Þráinn Hjálmarsson, composer

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Þráinn Hjálmarsson, composer


Involved in variety of performances and events, ranging from directing the Fengjastrútur ensemble and artistic partner of the The Icelandic sound poetry choir [ísl. Nýló-kórinn] up to festival directing [UNM 2012 - Music Innoavation] and artistic directing the concert series Hljóðön (e. Phonemes) at Hafnarborg - Centre of Culture and fine arts

Hljóðön (e. Phonemes)

About Hljóðön (e. Phonemes)

Phonemes is a contemporary music concert series at Hafnarborg, dedicated to presenting music by various contemporary composers from the 20th and 21st century with a focus on small settings of chamber music. Light is shed upon subjects of contemporary music today and the artistic research of composers in the abstract world of poetry of sounds. The name of the series, Phonemes, references the basic unit of language's phonology, phoneme, which can be combined and re-arranged with other phonemes in terms of forming meaningful units such as words or morphemes. Each concert is a combination of various phonemes that could or could not bring a meaning to the audience.

The programming of each concert in the series are a collaborative process between the performers and the artistic director of the series, composer Þráinn Hjálmarsson, in aim to mark of topics that are of interest to the performers and they want to present in a concert. In some way trying to give a profile of of each performer participating in the series. Through this setting, the aim is to give each program a unified and a interesting programming, having key words to work from, which takes in the identity of each performer. Aiming to present both the diverse subjects of the music of contemporary composers and as well to present the performer in a new way. So far, one performer on each concert has presented their own music on the concert, opening up to the audience to see the relationship between the instrument and the performer.

Hljóðön - Season 2020-2021

An Urban Archive as an English Garden - Exhibition

Exhibition at Sverrissalur, Hafnarborg - 29th of August 2020 - 25th of October 2020

Davíð Brynjar Franzson‘s exhibition, An Urban Archive as an English Garden, directs our attention to how our perception of time and place is influenced by the urban soundscapes around us. An urban soundscape is the sonic environment of a city, defined by the form, shape and activity of a given place. Culture, architecture, fauna and natural surroundings, including landscape and climate, give each city its ever-transforming and unique soundscape, which varies depending on placements within the city, as well as between days or even times of day.

Field recordings, captured in the immediate surroundings of Davíð’s international collaborators, have been arranged for the three-dimensional space of the exhibition, based on the ideology of the 18th century English garden. The main motive is to provide a space for the visitor to move around, explore and experience, as landscaped features serve as an invitation that guides the visitor along on their exploration, rather than offering fixed perspectives. Slow-moving instrumental sounds respond to and reflect on moments within the field recordings, forming a sonic landscape that acts as a garden in both time and space.

The exhibition is a continuation of Hafnarborg’s concert series Phonemes, which is dedicated to contemporary music, having pushed the boundaries of the series’ setting – and music – to its limits, in recent years. During the course of the exhibition, a programme featuring performances by Davíð’s collaborators will be presented, where they engage with and activate the exhibition through the playing of live instruments. The collaborators are Halla Steinunn Stefánsdóttir, violinist, living in Malmö, Júlía Mogensen, cellist, living in Reykjavík, Matt Barbier, trombonist, living in Los Angeles, and Russell Greenberg, percussionist, living in New York.

The curator of the exhibition is Þráinn Hjálmarsson.

The exhibition is supported by The Iceland Visual Arts Fund, the Music Fund and the RÚV and STEF Composers Fund. The work was developed in part at IRCAM and ZKM.

Further about the exhibition

Hljóðön - Season 2019-2020


Sunday June 7th 2020 at 8 p.m. Concert by Ásta Fanney Sigurðardóttir, artist and poet, and Svanur Vilbergsson, classical guitarist.

The title of the concert – HLJORÐ – is a neologism coined by Ásta Fanney by combining the Icelandic words “hljóð” (e. sound) and “orð” (e. word), in an attempt to fuse these two signifiers of meaning in one and the same word. On one hand, there is the assumed meaning of words and, on the other, there is the contextual meaning of sounds, giving new meaning to utterances based on their context and combination.

