Friday 13 November 2020

Stone marimbas & Norse mythology: Sigur Ros release video from forthcoming Odin's Raven Magic

I have just finished reading Neil Price's terrific book Children of Ash and Elm, [Amazon, Hive] about the Vikings and their culture, and under its influence I am trying to read some of the primary sources, in translation, starting with The Sagas of the Icelanders [Amazon, Hive] so I was more than intrigued when this popped into my inbox this week.

Odin's Raven Magic is an orchestral work created as a collaboration between a diverse group of Icelandic musicians, the band Sigur Rós, the musician Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, Steindór Andersen, the most respected chanter of Iceland’s traditional epic narrative known as Rímur and Maria Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir (from the string quartet Amiina).

The work is inspired by the 14th or 15th century poem Hrafnagaldur Óðins (Odin's Raven Magic) which is associated with (scholars disagree about its origins) the Poetic Edda one of the two major written sources of our knowledge of Norse mythology. Norse belief was not written about during the height of the Viking era, it was an oral tradition, and the Icelandic Prose Edda and Poetic Edda, compiled in the Medieval period are our main sources of information about Norse mythology and Skáldic poetry.

Odin's Raven Magic was premiered at the Reykjavik Arts Festival 18 years ago, and the work is only finally making it to disc and will be released on 4 December 2020.

The above video is the track Dvergmál  from Odin's Raven Magic performed Sigur Rós with Steindór Andersen, Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, María Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir, Páll Guðmundsson, Conservatoire de Paris Orchestra and Schola Cantorum Choir in Paris, September 2004.

The fascinating and notable feature of the track is its use of stone marimbas, inspired by the work of the artist Páll Guðmundsson. The track begins with multiple players on stone marimba, with other instruments being added to the texture. You can't help feeling someone had been listening to Steve Reich's Desert Music, yet the stone is volcanic from Iceland and provides a real emotional link with the text which inspired the music.

Further information about Odin's Raven Magic.

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