Light After Dark

Text by Stephanie Peh
Photography by Pu the Owl

Ólafur Arnalds – Hægt, Kemur Ljósið 
…And They Have Escaped The Weight Of Darkness (2010)

Some types of music cannot be pinpointed or defined with words but have an underlying strength to inspire creativity that resides in the subconscious. Neoclassical musician Ólafur Arnalds’ work is a fine example of such music: mood-setters that fuel the imagination.

I conversed with the Icelandic musician while he was home in Reykjavík, where the weather is “never warm and never cold.” Ólafur grew up in Mosfellsbær, a small town with a family-style community. He attended music school when he was five and studied classical composition at the Iceland Academy of the Arts after high school. Although well-versed with multiple instruments, including the guitar, drums and ute, Ólafur mostly utilises the piano in his compositions, “The piano is like home. I feel most comfortable with the piano as it’s the instrument that I know best.” He particularly enjoys the sound of his home piano, a lucky treasure found in an antique shop, “I think the people who owned it didn’t know how good it was. Maybe someone died and they gave it to this antique store without realising that it was actually very precious.”

…And They Have Escaped The Weight Of Darkness, Ólafur’s latest album is also a phrase taken directly from an opening dialogue in the Hungarian movie, Werckmeister Harmóniák. It was the description of a solar eclipse that echoed his feelings for the new album, that there is always light after darkness. He wanted to create a positive album with an emotional journey, revolving around the co-existing feelings of sadness and hope. Like his previous albums, it was left slightly open-ended for the individual’s own interpretation, “I find one of the most interesting aspects of music is how people react differently to it.”

Read more in N˚2: Constant.