At the concert, new and recent works by Ásta Fanney will be performed, as well as classical guitar solo pieces by Hafliði Hallgrímsson, Hugi Guðmundsson and Scott Wollschleger, performed by Vilbergsson.


Artificial environment no. 8

Sunday 13th of October 2019 at 8pm at Hafnarborg - Museum as part of the concert series Phonemes (ísl. Hljóðön).

Clarinetist Ingólfur Vilhjálmsson and pianist Lluïsa Espigolé with amazing program. Performing works by Joanna Bailie, Alban Berg, Jonathan Harvey, Jörg Widmann and Gérard Grisey.

Hljóðön - Exhibiting music

Phonemes - Exhibiting music

Exhibition dedicated to music at Hafnarborg Museum.

The exhibition celebrated the fifth anniversary of the concert series of the same name, Phonemes, extending the platform of the series, which is dedicated to contemporary music and has been a part of the Hafnarborg programme since 2013. The exhibition highlights music and art, which augments our perception, as well as affecting our listening and altering our relation to sound in diverse ways.

Here our ideas of music are confronted with the timelessness of the exhibition space. The music goes beyond the limitation of sound, where the visuals play a vital role in our perception of the music itself. Music becomes as much a sound as it is a fixed object. Musical time is translated into distances in space, the performer and the listener unite.

The participating artists were Ásta Ólafsdóttir, Bergrún Snæbjörnsdóttir, Curver Thoroddsen, Einar Torfi Einarsson, James Saunders, Jón Gunnar Árnason, Magnús Pálsson, Steina, Steinunn Eldflaug Harðardóttir and Tom Johnson.

Curator is Thrainn Hjalmarsson

Read the curator's text here

Hljóðön - Season 2018-2019


Rhapsody - concert in Hafnarborg April 2019

The latter concert of Stirni ensemble as artist-in-residence at Phonemes concert series at Hafnarborg. The concert included a premiere of a new work by composer Þórunn Gréta Sigurðardóttir along performances of recent works by Sóley Stefánsdóttir, Arngerður María Árnadóttir and Steinunn Arnbjörg Stefánsdóttir.

Along with performances of older works by Cathy Berberian, Joji Yuasa, Aldo Clementi and honoring the memory of Atli Heimir Sveinsson, who then recently passed away.

The concert was part of the festival Bjartir dagar in Hafnarfjörður.

The concert took place Sunday 28th of April 2019 at Hafnarborg.


Romsa - concert in Hafnarborg September 2018

The season's artist-in-residence were Stirni Ensemble, formed by Björk Níelsdóttir, sopran, Grímur Helgason, clarinet, Hafdís Vigfúsdóttir, flute and Svanur Vilbergsson, guitar.

Their former concert of the season consisted of a world premieres of new works by composer Hafdís Bjarnadóttir and sopran/composer Björk Níelsdóttir. In blend with music by Georges Aperghis, Meredith Monk, Bent Sørensen and Atla Heimis Sveinsson, who celebrated his 80th birthday.

The concert took place Sunday 23rd of September 2018 at Hafnarborg.

Hljóðön - Season 2017-2018

Anti-themes and short stories

Andþemu og örsögur - concert in Hafnarborg April 2018

Violinist Hulda Jónsdóttir and pianist Tinna Þorsteinsdóttir, perform music by Karlheinz Stockhausen, Giacinto Scelsi, Pierre Boulez and Bryn Harrison along with premiering a new work by Karólína Eiríksdóttir, Örsögur að vori, written especially for the occasion of the concert.

The concert took place Sunday 22th of April 2018 at Hafnarborg.

Guest visit by Bryn Harrison

Bryn Harrison - Lecture at Iceland University of the Arts - April 2018

In relation to the concert of Hulda Jónsdóttir and Tinna Þorsteinsdóttir at Hafnarborg. Composer Bryn Harrison visited the Iceland University of Arts and gave a lecture on his music. The lecture was made possible by University of Huddersfield.

The lecture took place Friday 20th of April 2018 at the music department of Iceland University of the Arts.


