The G-Man interview: Valgeir Sigurðsson

"I do love sounds."
Icelandic composer Valgeir Sigurðsson speaks to The G-Man ahead of Sunday's jaunt down Skibbereen way...

The below article was originally published in the 1st August 2013 edition of Cork's Evening Echo

"I do love sounds." From a man as sure-footed evoking the spirit of impending doom as he is conjuring childlike whimsy with his much sought-after ability as both producer and sound engineer, Icelandic composer Valgeir Sigurðsson's simple self-analysis sure sells his talented self short. Past collaborators Björk, Thom Yorke and CocoRosie may be more forthcoming on his almost mystical talents around the studio. He's not kidding concerning his passion for sounds though.

"I wish I had more time to collect them and organise into filing cabinets and drawers and boxes. For me sounds often trigger something primal and deeply emotional at the same time which is why I like to incorporate found sound or processed field recordings into my compositions. I've been interested in construction sounds and machinery lately."

Always the musical sprite in his homeland - Sigurðsson was running his own recording studio at just 17 years old before moving to London to earn his Tonmeister degree, which literally means "sound master" - his words warm upon recalling more innocent beginnings. "I started playing guitar when I was 9, and just played punk rock with my cousin in my grandmother's garage. Then I started writing my own songs and teaching myself piano and drum machines and all the recording equipment I could get my hands on."

Such garage-groomed gifts would attract the twinkling eye of Björk, who would call upon his talents in 1998 to help craft the soundtrack for Danish director Lars Von Trier's Dancer In The Dark. A beautiful audio adventure gleamed as if from the geysers of Iceland itself, the pinnacle of the piece, 'I've Seen It All' (a duet between Björk and Radiohead's Thom Yorke) would receive an Academy Award nomination for best original song.


Next up for Valgeir was the foundation of the Bedroom Community collective, an independent record label that nurtured and fed the then fledgling talents of Sam Amidon, Nico Muhly and Bedroom CommunityDaníel Bjarnason. The same creative window would provide the sunlight for Sigurðsson's solo work to blossom, with Architecture of Loss the latest flower to bloom forth from the Bedroom Community flowerpot. A blend of organic and synthetic sonic textures, the collection of pieces was originally commissioned for a ballet by a friend, choreographer Stephen Petronio, before being reworked into what can be heard on record now.

"I saw it come together in rehearsals, and I watched it through the corner of my eye during performance. Over a few runs I think I probably saw all of it. It was gorgeous to see the work come to life and to see how the movement was enhanced by music and vice versa. I realized this in rehearsals too but, when it was all realized together on the stage with costumes and lights, it was extra powerful. [Watching Stephen work] was like watching or listening to someone speak a foreign language that was expressed so well that even if you didn't understand a word the meaning of it was crystal clear."


By now immersed within a name-dropper's dream, Sigurðsson is charmingly coy when pressed to share studio stories of past link-ups with the likes of Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Feist and his Electric Picnic-headlining compatriot Björk, preferring instead to focus on current collaborations, such as the upcoming Skib performance with Irish viola player Liam Byrne. One being an Icelandic multi-instrumentalist composer, the other a teacher of Medieval and Renaissance Performance Practice at London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama the duo form an unlikely pairing, yet a partnership that Valgeir has been contemplating for quite some time.

"When I started performing Architecture of Loss live, separately from the dance I did some concerts with Nadia [Sirota - viola], and also with Shahzad [Ismaily - bass]. As it happens our schedules didn't always align so I thought it would be way more interesting to develop a slightly new version of the piece, and some other older pieces of mine with Liam whom I'd wanted to collaborate with for a while, since we got to know each other through totally non-musical channels a few years back. Liam and I have now worked up some new pieces that are hopefully going to develop into a new project which I'm super excited about."


For more on Valgeir Sigurðsson visit:


- Valgeir Sigurðsson plays Abbeystrewry Church on 4th August as part of Skibbereen Arts Festival 20136
- Tickets are priced at €20 and available on www.skibbereenartsfestival.com


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