An Icelandic Masterpiece

What is it about Iceland that produces so many vital musical artists? Does the land that produced acts like Bjork, The Sugarcubes, Mum, and Sigur Ros have something special to it? Answering these questions is the mission of Ari Alexander and Ergis Magnussen in the musical documentary “Screaming Masterpiece”. The film traces the musical history of Iceland from its ancient poetry, and old music handed down from the medieval times, to the vital independent music scene currently being exported around the world. While the entire work is brilliant, for me the real treasure from listening to the soundtrack is the peek into pre-Christian musical culture that the compilation provides.

R?mur singer Steind?r Andersen.

The documentary features famous Rimur singer Steind?r Andersen along with music and film composer Hilmar ?rn Hilmarsson who is also Allsherjargodi (High Priest) of the Icelandic Asatru Association. Both of these men, by tapping into the rich (pre-Christian) poetic history of their country, have been hugely influential on the modern music scene in Iceland. Included on the CD is a collaboration between Anderson, Hilmarsson, pop band Sigur Ros, and the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra entitled “Odin’s Raven Magic”, that shows a dynamic melding of the ancient and the modern.

The documentary is being released on DVD soon (April in the UK, though no listing on the US Amazon yet). This is a marvelous opportunity to witness how a culture can embrace its past in a vital way while still pressing forward with a dynamic and challenging creative culture. Be sure to get an advance taste of the film from the trailers; it makes me want to go there and see it all for myself.