Discover The Essence of Icelandic Music in the Film Tónlist
Pictures by Will Cook and Nick Miners
During my formative years in the 2000’s my fascination with Nordic music began, with this subsequently bleeding into a passion for Nordic culture in general. I became a walking cliche, you know, listening to Sigur Ros (like many, my first point of entry for Icelandic music) dreaming of imagined – and real – Icelandic scenery in my malleable head while being trapped in Home Counties suburban humdrum, wondering what the point in it all was. Escapism essentially.
Fast forward years later and I was fortunate enough to be afforded the opportunity to visit the country via Iceland Airwaves festival, with UK-based music and culture website the 405 where I reside as a Senior Editor. In our 2nd year at the festival myself and Nick Miners (a very skilled photographer and keen Iceland-phile) dabbled in some brief filming around some acts playing the festival; and this gave us the bug that we could perhaps with the 405 could do something more significant in this videography respect. Shortly after this I started working regularly with my film partner Stephen Bevan in creating music-based videos – whose Directorial talent and vision paved the way to create Tonlist (Stephen on directing duties for this doc, with myself producing).
We both held this joy for Icelandic music, but the story as to why we held this enjoyment is one that intrigued us most, and one that we wanted to explore through the medium of film; and thus began our narrative for Tonlist. We’d also heard that Iceland wasn’t a bad place to look at, so that helped a bit.
Other documentaries and film pieces exist of Iceland, music, and culture; but we felt none really delved into this explicit territory and forged strands as to why, and didn’t so much explore the community-based feel of the country in this manner.
We’re both fans of documentary as a genre, frequently harassing each other to watch docs (be it music-based or other) we had seen and thought of as a source of inspiration. It’s fair to say that for Tonlist Sigur Ros’ Heima was a reference point, amongst many more.
In preparation we searched for interesting stories – one such tale being Asgeir whose music most of you will be familiar with. Asgeir was born and raised in a tiny village in Northern Iceland of just 48 inhabitants, a place called Laugarbakki (one of three Icelandic words I’ve learnt how to pronounce properly – one of the other being “one with everything” for the hot dog stand, and also some other rude words).
So we took a road trip from Reykjavik four hours out of town; and the road trip itself was fantastical in itself, traversing through every geographical phenomena and weather you can imagine, like some bizarre dream, where the landscape transformsbefore your eyes every minute without realising how or why. The final destination was in the middle of nowhere, the fierce Nordic wind making the short journey from our hire car to the inside a severe battle.
In the village we met Asgier and his people, stopping off at a house to pick up some keys to open up the church on a hill. The prettiest, smallest church that you’ll ever have seen, almost as if it was created for a film set. Perfect, just perfect for what we were after in terms of visuals. And here we filmed a session with him and conducted an interview for the doc. We’d ideally like to have stayed around longer in this idyllic but savage environment, but as with much of the trip our schedule was incredibly tight, and had other shoots to conduct.
Over our time in the country we also took to the skies in a light aircraft – one of the most terrifying experiences I’ve ever had; holding onto dear life to my camera rig with the plane window wide-open at 9000 feet, as bitter arctic air blasted into my face is not the one. Totally worth it though.
We’re hoping that viewers of Tonlist will appreciate the visuals, and find the story of Icelandic music as intriguing as we always have. And we also hope to see you at one of the screenings; it will be premiered at Bíó Paradís in downtown Reykjavik during Iceland Airwaves Festival, on Wednesday 5th November at 14:00. A further screening takes place the day after on Thursday 6th November, also at 14:00, where all involved in the doc will be present.
The trailer for Tónlist
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