Name: Halla Steinunn Stefánsdóttir
Occupation: Composer, violinist, curator, field recorder
Nationality: Icelandic
Recent release: Halla Steinunn Stefánsdóttir's strengur is out via Carrier.

If you enjoyed these thoughts by Halla Steinunn Stefánsdóttir and would like to find out more, visit her official website. She is also on Instagram, and twitter.

For a conversation with the mixing engineer and a collaborator on strengur, read our Valgeir Sigurðsson interview.

Halla Steinunn Stefánsdóttir: “My latest album, strengur, is built on dear collaborative relationships, where I had worked with composers on a row of solo pieces, namely Davíð Brynjar Franzson, Mirjam Tally, Kent Olofsson and Lương Huệ Trinh. I relish in those moments when humans gather for a project and the wildly complex dance begins, between humans, technologies and whatever other entities are at hand.

In my past work I have been inspired by many of my collaborators but also by ecological sound artists, or performers and sound artists that have brought their performative attunement outside of institutional realm such as The Landscape Quartet. Another great source of inspiration is the polyphonic approach of Kent Olofsson, found in his multi-channel work that is situated in a liminal space between music and theatre.

The processes for strengur were varied but often centred around an approach that started with sound material such as field recordings or archival material, which offered ‘shared listenings’ set to modulate pre-set approaches when it comes to work between composer and performer.

The approach I descri gave me the idea to ask if they were up for morphing their roles further and entering the role of performer. They graciously accepted this invite and improvised to a graphic score that I had created with the help of my old gut strings, ink and the wind. This is an introduction I wrote for strengur:

"I am sitting on an eroded concrete overlook. It is a sunny day. The air is nippy so the wind coming over the Öresund strait feels like gjóla. I have gathered stones and twigs and pinned down transparent sketching paper on top of the concrete. I pull out my old gut strings, they show me the wind direction and I tie one to a nearby railing, dip it in red ink and let go. The gjóla starts to play with the string, sending it across the paper. I sit on the cold ground and watch. Occasionally I swap the string or the paper, or re-dip the string in the inkpot. As the gjóla continues, red shapes appear. Patterns from the surface under the tracing paper emerge, made by stones encapsulated in the coarse cement, bird droppings and the lichen that lives on it."


The liveness of this was underlined through music videos and in the wake of it, my collaborators composed a third piece as an ending point for this creative journey.

On my end, I stretched the notion of ‘collaboration’ to the limit as through my solo work for myself I worked with archival recordings of my great-grandmother Halla Lovísa Loftsdóttir.

But it does not end there, for a big part of the creative process linked to working even further creatively with the album format itself.

One of the composers, Davíð Brynjar, runs the artist driven Carrier Records label in New York and it was through some stimulating discussions with him that we landed on the decision to only release this digitally and so the listener can approach it either as one long album of 2 hours and 20 minutes or as 5 albums. This gave each composer more agency as it meant that none of the works had to be adjusted or cut down to comply with traditions linked to physical products.

Last but not least, the project also allowed us to collaborate with Valgeir Sigurðsson on final mix and mastering, which is a process that continues to engage me creatively.“