Þráinn Hjálmarsson, composer

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Þráinn Hjálmarsson, composer



Album: Influence of buildings on musical tone (2018)

Places at Best of 2018 lists by various critics.

As heard across a room (2014) - for orchestra

"Quite apart from Iceland being one of my favourite countries, its contribution to contemporary music [...] is a challenging and imaginative one. A very good example of this can be heard in Þráinn Hjálmarsson‘s orchestral work As heard across a room, composed in 2014.


Hjálmarsson establishing a soundworld so indistinct – full of strange, distant rustlings; lots of activity but all of it indefinite and blurred


This is paradox music: like trying to make out the structure of a void.


Hjálmarsson arrives at a soundworld that can only be described as bleached, whatever strength the pitch content has limited to a relatively narrow bandwidth. It’s achingly fragile, as though by attaining some substance it had practically exhausted its energy, yet at the same time stunning to behold. Its culmination, small pauses permeating feeble cluster-like swells, is really quite moving, music and audience united in a combined superhuman effort to resolve the details of its obfuscated beauty, given extra poignancy by frail little descents from a stratospheric violin."

- Simon Cummings, Five against four (5:4), June 2017.

"...ambient, tuneful and dreaming"

- Jónas Sen, Morgunblaðið in April 2016 [Icelandic]

"Fascinating and enchanting!"

- Rolf Kyburz, Bachtrack in October 2015
English version available here.

"Thrainn Hjálmarsson’s As Heard Across a Room is similarly finespun, but more fun: sounds of somebody sorting through a cupboard, gently clattering about."

- Kate Molleson, the Guardian in October 2014

Perpendicular / Slightly tilted (2017) for orchestra

"One rarely hears such focus as in the ”one-idea” works by Þórunn Gréta Sigurđardóttir and Þráinn Hjálmarsson. […] Þráinn’s Perpendicular/Slightly tilted (2016) was an ebbing and flowing of earthy, breathy ”chords” or pulses characterised by sand-paper being rubbed on flower pots. The single, simple feldmanesque idea is to play with the ever-so-slight imbalancing of variation and repetition"

- Lauri Supponen, Mustekahla - Kulttuurilehti, Februar 2017.

Lucid / Opaque (2016) - for vln., vla. and vlc. (baroque instruments)

"Lucid/Opaque [...] contained beautiful meditative stillness; a glacial gravitas unfolding on the knife-edge of complete silence."

- Gavin Gamboa, I care if you listen, Februar 2016.

Influence of buildings on musical tone (2013) - for chamber ensemble

"The work by Thrainn Hjalmarsson for six performers, Influence of buildings on musical tone was enthralling. […] The music was composed of tastefully interwoven noises and unclear tones. The total outcome resulted in an highly ambient and beautiful sounding colors that were charming."

- Jónas Sen, Fréttablaðið in February 2016

MMXIII (2013) - for chamber ensemble

"Introvert, a bit ambient, beautifully made, [and] delicate."

- Jónas Sen, Fréttablaðið in February 2013

Persona" (2015) - solo viola

"Þráinn Hjálmarsson's "Persona" [...] was very much a highlight for me, a quiet piece (performed by Kristin Þóra Haraldsdóttir on viola), though not shy or reticent.

It comprised a palette of squeaks, creaks, gestures, whispers and whistles drawn from the instrument, spaced among silences, and periodically coalescing into a moment of melody. These kind of strategies are familiar to me, and were well used here.

Though too much sound would have drowned it out, a little ambient background noise tended to fit into the piece nicely. Though I don't remember it during Persona, the quiet sound of (I'm guessing) the venue, St Andrew's', bells added to a couple of the works."

- Santiago's dead wasp blog in April 2014

On a concert by Dogstar Orchestra focused on animated scores by members of S.L.Á.T.U.R collective

“The Icelanders are into updating music based on flamboyant graphic notation, which was at the heart of much American and European avant-garde music in the ‘50s and '60s. […] The players followed the moving lines and spheres and other geometrical shapes in a variety of ways. It was fun to watch. It was more fun not to look at the screen and wonder about the sounds. […] each of the Icelandic composers had a fresh approach, kept it simple, strange and surprising — and short."

- Mark Swed, L.A. Times in June 2014

On Thranophones

Article on Thranophones in the Wired from 2012.


Lab it up! - Article by Haukur S. Magnússon in Reykjavík Grapevine on LornaLAB.


Um verk Magnúsar Pálssonar, Kúakyn í hættu - Grein í DV [Article in Icelandic].