29 Gígjas in the Faroe Islands

29 Gígjas

After the premier of Horpma III (for 27 plucked string instruments in just intonation) on the first Tectonics Festival in Harpa in the year 2012 me and Halldór Úlfarsson met and talked about specifically designing semi-homogenouse instruments for this or a similar purpose. Instead of having a vast array of plucked string instruments of different shapes and sizes getting in each other way because of differences in dynamics and articulation we imagined having simple instruments with controlled mini differences manufactured by us and the performers in a maker lab of some sort.

A students design

Over the years between failed grant applications and opportunities that didn’t quite pan out as we hoped, this idea was still very much in the air between the two of us and we would discuss it every time we met and a very prototype version of these instruments eventually appeared in my opera Einvaldsóður in 2017.

One needs to empty out the cans

Long story short, the long awaited opportunity arrived to do our large piece with students of the Glasir Gymnasium (or high school) in 2020. Our idea from the very start was always to include:

The 3d printed bridges came in 6 sizes and shape
  • amateur musicians in a large group
  • cheap “ingredients”
  • a manufacturing process that could be done relatively quickly in any part of the world given that it had a maker lab
  • Use fruit cans as resonators and have the participants eat ice cream and canned fruit as a part of the process for making the instruments
Ice cream and fruit as part of the original Dhorpma concept

All of this and much more came into the world a year later than planned, in this last September (2021) in Tórshavn in the Faroe Islands. We had the opportunity to work with the in-house Fablab master Jan Hellisdal McIntosh and he was extremely competent in the task and generous with his time and resources.

Jan Hellisdal McIntosh doing one of his regular quality checks

Students assembled the instruments with nylon fishing lines, screws from a hardware store, as well as laser cut cheep MDF “wood” and 3D printed plastic bridges. Then they cleared out the cans quite professionally just as planned. Then each of them decorated the instruments however they wanted.

Fablab teacher Jan Hellisdal McIntosh instrument

Once the instruments had been made the big question still remained. Will 29 people, most of which are completely uneducated in music, be able to learn how to read my animated score and play a 3 string instruments after very little rehearsal time.

Some of the students design

What can I say, the musicality of these students surpassed my greatest hopes and I’m a very optimistic man (otherwise I wouldn’t have ventured into this in the first place.

Telling about how to make these stay in tune

So hear you go 29 Gígjas performing Dhorpma I – Sálarró at the Glasir Gymnasium on Nordic Music Days September 3rd 2021:

The song