Sounding the Anthropocene from Iceland: Musical Style and the Geosocial. Environmental Lunchtime Discussion

Can musical aesthetics register the turbulence of living together with volcanoes? Tore Størvold talks about geosociality and the ecocritical analysis of Icelandic music.

 Map of Iceland, first published in 1570, showing the volcano Hekla

Detail from bishop Gudbrandur Thorlakson’s map of Iceland, first published in 1570, showing the volcano Hekla.

In Iceland, there is a tradition of thinking about musical style and affect in geological terms. From Jón Leif’s classic volcanic tone poem Hekla, to contemporary art music by composers Haukur Tómasson and Anna Þorvaldsdóttir, musical style and structure is discursively related to seismic activity. Recently, the album Kveikur (“Fuse”) by the post-rock band Sigur Rós connects volcanic imagery to visions of environmental apocalypse. 

In this talk, an analytic discussion of Sigur Rós’s music opens up a window into an Icelandic cultural history of inhabiting a risky Earth, captured in anthropologist Gísli Pálsson’s concept of “geosociality,” emerging from his ethnography among volcanoes. Geosociality allows for a “down to earth” perspective that accounts for the liveliness that humans often ascribe to non-living things. I apply this perspective to an ecocritical analysis of music, showing how musical aesthetics are registering the turbulence of living with volcanic environments.

Tore Størvold is doctoral research fellow at the Department of Musicology, University of Oslo. His research focuses on contemporary music in Iceland, as well as music and ecocriticism. He recently submitted his doctoral thesis with the title Dissonant Landscapes: Nature and the Musical Imagination of Iceland.

About the event

The OSEH Environmental Lunchtime Discussion series consists of short, 10-15 minute presentations by invited guests, followed by a discussion. We will invite speakers from a wide variety of fields, both academic and beyond. The presentations are accessible and are aimed at anyone with an interest in environmental issues. All are welcome, please feel free to bring your own lunch. Coffee will be served.

Tags: Environmental Humanities, HF, IKOS, OSEH, Climate Change, Environment, Climate Crisis
Published Nov. 8, 2019 11:26 AM - Last modified May 10, 2022 1:27 PM