How Iceland became a pop powerhouse

The flourishing of musical life in Iceland is often talked about, but one of the main reasons for it is often overlooked. It shouldn’t be, though. When you listen to and watch an outfit such as Sigur Rós, you’ll notice that many of the techniques associated with the band and their lead singer, Jónsi, such as using a bow on his guitar, or the use of different singing registers, relate to his education in classical music and, more importantly, to the willingness to employ classical techniques in a rock context.

But Jónsi isn’t simply a classical musician who decided he’d make more money making rock music. As an Icelander, the tightly controlled divisions between “classical” and “popular” musics that, certainly in the last century, we have grown within most of Europe, have never really applied. Indeed, I think pretty much every classical musician I’ve met there plays in a rock band of some kind too.

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Ice and fire: the classical music scene in Iceland

Iceland’s composers and musicians are busy breaking down the barriers between classical and popular genres. And now they have a spanking new concert hall to experiment in

The flourishing of musical life in Iceland is often talked about, but one of the main reasons for it is often overlooked. It shouldn’t be, though. When you listen to and watch an outfit such as Sigur Rós, you’ll notice that many of the techniques associated with the band and their lead singer, Jónsi, such as using a bow on his guitar, or the use of different singing registers, relate to his education in classical music and, more importantly, to the willingness to employ classical techniques in a rock context.

But Jónsi isn’t simply a classical musician who decided he’d make more money making rock music. As an Icelander, the tightly controlled divisions between “classical” and “popular” musics that, certainly in the last century, we have grown within most of Europe, have never really applied. Indeed, I think pretty much every classical musician I’ve met there plays in a rock band of some kind too.

Continue reading…

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