Hulda - concert in Hafnarborg September 2017

Lilja María Ásmundsdóttir, pianist, hulda-performer and composer and Katie Buckley, harpist perform music by George Crumb and Per Nørgård along with premiering two new works written especially for the occasion for music instrument "Hulda" and a Harp by Lilja María Ásmundsdóttir and Jesper Pedersen.

The concert took place Sunday 24th of September 2017 at Hafnarborg.

Hljóðön - Season 2016-2017

Lieues d'ombres

lieues d'ombres - concert in Hafnarborg April 2017

Composer and cellist Stefan Thut performs music by Jurg Frey and himself with the help of students of the Iceland Academy of the Arts. The concert is the first concert in Iceland dedicated to the music of composers related to edition Wandelweiser.

The concert took place Sunday 24th of April 2017 at Hafnarborg.

Friday 21st of April - Symposium dedicated to the music of composers involved in edition Wandelweiser will be held in collaboration with the Iceland Academy of the Arts.

Nine Bells

Nine Bells - concert in Hafnarborg October 2016

Percussionist Frank Aarnink and violinist Laufey Jensdóttir, perform music by Tom Johnson, Albert Schnelzer, Helmut Lachenmann along with premiering a new work by Sigrún Jónsdóttir.

The concert took place Sunday 16th of October 2016 at Hafnarborg.

Nýló-kórinn season 2016-2017

"Tuning - The Story of the Windscreen Wiper" by Bryndís Hrönn Ragnarsdóttir

The Icelandic Sound Poetry Choir, premiered the work Tuning - The Story of the Windscreen Wiper by visual artist Bryndís Hrönn Ragnarsdóttir, at The living art museum, Marshall-house, Reykjavík. 1st of June 2017.

(Typewriter piece) by Magnús Pálsson

Live performance by The Icelandic Sound Poetry Choir of the untitled performance that goes unofficially by the name "The typewriter performance", by visual artist Magnús Pálsson. Recorded on the occassion of a documentary currently being made about the artist.

Conducted by composer Atli Ingólfsson.

(Typewriter piece) by Magnús Pálsson

Live performance by The Icelandic Sound Poetry Choir of the untitled performance that goes unofficially by the name "The typewriter performance", by visual artist Magnús Pálsson. Performed in relation to the exhibition Bout at Reykjavík Art Museum - Hafnarhús. The performance took place 2nd of March 2017 at 8pm.

Conducted by composer Atli Ingólfsson.

Hljóðön - Season 2015-2016


Anubis - concert in Hafnarborg April 2016

Clarinetist Ingólfur Vilhjálmsson solo recital on Contrabassclarinet, giving a unique insight to the sound world of this unique instrument. Performing works by composers such as Gérard Grisey, Franco Donatoni, Mark André, Sebastian Elikowski-Winkler along with premiering a new work by composer and Einar Torfi Einarsson.
The concert took place Sunday 24th of April 2016 at Hafnarborg.

Tema senza variazone [ísl. Þema án tilbrigða]

Tema senza variazone - concert in Hafnarborg November 2015

Clarinetist Ármann Helgason, pianist Aladár Rácz and cellist Gunnhildur Halla Guðmundsdóttir, performed various works by composers born in the early 20th Century and their artistic vision developed during drastic times in human history. Performing music by composers such as Þorkell Sigurbjörnsson, Þorkell Sigurbjörnsson, Per Nørgaard, Robert Muczynski and Toshio Hosokawa.
The concert took place Sunday 28th of February 2016 at Hafnarborg.

The Voice [ísl. Röddin]

The voice - concert in Hafnarborg November 2015

Flautist Emilía Rós Sigfúsdóttir and pianist Ástríður Alda Sigurðardóttir, performed various works extending or referring to poems of poets Sylvia Plath, T.S. Eliot, Thor Vilhjálmsson and Marcel Proust among other. Performing works by composers such as Atli Heimir Sveinsson, Beat Furrer, Kaija Saariaho along with premiering a new work by composer and flautist Kolbeinn Bjarnason.
The concert took place Sunday 15th of November 2015 at Hafnarborg.

