UC San Diego's Department of Music

June 07, 2012

  Composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir has won the Nordic Council's Music Prize 2012 for her work Dreaming, included on her new CD Rhizoma. The prize carries an award of DKK 350,000 (U.S. $59,353).

"It is such an honor to receive this award, and I am obviously very grateful," Thorvaldsdottir said. "In addition to the great honor, it is invaluable to receive such an award at this stage of my career. This allows me to be able to concentrate exclusively on writing music and to travel for major performances in the near future."

The prize places Thorvaldsdottir among an elite group. Past winners include Björk, Kaija Saariaho, and Magnus Lindberg. The Nordic Prize is the equivalent of the American Pulitzer Prize and is "awarded for a work of a living composer," according to the council's guidelines. "No 'genre' limitations have been set, but it is an assumption that the work meets high artistic standards, and that the work can be regarded as original within its genre.

"Dreaming opens the sphere of the symphony orchestra in an unusual and innovative way. With Dreaming Anna Thorvaldsdottir has written herself into a contemporary Nordic orchestra tradition which derives its timbres both from electronic music and from the sounds of nature inherent in Nordic folk music. The tones are carefully depicted - almost like small pieces of embroidery. But the work is perhaps particularly unique by the way it achieves to build and unfold a large form within a sound world that apparently stands still.

"The beginning and end of the work flow freely without time signature, creating a cyclic understanding of time invoking superstition and symbolism of nature that can be found in Nordic mythology. The music behaves like a shifting landscape, bringing an experience of chronological time to halt - like in dreams.

In the old Norse sagas dreams allow humans to enter into dialogue with nature. In dreams, other languages and other senses are valid. Dreams connect night and day, light and darkness, and it is in the vision of dreams that people learn about death. The music in Dreaming is sensual and calm, but it can also surprise and be powerful and brutal."

Anna is among several Icelandic composers who have earned composition degrees at UCSD and returned home to make major contributions to Iceland's Reykjavik-based music scene.

Anna will receive the award in Helsinki in November.

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