Friday, November 24, 2006

The naming of things

Iceland glacier
Image: Yovo

Passacaglia - Johann Johannsson

One of my favorite "stories" from grade school history lessons was about the naming of Iceland. About how errant Vikings discovered this paradise of ice-crested peaks and verdant valleys running with sweet, warm streams, and carpeted in dense birch forests. And how, on their journey home to collect settlers for this new Viking colony, they told everyone they met (or, since they were Vikings, everyone they clubbed and robbed and murdered) about this frozen, uninhabitable island they dubbed Ice-land and how any wise voyager most definitely didn't want to sail in that direction. Like a lot of history I learned in grade school, this story was mainly apocryphal, but it taught me an important lesson about the power of names.

What if I were to tell you "Passacaglia" is a classical piece? And that it's named after a form that is traditionally written in 3/4 time and features a ground bass pattern that repeats throughout the composition? You might think, oh, but I don't like classical music! So I might say, classical, did I say classical? No I meant wonderful music. I meant moving, I meant thrilling. I meant, this is a song that could melt a glacier. Or this is the sound of a glacier melting. Or pehaps, this is a paradise of ice-crested peaks and verdant valleys running with sweet, warm streams, and carpeted in dense birch forests.

Johann Johannsson is an Icelandic composer who works in electronic and orchestral mediums and "Passacaglia" is a B-side to his single, "The Sun's Gone Dim and the Sky's Turned Black" (video, eMusic). This year, Johannsson has also released an album called IBM 1401: A User's Manual, inspired by his father's work with the titular machine. It's an astonishing record in five movements, and you wouldn't want to chop it up, so plan to buy it whole (Amazon, eMusic).

Johann Johannsson's Web site.

3 Comments:

Blogger Sean said...

lovely post, amy. and i like the piece of music too. i know what you mean about that -melting- sound. (i think it's better than anything on the IBM record, certainly - and sadly.)

12:04 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Thanks, Sean. I actually quite like the IBM record and think it's growing stronger on me. But a big part of it is certainly that it's conceptually intriguing.

4:33 PM  
Anonymous arse poetica said...

Wonderful! Thanks.

10:27 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home