Grapevine Airwaves 2012

November 5, 2012

The Bear, The Wolf, And The Unveiling of Sigur Rós

alisa-kalyanova-1415

Music Overview

  • Artists: Sigur Rós
  • Venue:  Laugardalshöllin
  • Time:  Sunday, 4 November 2012
  • The Good:  Brennisteinn!
  • The Bad:  No signal.
  • Reviewed by: a.rawlings
  • Photo: Sigurrós by Alísa Kalyanova

Once in autumn-nighttime, a bear and a wolf strode through a forest. As they walked, bear heard music so beautiful that she said: “Sister wolf, what bird is it that sings so well?”

“It’s not a bird at all; that is Sigur Rós,” said the wolf.

“If that’s the case,” said the bear, “I should very much like to see Sigur Rós in concert; come, take me to them.”

“That is not done quite as you seem to think,” said the wolf. “You must wait until Sigur Rós is ready to be revealed to you.”

Bear and wolf then entered a forest clearing known as The Museum of Unveiling (also known as Laugardalshöllin), and waited until out of the murk shone the carnival tinker of “Lagið í gær.” Beyond a lightning flash timed with the entry of Sigur Rós, the woods shifted sunlight through branches.

Then Sigur Rós played “Vaka” for bear and wolf and all other gathering woodland creatures. In The Museum of Unveiling’s red light, Sigur Rós constructed a sensory extravaganza. Within its embrace, its (), The Museum towered projections of live video, music video, and the film art of Inga and Lilja Birgisdóttir– cast on three stage-hugging scrims backlit by cyclorama. As “Vaka”’s piano lingered, fireflies illuminated what remained beyond the shadow-world.

Bear fidgeted in the packed clearing, and then pushed through the crowd of woodland creatures to stand nearer Sigur Rós. To her wonder, bear saw Sigur Rós was a giant cocoon of light and smoke. Sharp, incisive percussion swelled as the cocoon pulsed fertile and green for “Ný batteri.” And then, quite suddenly, the cocoon collapsed its scrim to reveal many humans with busy hands.

“What have you done with Sigur Rós,” growled the bear at the humans, “and who are you?”

When the humans heard that, the band demured: “We are Sigur Rós, and we shall play a song to prove it to you!” With that, Sigur Rós (for it was indeed them) conjured the universe to roil, its fire juxtaposed with the submarine sonar of “Svefn-g-englar.”

The bear grew uneasy, and ran to her den. Sigur Rós, however, continued to howl and careen, and through the keening of “Sæglópur” they said, “Now we will conjure útburður! We will plunge our fever into Barnafoss and we will purge our fervor, for the bear has been here and has mistaken us!”

Then the wolf thought I will solve this! and loped to the bear’s den, and called in, “Sister, why have you mistaken my friends for a cocoon? You shall suffer for it; I will challenge you to a debate.”

Hearing the wolf’s distant debate howl, Sigur Rós paused “Viðrar vel til loftárása” mid-song to encourage the hoots and yelps of unseen creatures in a shadow forest preparing for dialogue.

Thus intellectual discourse was announced as bear and wolf returned to the clearing, and all four-footed animals were summoned to witness it— horses, sheep, cows, reindeer, and every other introduced species in Iceland. Sigur Rós summoned everything that flew in the air through the sweet sting of strings in “Hoppípolla” and “Með blóðnasir”— not only birds large and small, but midges and bees and flies, too.

Then a flute in Sigur Rós’ “Olsen Olsen” sounded the commencement of the debate.

“It is my duty to open this debate as the wolf who has called for it,” declared the wolf. “Now, bear has mistaken Sigur Rós for a cocoon. In fact, Sigur Rós co-constructed a performance of video, lighting, and musical excellence– starting behind a stage-masking scrim. The cocoon you mistook for Sigur Rós was but part of the dramatic three-song introduction to their set.”

As long grass and sedge whispered through “Glósóli”’s landscape, the wolf continued. “Granted, audience patience can be tested when visual contact is withheld for three songs. One might even feel worry that the concert will be entirely sound and projection, with nary a possibility to confirm whether the band is playing live. If worried, the sudden exposure of the humans behind the curtain could disorient a bear. If fear and surprise equal anger, then by no rational judgment could the set have appeared to anyone in attendance as an actual sound-producing cocoon. Bear, how do you respond?”

Bear cleared her throat and said, “I concur.”

Upon hearing that, Jónsi of Sigur Rós filled his voice with all the stars and nebulae in the sky, until it wavered on and off pitch to signal the coming “Festival.” The woodland creatures erupted in rabid cheer, while wolf sat dumbfounded, and then, increased in agitation. “But… but… But was that then a debate?” mooned the wolf. “Where is your opening statement? Where is your scathing response? Are you not prepared to best me in this, sister? Shall I be declared the winner outright? Should we instead debate how to have a debate?”

At this, all creatures burst into a murmur of confusion, as though they had no signal to direct their next reaction. Snow fell suddenly in thick curtains as Sigur Rós strobed through “Varúð”— punctuating the fresh distress with a female chorus of aural tonic. The forest blazed. White sunspots plinked percussion towards a faster, culminating “Hafsól.”

Bear bowed her head and cleared her throat once more and raised her voice to be heard. Even Sigur Rós paused to hear bear’s response. “Wolf, what you say is true; it was only my momentary shock to see Sigur Rós unveiled that caused my outcry. To think that humans could master the sublime in little more than a decade… Their performance has been a revelation of hidden meaning! I thank you for bringing me here, takk… And I only wish to hear more, new, more!”

With that, Sigur Rós levitated to hover over the clearing; “Ekki múkk” sailed left to right through a muted haze of yellow, orange, green. Then much to the amazement of all creatures small and large, Sigur Rós unleashed “Brennisteinn,” a sulphur-and-brimstone tune bordering industrial and shot through with northern lights— indication of a celebration yet to come. In the final moment of the unveiling, Sigur Rós levitated the bear and the wolf and all bodies of the woodland creatures into ether as “Popplagið” lead the way to home and harmony.

Wolf embraced sister bear for her gracious and true words as everyone floated back to earth in a flicker of constant feedback. And now at last the unveiling was complete and the world was satisfied. All sat down together, and ate, and drank, and made merry ‘til quite late into the night.



About the Author

a.rawlings
a.rawlings
a.rawlings is a poet, arts educator, and interdisciplinary artist who has published and performed work in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, and the United States. Her first book, Wide slumber for lepidopterists (Coach House Books, 2006) received an Alcuin Award for Design. In 2009 and 2010, rawlings was the recipient of a Chalmers Arts Fellowship, enabling her to develop and present new work in Belgium, Canada, and Iceland. Most recently, she was selected the 2012 Queensland Poet-in-Residence; during her tenure, she spent three months in Australia developing an interdisciplinary project that combines poetry, acoustic ecology, and counter-mapping. She loves in Reykjavík.




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