Album: Influence of buildings on musical tone (2018)
"There’s a particular kind of pleasure to be found in music created by composers who clearly need to share their own fascination with sound, not just as raw material to organise but as a ceaselessly intriguing sensory phenomenon. The work of Þráinn Hjálmarsson falls
into that category. The five pieces on his debut release are finely crafted and formally coherent. At the same time each seems to distill personal observations, to crystallise Hjálmarsson’s habitually acute and enthusiastic listening."
"This music is intimate and brittle. Busy, hobbling rhythms fray into creaks and whispers, groans and gusts coalesce in lean spectral melodies"
"...implies an obsessive nature, but it also encapsulates the rare level of attentiveness which Hjálmarsson brings to his encounters with sound and his readiness to share each revelation."
- Julian Cowley, The Wire
"Composer Þráinn Hjálmarsson’s latest CD, Influence of Buildings on Musical Tone, revels in the exploratory sound world of effects and extended techniques. That said, his work is more than an assemblage of alternative ways to treat instruments. Rather, the technical extensions serve to expand Hjálmarsson’s considerable palette of expression."
"Here, and elsewhere, Hjálmarsson’s Influence of Buildings on Music Tone demonstrates a judicious approach to the selection of material that is then most imaginatively deployed and developed. Recommended."
- Christian Carey, Sequenza 21
"A very exciting release from a composer new to me, Thrainn Hjalmarsson, from Iceland."
" 'Grisaille' finds the Icelandic Flute Ensemble (a dozen of them) navigating through a slowly swirling, misty world, the flutes creating gorgeous, otherworldly harmonies, breathed in and out in (very) rough unison, gradually splitting into higher and lower sections, gently seesawing. True to its title (a painting in gray tones), it remains in a single area and explores it wonderfully, a compelling work."
"my personal favorite, 'Lucid/Opaque', played by Nordic Affect, a violin/viola/cello trio. In and out breath is once more the structure, a three pulse phrase, very simple (but massive complex within the chords), low-high-low, iterated over and over with small shifts in individual duration, tone and attack throughout and occasionally punctuated by brief puffs. A sleeping dragon? Hjalmarsson again stays within a narrow territory but augments it and works it to a marvelous degree, every addition or new angle perfectly apt. It's an immensely moving piece.
"I'm very happy to have heard this, recommend it highly and can't wait to hear more"
- Brian Olewnick
"I consider myself lucky to have been sent a CD by the Icelandic composer Þráinn Hjálmarsson a couple of months back. It’s been a kind of antidote. I’ve been playing it once or twice a week to remind myself that there’s plenty of great music still being made, that works in ways I still can’t figure out.
There’s a sensitivity to the finer details of sound, but it never feels precious; just as the music avoids dynamic contrasts without ever lapsing into that clichéd reverential hush. Everything feels decisive and structured while remaining alive to unexpected details appearing at every moment."
- Ben Harper at "Boring like a drill - blog"
"These compositions are a sonic experience that is hard to put into words and oddly addicting.
His music is haunting, contemplative, and on the boundaries of what is possible with acoustic instruments, which makes it really fun to listen to. The path Þráinn is forging is uniquely his own, and it is exciting to guess where it might take him."
- Jarrett Goodchild at I care if you listen (.com)
"As sparse as the information of the exquisitely designed edition, so imaginative and compelling are its soundscapes, which are unmistakably due to the nature of the island and its mythical vibrations."
"[the album] documents a (hitherto ignored) naturalistic facet of Icelandic contemporary sound art.""
- Lutz Lelse at Neue Zeitschrift für Musik - April 2019
"It's not hard for me, thought-experimenting his [Hjalmarsson's] career arc, to see the future him as an updated John Luther Adams, bending orchestras to his will and using them to shake the earth over epic durations. I think some big decisions, or perhaps resolutions, lie in Hjálmarsson's future, and that he will develop a personal language that is more than just a command of the existing one. I certainly hope so, because this album is beautifully put together, and a jolt to these forms and functions that makes me stop and turn my head, no matter the listening setting, would be the difference between this lovely album and one that I would never stop playing.
- Ian Power at TEMPO Journal - Vol. 73, Issue 288, April 2019
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
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].