The Words [ísl. Orðin]

The words - concert in Hafnarborg October 2015

Viola player and composer Kristín Þóra Haraldsdóttir performs the music theater work, Orðin [e. the words] by composer Þórunn Gréta Sigurðardóttir. This 40 minute music theater performance is based on the book by poet Linda Vilhjálmsdóttir, Öll fallegu orðin, originally published in 2000.
The concert took place Sunday 11th of October 2015 at Hafnarborg.

Fengi - Season 2016

Fengi - Concert series of Fengjastrútur at Mengi

Fengjastrútur ensemble has since 2007 specialized in performing so-called open scores, in which time and place, background and artistic vision of the performers has a large saying in the final outcome of the music. It is in the hands of the performers to vision the works, similar to a reader visioning the mise en scene of a fiction. The ensemble has collaborated with well-known pioneers of this music repertoire such as Alvin Lucier, Christian Wolff, Pauline Oliveros and Robert Ashley. The name of the ensemble is refers a famous mountain in an unpublished novel.

Fengi – concert series of Fengjastrútur in Mengi is dedicated to open scores from the mid-20th Century to current times, blending together classics by pioneers in music history and new works by living composers.

Horizontal lines (ísl. Láréttar línur)

Fengjastrútur ensemble performed new audiovisual works by Icelandic composers as part of Fengi – concert series of Fengjastrútur at Mengi. In the concert, horizontal lines appeared in sound and vision in a diverse music by composers such as Bergrún Snæbjörnsdóttir, Gunnar Karel Másson, Gunnar Grímsson, Ingi Garðar Erlendsson, Hlynur Aðils Vilmarsson and Jesper Pedersen.

The concert took place Thursday 5th of May 2016 in Mengi.

Fengjastrútur and friends

The opening concert of the concert series Fengi by Fengjastrútur in Mengi, celebrated the past and friends of the ensemble. Performing music by composers that the ensemble has collaborated with, such as Pauline Oliveros, Alvin Lucier, Robert Ashley and Christian Wolff along with premiering new works by composers Áki Ásgeirsson and Gunnar Grímsson.

The background and ideology of the works were presented prior to the performance and guests were welcome to influence the performance, either with direct participation or with their own thoughts on comments that will have effect on the performance.

The concert took place Sunday 20th of March 2016 in Mengi.

LARM - Season 2015-2016

Lab for Artistic Research

Lab for Artistic Research in Music (LARM) [ísl. Listrannsóknarstofa í Tónlist - LíT] is a forum at Iceland Academy of the Arts for artistic research by independent artists and musicians. The Lab was formed in the spring of 2015.

LARM SYMPOSIUM: Writing music for halldorophone

Writing music for halldorophone

The first symposium of LARM was focused on the approach various composers have on notating and working with the electro-acoustic music instrument, halldorophone, which is an audio feedback instrument designed by the visual artist Halldor Úlfarsson. In recent years variety of composers have written for the instrument and will share their thoughts on writing for the instrument.

Contributors to this symposium were the composers Guðmundur Steinn Gunnarsson, Hafdís Bjarnadótir, Johan Svensson and Timothy Page. The symposium was supervised by Halldór Úlfarsson.

The symposium took place at the Iceland Academy of the Arts, Sölvhólsgata 13, 101 Reykjavík, in class room 533 (3rd floor). Friday 11th of September 2015 from 16-18.

Nýló-kórinn - Season 2015-2016

Nýlókórinn - [e. The Icelandic sound poetry choir]

Nýlókórinn e. The Icelandic sound poetry choir] was formed in 2003 by visual artist Magnús Pálsson. The choir focuses on performing sound poetries in blend with performance based works of various visual artists.

„Kapítulakonseptið“ (e. the Chapter concept) - Ragnhildur Jóhannsdóttir

„Kapítulakonseptið“ [e. the Chapter concept] - Soundpoetry event of the Icelandic sound poetry choir at Hafnarborg.

The Icelandic Sound Poetry Choir (ísl. Nýló-kórinn) premiered a new work especially for the choir for an event at Hafnarborg, Hafnarfjörður, 6th of March 2016 at 16.

Visual artist, Ragnhildur Jóhannsdóttir, celebrated the final day of her exhibition at Hafnarborg, Diktur, by publishing a new book work, Kapítulakonseptið, in 39 copies and premiering a sound poetry work based on the book.

