Research Seminar with Dr. Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen

We would like to welcome you all to a seminar with Dr. Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen who will give the talk: Music-making in a Northern Isle: Iceland and the “village” factor

The paper details a PhD project that was carried out under the supervision of Professor Simon Frith at the University of Edinburgh.

The research delved into the social dynamics of Icelandic musicians, making use of participant observation, in-depth interviews and the researcher’s career as a music journalist in his native country. A theoretical framework was built around a) the writings of sociologists Pierre Bourdieu and Howard Becker, b) theories on the difference between professional and amateur music making (with special emphasis on Canadian sociologist Robert A. Stebbins) and c) anthropologists Ruth Finnegan’s landmark study on the music life in Milton Keynes, in the book The Hidden Musicians – Music Making in an English Town. 

A grounded theory arose from the interview data, confirming that the ‘village’ factor in the construction of the small Icelandic society (pop. 340.000) both frees musicians up and constricts them. On a positive note, the factor makes for a noticeable lack in bureaucratic formalities in terms of general communication, cultural institutions, etc., underpinning vibrant and active scenes where musicians move freely between genres. On the negative side, these qualities and the small scale of most operations also stifles and suffocates aspiring musicians.

BIOMan with glasses smiling. Portrait. Photo.

Dr. Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen (b. 1974) is an Icelandic music journalist and scholar. Thoroddsen earned his Master’s Degree from the University of Edinburgh in 2013 and a PhD in 2019 from the same university, where he carried out a research on the social dynamics of Icelandic musicians under the supervision of Professor Simon Frith. He is now the director of the undergraduate media and communication studies programme at The University of Iceland (The Faculty of Social and Human Sciences), earning his B.A degree in sociology at the same university in 1999, with a thesis on The Simpsons. He's been writing professionally about music and popular culture since 1999, mainly for Morgunblaðið daily but his writings have also appeared in article collections and music sites abroad. He is the author of three books on Icelandic music with the fourth in the writing stage (will be published by the U.K. publisher Reaktion Books/The University of Chicago Press).

He has been a member of numerous jury panels and boards, both at home and abroad, and is also a regular commentator on music in television, radio and other media in his native Iceland.

Arnar has written extensively on Scandinavian music, especially about music from the Faroe Islands, and has been a member of the Nordic Music Prize jury since 2010. He has also presented his own radio shows and webisodes, DJ'ed, organized concert series and runs his own Reykjavik Music Walk company along with his wife. He also has his own website,

Published Apr. 16, 2020 9:14 AM - Last modified Aug. 3, 2021 12:11 PM