30 June and 1 July saw two premieres from Icelandic composer and producer Valgeir Sigurðsson at the Arctic Arts Festival in Harstad, Norway, where Sigurðsson is an associate artist.
30 June saw a unique new work from Sigurðsson: the nine-hour Sleep Concert in the Thon Arena. Audiences were reminded to “bring sleeping bag and sleeping pad” to a performance where they were encouraged to drift in and out of sleep to a meditative, somnambulant musical backdrop. The work for electronics is soothing and meditative in character, wrapping around the audience’s dreams and framing their late night or early morning thoughts.
The piece reflects a longstanding artistic preoccupation in Sigurðsson’s work with dreaming, sleepwalking, and mysteries of the nocturnal. His 70-minute music theatre work Wide Slumber for Lepidopterists, which premiered in 2014 at Reykjavik Arts Festival, is a meditation on the stages of sleep and the life cycle of lepidopterae (the study of moths and butterflies). Based on a text by Angela Rawlings, it has at its centre The Somnopterist and The Insomniac. 2014 also saw the premiere of another evocation of nocturnal moods and melancholy No Nights Dark Enough, a 30-minute work for chamber orchestra and electronics, performed by the City of London Sinfonia.
The festival saw another premiere from Sigurðsson on on 1 July. These Trying Times for wind band was performed by Lars Erik Gudim and the Norwegian Army Band. The 5-minute piece is vigorous and highly rhythmic, making extensive use of percussion in a thrilling concert opener. Last year’s festival saw the Scandinavian premiere of Cognitive Models, a 42-minute piece for string quartet and electronics from chamber ensemble MiNensemblet.