The concert took place 6th of March 2016 at 16:00 in Hafnarborg.

„Fuglasöngur og mold“ - Þórunn Hjartardóttir and Didda Leaman

„Fuglasöngur og mold“ [e. Birdsongs and dirt] - Soundpoetry event of the Icelandic sound poetry choir at The Einar Jónsson Museum.

The Icelandic Sound Poetry Choir (ísl. Nýló-kórinn) premiered two new works written especially for the choir for an event at Einar Jónsson Museum, Reykjavík, 6th of February 2016. The performance is part of Reykjavík Winter Festival’s program.

The visual artists Þórunn Hjartardóttir and Didda Hjartardóttir Leaman wrote two new works for the choir based on their experience of working with audio-description (AD). Which is a method designed to put visual material into word to help blind and visually impaired people gain access. After it became clear that the works would be performed in The Einar Jónsson Museum, a new dimension was added to the works and the location of the Museum it´s atmosphere and the artworks on display influenced the outcome.

The concert took place 6th of February 2016 at 17:00 at Einar Jónsson museum.

„Ég sakna ekki framtíðarinnar“ [e. "I do not miss the future"]

„Ég sakna ekki framtíðarinnar“ - Hljóðleikar Nýlókórsins / Soundpoetry concert of the Icelandic Sound poetry choir.

The Icelandic sound poetry choir (ísl. Nýló-kórinn) premiered three new works written especially for the choir for an event at KEX-hostel, Reykjavík, 25th of November 2015. The authors writing for the choir approach the choir in different means, all relating to their background. The authors are Haraldur Jónsson, visual artist, Jón Örn Loðmfjörð, poet and Hörður Bragason, composer/musician and one of the conductors of the choir.

The concert took place 25th of October 2015 at 20:00.

Kúakyn í hættu

Kúakyn í hættu - opening of an exhibition

The Icelandic sound poetry choir (ísl. Nýló-kórinn) in collaboration with Karlkór Alþýðu and Fengjastrútur ensemble opens the exhibition "Red Snow" at the Nordic House, with a performance of Magnús Pálsson's work Kúakyn í hættu [2015]. Originally premiered at Tectonics 2015 - Reykjavík festival by Nýló-kórinn, Karlkór Alþýðu and Icelandic Symphony Orchestra.

The opening event took place 15th of October 2015 at 17:30.

Dark Music Days 2015

Dark Music Days 2015 - Festival

Dark Music Days was first established the Icelandic composers society back in 1980s. The festival is one of the most vibrant festival in Iceland in regards of Icelandic contemporary music, run by the Icelandic Composer's Society. The festival in 2015 included premiere of new works by Berglind María Tómasdóttir, a new work by Þuríður Jónsdóttir for baritone Jeff Gavett among many more.

Hljóðön - Season 2014-2015


...until... - concert in Hafnarborg March 2015

Flautist Hafdís Vigfúsdóttir and Gunnlaugur Björnsson, guitarist, perform the music of Clarence Barlow, Gunnlaugur Björnsson, Halldór Smárason and Toru Takemitsu. A common thread in the music of the program is the absence of something that is only percepted by the listener.

Changing light and echo

Changing light and echo - concert in Hafnarborg February 2015

Hlín Pétursdóttir Behrens, sopran, Hrönn Þráinsdóttir, pianist and Una Sveinbjarnardóttir, violinist perform the music Kaija Saariaho in blend with with premieres of new works by Elín Gunnlaugsdóttir.

Synthesis of 16 strings

Synthesis of 16 strings - concert in Hafnarborg January 2015

Concert with Siggi String quartet. The works on the program give insights to different approach to the string quartet form and remarks on its soundscape. With music by composers Giacinto Scelsi, Naomi Pinnock, Atli Heimir Sveinsson and Unu Sveinbjarnadóttir.

New Strings

New Strings - concert in Hafnarborg October 2014

Concert with Markus Hohti, cellist and dorophone-player, performing music by Sami Klemola, Kaija Saariaho, Simon-Steen Andersen and premiering a new work by Guðmundur Steinn Gunnarsson on recent icelandic instruments designed by Halldór Úlfarsson and Hans Jóhannsson.

