Skýjaflétta

Sólrún Sumarliðadóttir is usually found as part of Amiina, a former string quartet who have evolved into something so much more. They may struggle to shake off the Sigur Rós ties, following the bands’ recording and performing together a few years ago, but Amiina produce sonically sublime music all of their own. See recent release The Lighthouse Project as an example.

I was intrigued to see that Sólrún had decided to turn her hand to music for children. Originally produced as music to accompany a dance piece for young children, it’s about to be released as a standalone album, Skýjaflétta.

The best thing about it, in my opinion, is that it doesn’t sound like music for children. Actually, it’s music that children and adults can listen to together. This is somewhat unique, but still sounds delightful, and not that far from Amiina either. Sólrún told me more about it;

What does Skýjaflétta mean?

Well, the literal meaning would be “a braid made of clouds”. But it’s more about the combination of words that define each of the dance pieces that the music is composed for. One is called ‘Skýjaborg’ (cloud town/place) and the other ‘Fetta Bretta’, where one of the characters is called Flétta Bretta (‘Turny Braid’). I tried all sorts of combinations and wordplay with the titles and characters of the pieces, and ‘Skýjaflétta’ just appealed to me the most.

It’s written for a child’s dance piece, right? How did that come about?

The roots reach pretty far back actually. The choreographer of both pieces, Tinna Grétarsdóttir, is a childhood friend of mine—we first met in kindergarten when we were three years old. We had been talking about doing a project together for years, and then around the time we were both pregnant with our sons we started working on the first dance piece, which was premiered when our sons were around one year old. The second piece, Fetta Bretta, will be premiered in the National Theatre on November 9. Both pieces are basically modern dance pieces for really young children, from six months to about three years old.

It doesn’t sound like the usual children’s music—‘Vor,’ for example, sounds like Amiina to me. Would you agree?

Most of the instruments I used for Skýjaflétta we also use in Amiina, so it’s probably not so strange some of it sounds a bit similar.

Did your Amiina band mates help you out on this project?

Maggi, who is also my partner, did quite a bit of percussion for me and gave me feedback on the compositions, but otherwise I worked on this by myself. I play all the instruments on the album, except for the percussion done by Maggi. But of course the rest of the band has been there for moral support!

It’s really nice to have music that both children and adults can enjoy together. My two-year-old daughter and I enjoyed ‘Sumar’ together. Was this a concept you considered?

Yes, I deliberately set out to make music that wouldn’t just be “kids music”. For example, I decided early on to stick to instruments only and not include any singing, which I think may be a bit unusual for an album directed towards children. The reason for that is pretty simple—I’ve always been drawn more towards instrumental music and it comes much more natural to me than music combined with words. I also wanted to make something that would be an alternative to much of the children’s music around that is quite fast paced and high strung.

Will you be performing any of Skýjaflétta?

I haven’t planned to. As I mentioned I play all the instruments myself, so I would need to get a group together if it were to be performed live. As I see it, it’s supposed to be music that children can enjoy with their parents or other carers in the home or other intimate places. Music to spend some quiet time playing or creating something, or to dance to in the living room, or nap to.

What do your children think of Skýjaflétta?

My two-year-old son has been with me in this all the way, letting me know when the music doesn’t grab his attention! He came with me to most of the rehearsals for the first piece and has been following the progress of the second piece, so he’s been very much involved.

Do children in Iceland have music, or other creative arts, introduced to them at an early age?

Yes, I think they do, although it could be more, both in the education system and outside it. The amount of cultural events for children has been growing over the last few years. I think there’s an increased awareness and ambition here to make quality events and art for children, which I think is a very positive thing. I also have the feeling it is more diverse. Children make an amazing audience that should not be underestimated. When I come to performances of ‘Skýjaborg’ it never ceases to amaze me how those tiny little persons, some just six or seven months old become completely focused on this piece of modern dance that’s being performed for them.

What’s next for you, and Amiina?

The past few months have been really busy for Amiina, lots of different projects going on. In a few days were heading off to Paris to perform a live score to a 100-year-old French film. It’s an event curated by Yann Tiersen and is a celebration of the five Fantomas films that were made in 1913. We’re really looking forward to that! The day after we return we’re playing a short show at Iceland Airwaves.

The weekend after that (November 9) will be the premiere of Fetta Bretta [at the theater] and the release of Skýjaflétta. Then I’m hoping to be able to take a little break and spend lots of time with my family and friends.

Further details on Skýjaflétta.

Original article appeared on Iceland Review Online.

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