Icelandic Composer Writes Two Works for BUNMF, World Premieres in Brandon

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posted February 23, 2011

BRANDON, MB — World-acclaimed Icelandic composer Kjartan Ólafsson has been on the Brandon University (BU) campus this week for the 2012 New Music Festival (BUNMF), entitled “Music Gates of the Arctic”. He will be in attendance to hear the world premiere of two of his recent works in the Lorne Watson Recital this weekend.

A native of Reykjavik, Ólafsson is an Icelandic musicologist, composer and academic notable as the creator of the composing software CALMUS as well as an authority on artificial intelligence in classical music composition. Earlier in the week, Ólafsson gave a lecture to students and faculty members about his unique system of composition that uses algorithms.

On Friday evening, the BU New Music Ensemble (BUNME) will perform his chamber orchestra work “Ocean”, for winds, strings, guitar, pianos, percussion and electronics. Then Saturday evening, the artistic director of the BU New Music Festival, pianist Megumi Masaki and her School of Music colleague, clarinetist Catherine Wood will give the first performance of “In the Darkness of the Light”, another new Ólafsson work.

“BUNME and I are very honoured that Kjartan has written two new CALMUS works especially for BUNME and for Dr. Catherine Wood and me,” said Masaki. “Kjartan Ólafsson’s music and sound merges both the musical traditions of the past with artificial intelligence and technology of the present to create new music which reflects the diversity of artistic possibilities of the 21st century.”

Having a composer-in-residence — Ólafsson— presents an invaluable experience for the students, faculty members and audiences of the New Music Festival. Not only sharing his insights benefit those involved in the Festival, but his work as artistic director of new music festivals in his homeland is inspiring.

“Kjartan told me that his Dark Music Days on January 26-29, 2012 featured 21 concerts for all ages, over four days in the beautiful new hall in Reykjavik. More than ten per cent the population of Iceland (in excess of 4,000 people) attended these concerts! That is what I dream to achieve in Brandon,” said Masaki, who added that having the composer collaborate with her students has been an unparalleled opportunity.

Ólafsson wrote that his composition “In the Darkness of the Light” for clarinet, piano and electronics was “composed in the ‘darkest time period’ in Iceland, but at the same time the brightest time. The motives and object of the piece are expressing the ‘unseen and untouchable’ figures and waves of the darkness.” This work was specifically composed for the two Brandon University faculty members. When he created “Ocean”, a composition inspired by the Atlantic Ocean that surrounds Iceland, Ólafsson had the BUNME in mind.

“The student and the faculty are doing a great job on my music and really working hard to be able to give good performances in the concerts,” said Ólafsson, who is also a Professor of Composition and Theory at the Iceland Academy of the Arts. “I have always wanted to visit this part of Canada and this is interesting — a small festival within a university and produced by the faculty and the students with a great interest in new music. The interest here in Canada for music from Iceland and Icelandic culture is also valuable.”

The Brandon New Music Festival concerts, featuring music by Ólafsson and other Icelandic composers, will be held tonight, Friday, February 24 at 8 p.m. and on Saturday, February 25, in the Lorne Watson Recital Hall. Start time for all three concerts is 8 p.m.  All performances are open to the public and are free of charge.


For more information, please contact:

Joanne F. Villeneuve
Brandon University
270 – 18th Street
Brandon, MB R7A 6A9
Tel. 204-727-9762



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