and Vevo/YouTube. Additionally, the journey will be chronicled by the film director Baldvin Z. The 7-week period will result in an hour-long music film, including conversations exploring music, history and identity with the collaborators, to create a powerful musical portrait of their native land. Arnalds emphasizes that the project aims to focus on the astonishing creativity of Iceland’s inhabitants rather than on the sublime landscape of their homeland. ‘Yes, Iceland is beautiful, but plenty of films have shown that already,’ he says. ‘I think it’s much more interesting to consider the harshness of the conditions, and how they affect us as artists…I’d like to explore that musical energy.’ Arnalds has become celebrated for his spare and haunting musical style, which evocatively mixes elements of ambient, classical and electronic sounds. Island Songs has its roots in the enormous success of his two previous improvised projects, Found Songs (2009) and Living Room Music (2011), which both involved the daily release of new works over a seven-day period. ‘I always want to make everything sound perfect, but I also know that perfection doesn’t necessarily make for good music. So these projects grew out of an internal fight with myself, a need to create something spontaneous and improvised.’ Artistic partnerships aren’t new to Arnalds, with his two previous Mercury Classics projects, For Now I Am Winter (2013) and The Chopin Project (2015), both involving a large degree of collaboration: the former with singer Arnór Dan, the latter with concert pianist Alice Sara Ott. Furthermore, Arnalds’ close relationship with pianist and producer Nils Frahm has resulted in several works and more recently a sold-out all-night concert at the Louvre in Paris. The names of each of the collaborators for Island Songs will only be released in the week of their individual participation, shared via social media and on a new website that will host a map of Iceland, tracing the journey and grouping all audio- video and social media content. During the seven weeks of shooting and recording, Island Songs will turn into a real-time interactive project on social media, with the performances being released immediately. Arnalds’ dedicated fanbase will be able to follow him on his travels via live-streams, Snapchats, Instagram and Tweets. ‘I’d love to get as much feedback as possible from people via social media as the project progresses, and really keep a conversation going. During Living Room Songs people sent me in artwork, song titles, suggestions... it was as if I were having a conversation as I was making the music.’ A major added element to Island Songs is the participation of film-maker Baldvin Z who will be filming each performance and capturing each song in daringly long one-take shots. Choreographing each performance while the artists improvise will be a tough challenge in itself, and Baldvin Z will have only one night in post production before the material is delivered and uploaded to YouTube each week. Island Songs: The Music Film The acclaimed director Baldvin Z, who is native to Iceland, will have an additional crew on set who will be crafting an entirely new film project, in addition to the live performances. They will focus on capturing the energy and artistry of Ólafur and his collaborations, providing the viewer a deeper understanding of the culture, geography, psychology and history of Iceland. Within this film the viewer will feel the true gravitas of this project. The music film will be released in October 2016 initially through special screenings. The film release will coincide with the physical album release, on CD and vinyl. All material will be released on Mercury Classics/Universal Music Canada, the country's leading music company. Final product: All links to content will be hosted via one central and bespoke website:
  • 7 audio singles: instant release via Apple Music and Spotify
  • 7 performance videos: instant release via Vevo/YouTube
  • 1 audio digital album for purchase and streaming: instant release via Apple Music and Spotify
  • 1 audio album for physical release (vinyl and CD): October 2016
  • 1 hour music film: release date October 2016
  • 1 sheet music, limited edition coffee table book: release date TBC


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website / youtube / vevo