in april 2002, óðin's raven magic was premiered at the barbican concert hall in london by the london sinfonietta and the choir known as the sixteen, the icelandic rock band sigur rós, the film music composer hilmar örn hilmarsson, and ... a chanting fisherman.
the 49-year old icelandic fisherman is called steindór andersen. lately he has been involved in various cross-cultural fertilization projects with the aim of bringing the special icelandic tradition of poetry reciting, "rimur chanting", to a wider audience. the strategy seems to be bearing fruit.
his pioneering collaboration with hilmarsson and the group sigur rós, resulting in tours in europe and the usa, has sparked off an unprecedented interest in this hitherto neglected musical form, far beyond the shores of the rocky island in the north atlantic ocean populated by just over 250,000 people.
at the same time, steindór andersen is preserving the 'bare bones' of the tradition so that others can draw inspiration or enjoyment from this simple yet subtle type of icelandic epic song, chanted or intoned in the specific style called "að kveða". the structure and content can be traced all the way back to the skaldic poetry of the viking age.
steindór has taught rimur chanting at seminars and workshops, and this combined with his frequent appearances on tv and radio has contributed to the revival of the tradition.
by his side he has hilmar örn hilmarsson, a man with both ears open to the international scene and the modern world. since the early 1980s, he has been a prominent player of jazz, avant-garde and electronic music on the icelandic stage.
the 44-year-old keyboard and percussion player has worked as a producer for a variety of artists, ranging from the death metal genre to blues and contemporary composition music, and has composed music for more than 20 feature films. in 1991 he was awarded the felix prize, a european equivalent of the american oscar, as european film composer of the year.
the efforts of these two men, combined with the transcendent, spacey and very original music of sigur rós, delivered by kjartan sveinsson, jón birgisson, georg hólm and orri pöll dyrason, have given óðin's raven magic that very special icelandic trademark that has become world famous thanks to the uniqueness of the singer björk.
it isn't rock. it isn't pop, jazz or classical. it's something else, something new and exciting - and at the same time something very old.