C California Style

Reykjavík Rising

by C California Style

Chill out at the LA Phil

This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of C Magazine.



SIGUR RÓS will perform with the LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC orchestra. PHOTO: Sigur Rós: Tomaas/Art: Januz Miralles.

It all started nearly five years ago, when the Los Angeles Philharmonic invited young Icelandic composer Daníel Bjarnason to debut his “Bow to String” composition for the orchestra’s Green Umbrella series, which focuses on cutting-edge music. When Bjarnason delivered, the powers that be were stunned. “It was so malleable and unique,” marvels Chad Smith, COO of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association. The two got to talking and soon Bjarnason introduced Smith to other members of his interconnected, highly collaborative musical world in Reykjavík—where people were crafting works that defy categorization, blending pop, electronic, world, symphonic, classical and choral elements.


Multi-instrumental Icelandic electronic band MÚM opens the festival on April 7. PHOTO: David R. Marotta.

Fast-forward to today, and the philharmonic is devoting eight days to the supremely new sounds emerging from a city of only about 200,000. L.A. Phil Conductor Laureate Esa-Pekka Salonen dove into the festival project with Bjarnason, curating an array of programming anchored around post-rock group Sigur Rós—slated for three concerts with the full orchestra—plus artists such as múm, an ensemble that uses traditional and unconventional instruments mixed with electronic effects, and experimental dj. flugvél og geimskip (Airplane & Spaceship), as well as the U.S. premieres of a new Bjarnason piece and a cello concerto by Páll Ragnar Pálsson. In order to make the experience completely immersive, L.A. Phil also invited the visual artist Shoplifter, who creates fantastical fiber sculptures out of hair, and Siggi Eggertsson, known for digital yet tribal-influenced drawings, to install in BP Hall and contribute to the festival’s graphic design, respectively. “The hope is that even if you come to only one event you will feel like you are part of something bigger,” Smith explains, adding, “At certain times in musical history, there’s this hotbed of activity; that’s what’s happening in Reykjavík.” April 1-17; Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., L.A., 323-850-2000; laphil.org


SHOPLIFTER with her medium of choice: hair. PHOTO: Magnus Unnar.