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Archive for the ‘Ólafur Arnalds’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ÓLAFUR ARNALDS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #177 (March 4, 2021).

Ólafur Arnalds is an Icelandic composer who creates (mostly) beautiful soothing songs.

I really enjoyed his previous Tiny Desk Concert where he displayed his high tech player piano gadget (used in one of these songs although it’s hard to tell).

He and his accompanying quartet (Geirþrúður Ása Guðjónsdóttir, Sigrún Harðardóttir and Karl James Pestka on violins; Unnur Jónsdóttir on cello) play four tracks.

The pensive set opens with an older tune, “Happiness Does Not Wait,” with Ólafur Arnalds seated at a short upright piano known as a Danish ‘pianette.’

“Happiness Does Not Wait” opens the set with a beautiful looping melody on the piano and gentle strings added on top.  Then the strings take over playing the piano melody and the backing melodies as Arnalds preps his next song.

The remaining three songs are form 2020’s, some kind of peace. 

For “Woven Song” he winds up an Edison “Fireside” cylinder phonograph which plays a haunting melody–a traditional Amazonian healing song sung by the late shaman Herlinda Agustin Fernandez.  He plays a complex piano melody on top of the song.  Then strings layer on top and then once again take over the melody as he stops playing and heads to his other piano.

He explains that in the tribe where Fernandez sings, they weave their melodies into cloth to write them down.

Then moving from the wax cylinder to his high tech Stratus music software.

Look closely at the piano toward the back of the studio during the tune “Spiral,” and you’ll see a piano playing seemingly without a performer. That piano is reacting to Ólafur Arnald’s real-time performance using algorithms he and his coder friend, Halldór Eldjárn, developed.

The song opens with the violin and then the rest of the strings flesh the song out while he begins the piano.  Then the instruments fall back leaving just one violin along with the piano for the end.

For the final song, he moves back to the first pianette to play “We Contain Multitudes” which has an otherworldly echoing quality to it.

It’s a lovely calming session.

[READ: March 21, 2021] Klawde: Evil Alien Cat 2

Book 2 picks up soon after the events of Book 1.  In other words, summer is over and it’s time for Raj to go to his new school.  The good news is that the friends he made at camp–Cedar and Steve–will be there.  The bad news is so will his enemies Scorpion and Newt.

In the introduction, Klawde explains that his name is not Klawde, it is Lord High Emperor Wyss-Kuzz, the Magnificent.  He says he hated the planet Earth when he was exiled here and he hates it even more now.

Raj is freaking out about school, but Klawde is not interested in his pathetic classes. Where is Battle Tactics?  The Art of Slash-and-Claw? The Art of Ambush?  And that made Klawde think–he will start his own school–a school for warriors.

Marciano wrote this book in 2019 but how crazily prescient was this.  Raj goes into his classroom but there is no teacher.  Instead a voice came from speakers

Now, y’all may think it’s weird to have a teacher on a screen, but it’s part of a new wave in education… remote instruction! [And] no you cannot do whatever you want… I may be sitting down here in Alabama, but … I have a split screen monitor right here with every student’s face on it.

Spooky! (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKÓLAFUR ARNALDS-Tiny Desk Concert #767 (July 19, 2018).

Arnalds plays four songs in this Tiny Desk.  For most of them he uses his prepared piano.  But it’s prepared in a very different way.

“Árbakkinn” opens with Arnalds on the piano.  After about a minute, three of the four strings (Unnur Jónsdóttir (cello), Katie Hyun (violin), Karl James Pestka (viola)), enter the song followed shortly by Viktor Arnason on lead violin playing a haunting melody over the top.

Up next is “Unfold,” which is a bit happier a bit poppier.  It starts with pizzicato strings and has percussion by Manu Delago.   Arnalds at the electronic keyboard but when he plays it, the two pianos behind him start playing.  I’ll let the blurb fill in:

Somewhere about midway through this Tiny Desk, as Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds performed on his electronic keyboard, two upright pianos were playing lilting melodies behind him, absent any performer at the keys. …  About ten minutes into the performance Ólafur looked behind him at the two pianos, looked to the NPR crowd and said, “well I guess you’re all wondering ‘what and why,’ to which there’s no easy answer.” He hit the keys on his electronic keyboard and the two pianos behind responded with cascading, raindrop-like notes. “What I can say,” he continued, “is that I’ve spent two years and all of my money on this — to make my pianos go bleep-bloop.” What Ólafur was referring to is software that he and his coder friend, Halldór Eldjárn developed. A computer, loaded with this musical software (which Ólafur calls the Stratus system), “listens” to Ólafur’s keyboard performance and responds by creating patterns that are musically in tune with the chord or notes Ólafur performed.

So why do this? Basically, it’s a way to break out of the box musicians often fall back on as performers — the familiar responses that years of playing can reinforce. With that is the hope that the computer will create a response that is unfamiliar and, in some cases through speed of performance and the sheer number of notes played, impossible for a human to have made. So, it breathes new life into the music for the listener and the performer.

Arnalds can play the pianos while they are being remotely controlled as well, as he plinked out piano melodies while the computer was playing those raindrop notes.  The end of the song has a very interesting electronic tympani sound as well.

As the second song fades, “Saman” begins with Arnalds back at the piano to play this beautiful and haunting solo piano melody.

“Doria” is a tribute to Halldór Eldjárn the creator of the programming “and his beautiful code.” It was the first song he wrote using this new technology.  Arnalds plays the beginning on the keyboard while the other pianos play along.  The strings accompany him and then about half way through, while the pianos are continuing to play, he jumps in the middle and plays the main melody on one of the pianos.  It’s really quite lovely.

It was a gently stunning and memorable Tiny Desk. More of these creations can be heard on Ólafur Arnalds’ brilliant, fourth solo album re: member.

[READ: January 31, 2018] “Colin Kelly’s Kids”

This story was written after Elkin had a heart attack (he lived for almost 30 years after the heart attack).

The tale is basically one of an old man playing pickup baseball.  It had been a superb spring. This had been his fifth week playing and the teams (rotating payers every week) seemed to get used to him.  He wasn’t very good–had a lot of power but couldn’t connect.

But they did allow him to play first. He always played first whatever the teams, so he felt coldly like he was being traded to a new team each week–professional. (more…)

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