Colin Levin

Torsdag (Thursday), 10:30–11:00, H104 (Hörsalen)

Affiliering (affiliation): Long Island University: Brooklyn, USA


The Setting of Comedic Topics found Within Icelandic Art Song
(Including song performances)

The Icelandic art song tradition pointedly emerged in the late nineteenth century in how it diverged from the compositional trends in the other Nordic countries: Icelandic composers responded to the idiomatic qualities of their language incomparable to the other major art song traditions who similarly assimilate the vernacular of folk traditions. The specific traits of the phonetic sounds of the Icelandic language, especially in connection with the oral accounts of the history and folklore, shaped the vocal literature tradition. Icelandic humor subsequently finds itself incorporating material that is purely Icelandic, including themes found within the Sagas, as well as topics that are more universally understood.

Karl O. Runólfsson adapted Davíð Stefánsson’s poem Nirfillinn, featuring a character similar to Loki, with a musical setting displaying word painting to emulate the greed of the god. Of special interest are songs that incorporate foreign musical material merging with Icelandic texts. In Maður hefur nú, Gunnar Reynir Sveinsson writes the jazz lyrics “doo-bee-doo-bee-doo” transcribed into the phonetic Icelandic “dú bí dú bí dú” in a melody that imitates scat singing. Jórunn Viðar‘s setting of Steinn Steinarr’s poem Vort líf (Til minningar um misheppnaðan tónsnilling) resembles a mediocre late nineteenth century Viennese waltz, emulating the poor compositional skill of the composer featured in the poem. A final category includes compositions that hold universal appeal, such as purposefully silly material and the oft used comedic punchline. Atli Heimir Sveinsson’s song Tengdamæðurnar focuses on the complications of the relationship between a mother-in-law and her son-in-law, similar in scope to the genre of the traditional Opera Buffa patter song. The text of Hildigunnur Rúnarsdóttir’s Haraldur Kjúklingur unfolds like a children´s story, with the bright future of a young chicken, until we learn he is to be eaten with french fries.

As the extensive repertory of Icelandic art song warrants integrating further into the greater microcosm of the principal Nordic vocal literature, dissemination of humorous topics will aid in this objective.

Program for Performance Portion of the Lecture Recital:

  • Hildigunnur Rúnarsdóttir (1964-) - Haraldur Kjúklingur
  • Atli Heimir Sveinsson (1938-2019) -Tengdamæðurnar
  • Gunnar Reynir Sveinsson (1938-2008) Maður hefur nú
  • Karl O. Runólfsson (1900-1970) – Nirfillinn
  • Jórunn Viðar (1918-2017) - Vort líf (Til minningar um misheppnaðan tónsnilling)


Om (about):

Dr. Colin Levin is a Nordic Song specialist, with an extensive background in the repertoire and lyric diction of Icelandic art song, especially promoting the works of Jórunn Viðar (1918-2017).

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