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There Must Be Something in the Water in Iceland
October 13, 2013 8:21 PM   Subscribe

Icelandic band Árstíðir sings the hymn "Heyr himna smiður" a capella in a German train station, to beautiful effect.

The classic Icelandic hymn "Heyr, himna smiður" ("Hear, Heavenly Creator") was written by Kolbeinn Tumason in 1208 and the music was composed by Þorkell Sigurbjörnsson (1938-2013, one of Iceland's foremost composers in the 20th Century) in the 1970s.

Árstíðir are an Icelandic indie folk band, who have released three albums to date. Here is another non-train station version of the hymn as sung by the band.
posted by yasaman (31 comments total) 61 users marked this as a favorite

 
The train station version gave me chills. Love the acoustics. Almost haunting.
posted by xedrik at 8:42 PM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow that is beautiful. The world needs more hymns in general. With or without the religion I find traditional devotional music to be so moving.
posted by Carillon at 8:43 PM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


They are both appreciative of all the attention, and generous to their fans.
posted by datawrangler at 8:53 PM on October 13, 2013


I love the people in the background who appear to stop dead in their tracks when they walk into the station. Me, too.
posted by not_the_water at 9:17 PM on October 13, 2013


What's in the water in Iceland that produces such beautiful male falsettos?
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:21 PM on October 13, 2013


ugh, is it Iceland Airwaves time yet??????
posted by dogwalker at 9:23 PM on October 13, 2013


Wow. That about sent me into spinal shivers. Nice share.
posted by Samizdata at 9:24 PM on October 13, 2013


What is a ‘Gothic’ acoustic? Something you may never hear quite the same way again.
posted by cenoxo at 9:28 PM on October 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


This made my night.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 10:04 PM on October 13, 2013


Frankfurt?
posted by ethnomethodologist at 10:14 PM on October 13, 2013


Just outside their venue in Wuppertal, according to the youtube video. Maybe they should have just done their concert in there rather than at the venue, the acoustics were stunning.
posted by yasaman at 10:18 PM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Unbelievably gorgeous. Is it really American of me to say that they sounded otherworldly? Because they honestly did.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:25 PM on October 13, 2013


As if I needed another reason to love Iceland. Just beautiful.
posted by EnterTheStory at 10:38 PM on October 13, 2013


Just saw this on tumblr.
I've been having really bad back spasms all day.
They stopped while I listened to this. Utterly enthralling. And haunting. You don't have to know the words to understand the lament of the music. Which is really interesting since it was written in the 1970's. I do love that part of it, though. The music taking something historic and making it even more engaging. Also, the harmonies and resolves and constant dissonant progressions with the resonance and echo, with the background noise on top, making it a totally unique recording and performance. That made it transcendental. More of this, universe. This is where the intersection of science (acoustics, physics, etc) and humanity (music and performance) make me wish I had done that double major in physics and music performance.
posted by daq at 10:53 PM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


So good. What a great surprise for those unsuspecting people.
posted by a halcyon day at 11:18 PM on October 13, 2013


I was in Reykjavik this summer, but our very active toddler prevented us sitting in on any choir practices in Hallgrímskirkja. Seems like we should have made an extra effort...
posted by Harald74 at 11:20 PM on October 13, 2013


My words have been stolen from me. Wow.
posted by Chutzler at 11:34 PM on October 13, 2013


What's in the water in Iceland?

Sulfur.

Is it really American of me to say that they sounded otherworldly?

No. Icelandic sounds like Klingon even to other Scandinavians.
posted by three blind mice at 1:29 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Truly wonderful.
posted by milkwood at 1:44 AM on October 14, 2013


yasaman: ""Heyr, himna smiður" ("Hear, Heavenly Creator")"

As an amusing aside, "smiður", here "creator", literally means "(black)smith". As if Icelandic needed to be any more quaint.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 3:40 AM on October 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


Wonderful!
posted by carter at 4:47 AM on October 14, 2013


Also, I just learned that one in ten Icelanders will publish a book in their lifetime. Even if that's accurate within an order of magnitude...wow.
posted by nosila at 6:17 AM on October 14, 2013


That's not even remotely close to true. I have no idea where the BBC got their figure. I'd believe 1% (including all types of books) but I can't figure out where the BBC got the idea of one in ten.
posted by Kattullus at 6:47 AM on October 14, 2013


As an amusing aside, "smiður", here "creator", literally means "(black)smith". As if Icelandic needed to be any more quaint.

Seems appropriate for an island sitting on top of a bunch of volcanoes.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 7:32 AM on October 14, 2013


Their other stuff sounds like Great Big Sea and Loreena McKennitt had an orgy on a pile of violins. I love it.
posted by jph at 7:36 AM on October 14, 2013


You just know that if this had happened here in America, some self-righteous rent-a-cop (or a real one) would have stopped them in the first ten seconds and forced them to be on their way. Too bad...the world needs a lot more of this type of behavior.

That being said: stunning, marvelous, bravo, etc. etc.etc.
posted by Quasimike at 9:22 AM on October 14, 2013


So, an amplifier is a Gothic cathedral in a box.
posted by stbalbach at 9:31 AM on October 14, 2013


WoW!

Amazing voices. I'd have missed a train to hear that.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:21 PM on October 14, 2013


Some friends tracked down where that 1 in 10 nonsense comes from. The Guardian said in 2008: "On a recent trip there I discovered the average Icelander reads four books per year, while one in ten will publish something in their lifetime."

This presumably comes from Victoria Clark's book The Far-Farers: A Journey from Viking Iceland to Crusader Jerusalem which was published in 2004. The relevant bit (from a chapter about the Icelandic phallological museum, which is totally a real thing and not something I just made up) is this here: "There was something quick and merry, a little sly but lively about many of these Icelanders, whose country is so dark for most of the year that they are forced to spend long hours inside writing books - one in ten Icelanders is an author - or collecting penises, or sitting in their capital's cosily candlelit cafés, talking and smoking and laughing."

The Icelandic words "skáld" and "rithöfundur" can mean both poet and author, with the former being more 'poet' and the latter more 'author.' Neither necessarily means that the person is published (though "rithöfundur" is more often used for published authors than not, but not necessarily). So what the person speaking to Clark probably intended to say was that one in ten Icelanders write something, fiction, poetry, articles on whatever (which I'll believe and is probably true of most of the world, the developed part anyway) but Clark understood it in such a way that one in ten Icelanders writes books.
posted by Kattullus at 8:30 AM on October 15, 2013


There's even a word in Icelandic, "skúffuskáld" (drawer poet), for someone who writes and never shows it to anyone. The idea being that they put it in their desk drawer.
posted by Kattullus at 8:36 AM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


What's in the water in Iceland that produces such beautiful male falsettos?

This is actually a good question. I would say the highest voices in this video are not countertenors but high tenors with a good head-voice.

Iceland does produce excellent voices. There were a fair few Icelandic singers at the music colleges I attended. According to them, in Iceland the majority of male singers are tenors: a contrast with much of Europe and North America, where most men are baritones.
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:19 PM on October 15, 2013


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