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from Thursday, February14th of the year2008.

I’m here in Iceland conducting and arranging both Ben Frost’s score for the Australian movie How to Change in Nine Weeks (based on a true story of a disturbed girl who killed her childhood friend) as well as Valgeir’s score for an Icealndic CSI-style TV show.

One of the things I am happiest about in my life is that I spent many, many years as a copyist; I had assorted jobs working for M&Co, and would pick up hours doing Philip Glass’s filmscores, but the rest of the time, I would always have a copying job or two sitting around my house. It’s a nice feeling to facilitate somebody else’s music for a change. What’s fun about this situation now is that I am arranging, conducting and managing all the copy work for these two scores, which splits the difference; I don’t have any of the authorial anxiety of having written it or having to deal with Australian and/or Icelandic directors on a deadline and a budget; instead, I just have to fly in, and spend four days making these scores sound the best I know how. It’s a very rewarding way to spend a few days, enabling and coaxing rather than the usual business of constant anxiety and restless production.

And, of course, it means that I get to get out of the city for a few days and engage with the north. In the pool yesterday, I was reminded of this situation with the wind and the weather here, where it seems like the wind passes over the island entirely – to get caught in a windstorm here is to be caught in an Epic Stream of wind. It makes sitting in an outdoor hot tub that much more warming, and eating inside all that much more cozý.

An impromptu family meal:

An extreme lighting situation:

A rainbow from my window, looking over Kópavogur:

Conducting some brass in the choir loft:


  • Have you read David Rakoff’s essay on searching for Little People in Iceland? I’m not sure where it was originally published, but it was collected in his book Fraud. Quite funny – a must read for Icelandic visitors. You can see an excerpt here:

  • I read New Yorker articles during my daily train commute between Drammen and Oslo, Norway, and today read Rebecca’ Mead’s profile about you. I perused your website this evening. Wonderful new kind of creativity you and your friends are making!

    Nico responds: thanks!

  • Nico,
    Out of curiosity, how are you going about studying Icelandic? We at the bookstore have been searching for a decent book or audio course but have come up with very little. Thanks!


  • I write verse and fiction but always wanted to be a composer. One of my first tasks, if I woke up able to do what you do, would be to transcribe John Dunstable’s Gaude Virgo Salutata for woodwinds. (This not, certainly, because I don’t love the Hilliard Ensemble singing it.)

    If I were a composer, I would have much to do. Maybe someday I’ll at least be able to write a libretto, or songs, for a composer like you.

    Have you heard anything by the composer Valentin Silvestrov? I don’t know if it’s a sound world you’d be comfortable with or not, but if you don’t know it, listen to the Intermezzo of the 4th symphony. Or the whole thing, for that matter.

    Do you like Josquin?

    P.S. I can also appreciate your culinary enthusiams. Good to know you live in the same city.