Iceland’s Valgeir Sigurðsson, composer, producer/engineer, founder of both Greenhouse Studios (where he has recorded a huge list of artists such as Björk, Feist, Sam Amidon, and Hilary Hahn) and the record label Bedroom Community, has spared a few moments to speak with us about his own project titled The Architecture of Loss. An amazing work that is a collaboration with Stephen Petronio that premiered in NY earlier this year, it is also a compelling CD of music all on its own. You can purchase the CD up here or on the link on the bottom.
CM: First of all, to start off, thanks so much for this opportunity, it’s an absolute pleasure to get this from you!
The music on The Architecture of Loss CD is beautiful and stirring, and it plays really well as a stand-alone work. Can you talk about how this project came about?
Valgeir: Stephen Petronio, a New York based choreographer, invited me to collaborate on The Architecture of Loss with him and his dance company. He presented the title to me, and I wrote most of the score before he started the choreography–I wanted it to stand alone as a recorded piece as well.
CM: Will there be more performances of the staged work in the US?
Valgeir: Yes, I’m pretty sure that there are a few shows planned already, but none of those will be with the music performed live like we did for the opening run. I hope there will be some more performances with live music later and I’m planning to do some concerts with this material and the original line up of musicians, Nadia Sirota and Shahzad Ismaily.
Valgeir Sigurðsson: The Crumbling (from The Architecture of Loss)
CM: Greenhouse Studios has become a favorite place to make music, and I have definitely heard why these many artists want to work with you. It’s the same stirring dynamic work that is so apparent on your own records that they all have on theirs.
CM: I have to ask you specifically about the Silfra album–It’s another great album, and it’s special mostly because the artist that was making a significant mark compared to her standard work was Hilary Hahn, but for you and probably also for Hauschka it seems to be more the norm. What are your thoughts about the making of that recording and about the album itself?
Valgeir: It’s always thrilling when people are willing to step out of their comfort-zone and try going where they haven’t gone before. It’s never easy either. We recorded an insane amount of material and from where I was sitting in the control room, while Hilary and Volker improvised in the live room, I fed them back processed versions of their performances. Then I had to fish out the best bits from the takes we had done each day and present back to the two of them, and they then picked what they liked and we went back and forth like that. Sometimes we overdubbed, but I would say that much of the album is live off the floor, edited and mixed as we went along. I’m really happy with the end result.
Hilary Hahn & Hauschka: Ashes (from Silfra; co-produced by Valgeir Sigurðsson)
CM: Bruce Brubaker, the pianist that played on Nico Muhly’s Drones & Piano told me that when he worked in the studio, it was the week after Hilary and Hauschka were done, and he was using the same piano, and noticed that one of the hammers was broken. Did Volker do that, and did you send him a repair bill? [laughs] Were there any objects still left stuck in the piano?
Valgeir: No I don’t think that Volker broke the hammer, but for weeks after he finished recording we were still discovering strange objects of all shapes and sizes inside and around that piano! It’s a very old and beautiful sounding piano, and it has really become a trademark sound in itself as it now features on so many recordings.
CM: Are there any artists that have asked you to record them, and you’ve had to turn them down for some reason?
Valgeir: Oh yes definitely! The beauty of collaboration that you keep learning and I’m pretty sure my appetite for new inspiration will never go away. I’m in the position of having to turn down work frequently, there is simply not enough time to do everything, and sometimes I just don’t think that I’m the right person for the job.
Valgeir Sigurðsson: Erased Duet (from The Architecture of Loss)
Architecture of Loss (webpage for the staged production)