Composer, guitarist, harpsichordist, performer on the chumbuz and langspil, as well as music conceptualist Guðmundur Steinn Gunnarsson is from Reykjavik, Iceland. His background includes time studying composition at Mills College with forward thinkers Alvin Curran, Fred Frith and John Bischoff, as well as time studying in Iceland with Atli Ingólfsson and numerous other Icelandic composers. He has also participated in masterclasses with Helmut Lachenmann, Tristan Murail, Clarence Barlow and the music conceptualist/philosopher Pauline Oliveros.
Gunnarsson's music has been performed by Ensemble Adapter (DE), l'Arsenale (IT), Defun (FI), Njútón (IS), Arteriol (NO), Quartet Opabinia (US), Zapolski Quartet (DK), Duo Harpverk (IS), Shayna Dunkelmann and Tinna Þorsteinsdóttir, as well as in festivals such as MATA (US), Time of Music (FI), Thingamajigs Festival (US), Reno Interdisciplinary Arts Festival (US), Frum (IS), Dark Music Days (IS), Nordic Music Days (2009 and 2010), Ung Nordisk Musik and venues such as The Stone (US), Empty Bottle (US), Literaturhaus (DK), Wendel (DE), Skånes konstforretning (SE), Stanford and Princeton Universities (US). Gunnersson is a founding member of the S.L.Á.T.U.R. experimental composers collective in Iceland. Gunnarsson is winner of the National Radio of Iceland Composition Prize for the 80th anniversary celebration of the institution.
The music on this disc comprises only two tracks on which the six musicians all play single line plucked notes on instruments like harpsichords, ukuleles, non-amplified guitars, pianos, the koto, etc. The concept behind the music is a new rhythmic foundation where the rhythms are meted out so as to reflect traditional Icelandic prosody, a concept that does not fit neatly into standard notation. As such, the performers follow highly specific instructions that flow across a computer screen. In order to perform this highly complex music Gunnarsson enlisted the talents of a number of 20th and 21st century contemporary musicians such as Charity Chan, Kanoko Nishi, Robert Reynisson, Nicole Reisnour, and Kyomitsu Odai.
Just because music contains improvisation does not make it jazz. Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Mendelssohn were known as great improvisers in their day and they certainly did not play what we would call jazz. While this music does have a number of elements of improvisation within it, it is more properly classified as contemporary avant-garde 21st century compositional music.
When one listens to Bjork one necessarily enters a musical world different, yet related, to the one encompassed by Western music. The same can be said of the music of Bartok. That is true here as well. With overtones of compositional style that reflect Philip Glass during his 1983 "Koyaanisqatsi," Life Out Of Balance period, Gunnarsson's music is not something one listens to casually. Neither tonal nor modal, the music is still organized around harmonic principals.
To most this will sound like music for transcendental meditation, but what it really is is the new in contemporary classical composition.