New Release: Ólafur Arnalds’ “re:member”

Pulse, pattern, and expansive, ambient soundscapes blend into an intoxicating brew on re:member, an album released last August by Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds (b. 1986).

In an earlier post, we explored the similarities between the gradual, hypnotic inevitability of Arnalds’ looping patterns and the music of minimalist composers like Steve Reich. Here, Arnalds takes the leap into a brave new world of computer-influenced composition. The music of re:member was written using Stratus, a new software program the composer helped develop in which the notes played on a regular piano trigger an array of new notes played by two “self-playing, semi-generative player pianos.” The idea of music self-generated by algorithms may seem somewhat ominous considering the kind of utopian/dystopian (take your pick) future outlined in Ray Kurzweil’s 2005 book, The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. Yet, listening to this serenely atmospheric music, one senses that it is still ultimately guided by the composer.

The album’s eleventh track, ekki hugsa, is built on an infectious rhythmic groove. As with the endlessly-repeating chorus of a pop song, the music is always arriving, locking us into an ever-euphoric present moment. Listen to the way this underlying groove develops, gradually intensifies, and then evaporates- something akin to the visceral experience you might get on the techno dance floor.

Something similar happens in the album’s haunting tenth track, undir. As each new layer emerges and evolves, listen to the bubbling sense of rhythmic interplay:

Recordings

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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