Hljóðön - Season 2013-2014


Phonemes - concert in Hafnarborg April 2013

Concert with Áshildur Haraldsdóttir flutist and Helga Bryndís Magnúsdóttir pianist perform works by Salvatore Sciarrino, Beat Furrer, Sofia Gubaidulina, Taylan Susam and Áshildur Haraldsdóttir as well as premiering new works based on the ideas of phonemes by composition students of the Iceland Academy of the Arts.

Notation and Interpretation

Notation and Interpretation - concert in Hafnarborg March 2014

Concert with Borgar Magnason, double bass, and Páll Ivan frá Eiðum, performer and composer, performing music by James Tenney, Matthew Shlomowitz, Cornelius Cardew, Borgar Magnason, Haraldur Jónsson and more. The music on the program shares the performers interest in music notation and interpretation.

Music within languages

Music within languages - concert in Hafnarborg November 2013

The music living within the realms of language has been a topic of many composers, working with language in terms to get the attention of the music that lies behind the semantic level of it. This concert with Marie Guilleray, composer/singer/sound artist and Tinna Þorsteinsdóttir, pianist explored the use of language in works by Aperghis, Guilleray, Feldman, Berio, Berberian and more.


Prologues - concert in Hafnarborg September 2013

Concert with Grímur Helgason, clarinet, and Kristín Þóra Haraldsdóttir, viola, performing the music of Gérard Grisey, Luciano Berio and Mario Lavista, as well as premiering new pieces by Bergrún Snæbjörnsdóttir and Kristín Þóra Haraldsdóttir. The music on the program invites the listener to explore prologues, beginnings without an end. The concert marked the beginning of the 2013/2014 season of Phonemes.

Variation on Atli Heimir

A variation on Atli Heimir - concert in Hafnarborg April 2013

Frank Aarnink, percussion, and Una Sveinbjarnardóttir, violin

The composer Atli Heimir Sveinsson can in some circumstances be described as polystilic composer. Here his sonata for violin is placed into context, imagining an extension to his work. The first concer of Phonemes started with the concert of Una Sveinbjarnardóttir, violinist and Frank Aarnink, percussionist. Performing music by Atli Heimir Sveinsson, Xenakis, Feldman, Kurtág and Una Sveinbjarnardóttir.

The opening concert in April 2013 was praised by music critic, María Huld Markan, of the radio show Víðsjá on the National Radio Broadcast: “The program [was] very well put together, diverse and still unified, the music was performed with a special care and very elegant and detailed, and overall everything was really well done, the handouts with information was clear and with fun and interesting information. So I just look forward to go again to a concert in this series.” [direct link in Icelandic: http://www.ruv.is/gagnryni/hljodon ]


Thranophone in context

Thranophone in context - concert in Reykjavík Art Museum - Hafnarhús February 2014

The instrument, Thranophone, was presented in context to the music history, the use of audio feedback in the music of Alvin Lucier, Steve Reich and performing works that have been especially written for Thranophones by Áki Ásgeirsson, Bergrún Snæbjörnsdóttir, Ingi Garðar Erlendsson and Þráinn Hjálmarsson.

UNM 2012 - Music Innovation [Music Festival Director]

UNM music festival, a festival of young Nordic composers was held in Reykjavík 28th of August – 1st of September 2012. The festival has been held annually since 1946 as a collaboration between the Nordic countries, changing their turns in presenting the festival in-between years. Seven composers from each of the five countries partake in the festival, chosen after an open-call for compositions, to present their music and talent, work with musicians and attend lectures and seminars on music.

The festival was dedicated to Music Innovation where Lectures and Workshops on the topic of innovation in instrumentation and performance were held during the festival, in close collaboration with LornaLAB, Reykjavík Art Museum, Jaðarber – concert series and Iceland Academy of the Arts. Among lecturers on Music Innovation are visual artists, composers, musicologist and instrument makers. The festival contained in all eight concerts during the five days, held all around Reykjavík and in Skálholt, programmed with music of young nordic composers performed by musicians from all around the Nordic countries.