When Bára Gísladóttir had her graduation concert from the Royal Danish Academy of Music in 2020, she marked the completion of her studies with the first performance of a monumental piece written for the vast acoustic of Grundtvig’s Church in Copenhagen. The work VÍDDIR is written for nine flutes, three percussion and acoustic and electric bass soloists with the acoustics of the building as an unnamed fifteenth performer.
Two and a half years later, VÍDDIR has ben performed several other places around the world and Bára Gísladóttir has been nominated for the Nordic Council Music Prize for the work. Now VÍDDIR is to be released as a digital album at Dacapo Records in a live recording from the festival Dark Music Days in Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavik.
A black night of a piece
VÍDDIR is an unbroken hour in length, again and again returning to its own dark light. The work opens with the five bass flautists screaming, ‘as strong as possible’, into their instruments. From the first sounds it is clear that VÍDDIR – "dimensions" in Icelandic – is a black night of a piece, in which Gísladóttir drags us into the deep abyss.
In the concert room the nine flutes are arranged in a halo around the audience, and in the centre, the two bassists form a dense, nucleus alongside the three percussionists. Gísladóttir herself is performing on the recording next to her long-term musical partner, renowned Icelandic bassist Skúli Sverrisson.
As sounds are made, they fade and bloom into the enormous resonance, making VÍDDIR a work that does not take place so much in the moment as in its aftermath, in its reverberations. While the music breathes in the room, Gísladóttir and Sverrisson fill the spaces with improvisation on a black background of sound.
Three giant tam-tams – ‘the biggest we can find’, asks the score – provide the shattering climax to an already shattering piece. Towards the end, a single bass flute surveys the wreckage, humming, howling and eventually sinking into the void.