Pre-Unsound interview with Hildur Guðnadóttir

It’s only 3 days left to the first Unsound 2014 concert. Opening concert – Hibernating Rattlesnakes – features two special collaborations: Australian experimental jazz trio The Necks together with Austria’s Radian and – what’s the most interesting for us at – Icelanders Skúli Sverrisson and Hildur Guðnadóttir with their special collaboration. But first we will hear Chris Abrahams of The Necks performing John Cage’s “Dream”. Right before all that will happen I’ve been talking to Hildur about her latest album Saman, collaboration with Skúli Sverrisson, Iceland and more. Here it is.

Hildur Gudnadottir live in Stockholm
Hildur Gudnadottir live in Stockholm

Hildur Guðnadóttir: I really like the festival, it´s very well curated and organised.

Bartek: It’s your third visit in Cracow, but you’ve played also in Katowice, Gdańsk and Poznań. So you had an opportunity to meet Polish audience. How do you associate Poland?

Hildur: So far my experience has been very good. Very attentive and nice audience.

Bartek: I have to say, that your previous artistic works are very impressive. Your own albums, collaborations with other musicians, music for theater, film, dance or performance. Which one of all these activities gives you more satisfaction?

Hildur: It is very important for me not to get stuck in a box or just one medium. Moving around mediums keeps me alive and excited. I am normally very absorbed by projects I work on, so one medium tends to hold my full attention for a little while, and then I move on.

Bartek: Do you feel like you’re fulfilled as an artist?

Hildur: I feel very lucky to be able to do and live from what I love. I have a lot of freedom, as I am mostly working by myself. My work has taken up a big chunk of my whole life, and I love that. At the same time, I feel like I have a lot more to say and a lot more to explore – so my work is far from done. I feel like I am just beginning. So I hope I never get fully fulfilled, because that sounds like the end of the line for me.

Bartek: This year you’ve released Saman, your fourth solo record. It’s very absorbing music, touching the deepest human emotions – the sphere of sacrum. What does this album mean to you?

Hildur: It is a very personal record. Mostly cello and voice and not much processing. It consists of a variety of material, some of which I have been working on for many years. It was important for me to release this material, to make way for the new things that are awakening. I think the next record will be quite different.

Bartek: The music you play is unusual mix of classical and experimental sounds, you meld your cello and your voice, but how much Iceland is in your music?

Hildur: Iceland is the place where I grew up, so it is inevitably in my blood. But I have not lived there for more than a decade, and I do not go back very often, so I think it does not have an immediate conscious influence on my impulses. On the contrary to what many people seem to think about my music, I am not writing about mountains and glaciers. But it seems to evoke that kind of imagery for a lot of people. I think that is a beautiful thing, as people should feel free to imagine what ever they want to music. So I try not to be too specific about my subjects, but to leave space for the audience to make their own.

Bartek: You play in different venues, not only concert halls but also unusual places. In Cracow you’ll play in synagogue. Do you find that kind of places as an additional source of inspiration?

Hildur: Venues have a huge influence on the performance! Both acoustically and physiologically. I think it´s nice to play in places where people have been praying for a long time, as the place already has a charged atmosphere of people connecting to something higher. I am not saying that because I am religious, but I like the feeling of people reaching out to something. Admitting that at they are not in charge of everything that goes on. So I look forward to seeing the synagogue!

Bartek: Unsound concerts are more like festival projects. Two bands or artists playing their special set together. You will play with Skúli Sverrisson. You’ve been collaborating with him since 2006 (Sería album), he’s also played on your latest solo album (Heim track). What is your idea for this concert? 

Hildur: We are very good friends and close collaborators, and we have played on almost all of each others records since 2006. But this is the first time we play live as a duet, even though we have been meaning to do that for ages. So we really look forward to coming!

We still haven´t finalised the setlist, but I imagine it will be a mix of things from both of us, new and older.

Bartek: Thank you Hildur once again for this interview and see you really soon in Cracow!


PS. In the meantime the concert has been moved to another venue – City Engineering Museum. So, Hildur and Skúli will not play in the synagogue, but I’m sure it will be also great!

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