Last January, keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson left Sigur Rós after some 15 years. “He’s been with the band half of his life”, the remaining members wrote of his decision. “He wants to do something different.” Since then, Sveinsson has stayed busy with a series of mixed-media endeavors, writing a composition called “Poppiholla” and contributing to amiina’s audio-visual album The Lighthouse Project. Now, he’s unveiled “his most ambitious musical work” in a new theater production from Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson.
Inspired by the novel World Light by Nobel Laureate writer Halldór Laxness, Der Klang der Offenbarung des Göttlichen (The Explosive Sonics of Divinity) is an experimental piece. Eschewing traditional theater procedure, there are no actors or dialogue, just a series of stage paintings. According to a press release, “Performative action has been removed from the production and actors are not a part of the production. Instead, Kjartan’s compositions [appear in place] of actors speaking lines. The music is an emotional chorale based on Laxness’ texts.” David Thor Jonsson serves as conductor, with performances by the Orchestra Babelsberg and the Filmchor Berlin.
In a statement, Kjartansson offered more insight into the project:
“I grew up in the theater, since my parents are both actors and directors, and I’ve always been in great awe of the non-narrative parts and the abstract components during rehearsals – the ceremonial mystique of a test phase when the actors are not yet on stage and there is nothing but the machinery, the props and scenery. I wanted to pay tribute to the mechanics and the formal elements of the theater. It’s a theater play without actors that will only use the stage and the music as theatrical elements, intended as an homage to the machine, to the art of stage painting and the scenery. One could also say it´s opera without divas.”
Der Klang is scheduled to run at Berlin’s Volksbuehne on February 19th and 20, February 28th and March 1st, and a final show on March 16th. If you happen to be in town, secure your tickets here.
Below, listen to one of Sveinsson and Kjartansson’s previous collaborations, “SS Hangover”, from last year’s Venice Biennale: