Voices of the Composers: Anna Thorvaldsdottir

Gabriel Garcia Marquez said, “All human beings have three lives: public, private, and secret." I am fascinated by the implications – that, if taken literally, we actually live an entire world that no one else experiences; it’s ours, for better or worse, with all its desires and darkness, ironies, humor, and fantasies. I find it’s true, and it goes hand in hand with Dostoyevsky’s axiom, “Much unhappiness  has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid."

In my secret life, Christmas is an ascetic experience – I am alone, in the woods, with the space to contemplate how awesome the universe is and to be grateful for the lives that have touched mine. There are no decorations; snow falling on fir trees cannot be surpassed. There are no gifts; the space to think is gift enough. I crave this kind of discipline and austerity; the more we take away, the more that is revealed.

And, thus, my gravitation to Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s music.  I was introduced to Anna’s music by Claire Chase. ICE loves her music; its performance of her In the Light of Air (all of it, but especially Existence) is a great introduction – barren and haunting, yet extremely intimate and personal.  It is a unique compositional voice and, while it may seem cliché to "hear" the frozen landscapes of her Icelandic home in her music (which opens the rather profound subject of music's ability to depict anything), there is a certain space and a sense of aloneness that seems to run through her music; it’s impossible not to respond to the clarity and restraint in her music. We sang two of her hymns last December and the music fit as if written for us.

The video was filmed in the simple grace of her writing studio and that aesthetic - simple grace - could easily describe her thoughts as well, finding love and humility in the knees.

A Christmas gift from Iceland.