Ensemble Fengjastrútur on the evening of March 8th 2019 premier and the recording session two days later, consisted (as usually) of an eclectic combination of very talented individuals, each with an interesting and wide background.
Each one of them is a great artist and it was a truly wonderful experience to work with them. Only a tiny little aspect of each performer is present on this recording because there is so much to say about each one of them:
Þórunn Björnsdóttir is a multidisciplinary artist. She studied Sound & Vision in the Hague, has published poetry done various types of compositions and performance pieces but is also a serious recorder player and teacher. She has been a member of Fengjastrútur since the very beginning. She has also written pieces for Fengjastrútur on other occasions.
Páll Ivan frá Eiðum is also a multidisciplinary artist. He is a composer, for instance of works with animated notation and has written many for Fengjastrútur for instance. He’s a painter, a “pop” musician, a video artist, a sound artist and a political satirist of sorts. He is also a very talented multi-instrumentalist with a great ear and very dynamic in all kinds of ensemble interactions. We’ve been very much together on this journey since 2002.
Björn Davíð Kristjánsson is a flautist of a higher order. He taught my sister how to play the flute (yeah, Iceland) and he is an overall very likeable human being. He has performed with the Icelandic Flute Choir since the beginning and countless other groups and ensembles.
Ásthildur Ákadóttir is a pianist, a composer and a multi-disciplinary everything like many others in this group. She was in Pascal Pinon, which was a successful indie rock band which toured the world a few times couple of years ago. Like many other people performing in this group she could probably have been in any role and done it equally well.
Gunnar Grímsson is the only member of Fengjastrútur to have met John Cage. He studied electronic music in Utrecht in the 80’s. He has been a primus motor in Fengjastrútur since the beginning and I can’t remember any Fengjastrútur performance that he wasn’t in. He has also been important in the Reykjavík improvised and electronic music scene and has been part of the group Jói á hakanum. He’s also a web developer and an activist.
Andrés Þór Þorvarðarson is a composer and a percussionist and has been in various bands such as Milkhouse and has been active in the Reykjavík arts collective Post-dreifing. When I met him for the first time in many years I was trying to remember where I knew him from. He greeted me with an apology and reminded my that he had been in the most difficult class I ever knew when I was teaching music theory in Hafnarfjörður music school. Interesting! I don’t know how many teachers, including ones in higher education deserve my apology, feel free to remind me, anyone. Anyhow, this consummate gentleman put the dishes in the dishwasher in the studio and turned it on – unasked. I think that was a great contribution to the studio owner saying: “you guys can come back anytime”. Thanks Andrés.
Hafdís Bjarnadóttir is a composer, jazz guitarist and painter. She has written for orchestras and ensembles and has also been an active performer in Fengjastrútur and many other groups and ensembles. She has released several albums that reflect her eclectic nature as an artist. And yes, she also knits and knitting patterns sometimes find their way into her compositions.
Svanur Vilbergsson is a highly esteemed classical guitarist. He studied in Escola Luthier in Barcelona and in the conservatories in Hague and Maastricht. He has been a driving force in the ensemble Stirni and The Icelandic Guitar Trio. Also he has performed with The Caput Ensemble and done plenty of solo and duo concerts both locally and abroad.
Hallvarður Ásgeirsson is a composer and improviser. His output spans the broad spectrum between contemporary composition – free jazz and rock. He also performs with the Mantra band. We played together in the Bulgarian folk music group Stórsveit Nix Noltes. He has been active in Fengjastrútur throughout the years, yet another great example of the ecclecticism in the ensemble in particular and Icelandic music life in general. I have been performing with him all kinds of things, improvised or otherwise since last century. He brought me into the free improvisation at a young age.
The Engineering/Production team
Jesper Pedersen just released a record on his own. Read my liner notes about him there. He has been an integral part of “my sound” (so to speak) since Horpma I. He works with modular synths, animated notation etc and has been very active in S.L.Á.T.U.R. / Fengjastrútur and all this since his transmigration from Denmark to Iceland in 2009, although he was probably actively participating in all of this earlier.
Katrín Helga Ólafsdóttir or K.óla, like Andrés is a part of the Post-dreifing collective. She is a composer, singer, producer, engineer and well – performance artist. She is a rising star on the Icelandic omni-arts scene but on this record she was mostly on the buttons and using her very precise ears.
So a very talented and ecclectic group full of multi-talents and flexible musicianship. I have worked quite frequently with Fengjastrútur throughout this last decade and as I say I have worked closely with a lot of these people for a long time. Therefore there are a lot of unwritten things in the score that go without saying. They understand my aesthetic. It was remarkably easy. We had a very nice and quick professional recording session in Masterkey Studios in Seltjarnarnes. The group sat in a circle, just like Buena Vista Social Club, there was good atmosphere and they were tight.
The concert in Mengi two days earlier was also an adventure. There is a cat that frequents concerts at Mengi. According to co-ordinator Ragnheiður Elísabet Þuríðardóttir, the premier was the first time the cat sat through a whole concert.