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Interview with Anna Thorvaldsdottir

Contemporaneous is very excited to perform Anna Thorvaldsdottir's gorgeous work Streaming Arhythmia on our February 11 and 12, 2016 program, Laws of Nature. We caught her in Reykjavík, fresh off from traveling, to answer a few questions.

What were some of the inspirations that went into this work?

The notions of tranquility and disruption are the foundation of Streaming Arhythmia — the piece is fundamentally constructed out of a balance between these two elements, as they change their level of presence and significance throughout the piece. These ideas are emphasized by various means, through use of pitch, effects (extended techniques), rhythm, flow, and time, as well as the set-up of the instruments. The piece also plays with the perception of time and meter as the conductor is instructed not to conduct at certain moments. This is a way to try to eliminate the sense of structured time, to allow it to flow freely in time and space.

In his landmark article on your orchestral music, scholar Stephen Long described Streaming Arhythmia as an "early breakthrough." What role to you feel this piece plays in the trajectory of your work up to and since you wrote it?

It is always difficult to map out one's own trajectory — at least it is for me. I have a special passion for writing for large ensembles and orchestras, which relates in a special way to how I think about and experience music. I wrote Streaming Arhythmia in 2007 and was thinking a lot about form and textures. So one of the things I was working with, for example, was to give the music a dramatic rise early on in the work and then writing a "new beginning" so to say. This rise became a percussion duo that rises from the textural materials of the other instruments which then peaks and brings "the new beginning" with a calm harmony.

Also, along with a part of my orchestra work Dreaming, a part of Streaming Arhythmia includes certain elements relating to conducting and the perception of time in live music.

What are your most exciting current projects?

I am currently finishing writing a piece for The Crossing choir and ICE to be premiered this June, and starting to work on two new pieces, one for Ensemble Intercontemporain and an orchestra piece for the New York Philharmonic.