1. Fjóla Evans – Augun (2013)
I’d heard of Icelandic-Canadian cellist-composer Fjóla long before we met—many years ago she’d visited Halifax to perform at the (then) OBEY Convention (now EVERYSEEKER), and we had some mutual friends and colleagues. She writes music that explores the visceral physicality of sound while drawing inspiration from patterns of natural phenomena. Over the years Fjóla has collaborated with musicians such as Bang on a Can All-Stars pianist Vicky Chow, Grammy-winning ensemble Eighth Blackbird, and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. Currently based in New York City, she began doctoral studies in composition at Columbia University in 2019.
One day in 2017 I was flying to NYC to work on my training as a meditation facilitator. During a layover in Toronto, I was waiting in an area full of white bulbous stools and iPads displaying pictures of hamburgers when a gate attendant intercommed, “Fjóla Evans, please report to Gate 27, Fjóla Evans.” I knew that name, so I went over to Gate 27, too.
Fjóla was travelling back to New York from a premiere somewhere. We had a lovely chat over corn chips and guacamole. She was/is so rad. At the time, I felt like I was encountering a parallel universe older twin of some kind, one who embodied things I aspired to. After my final undergraduate cello recital, not long before this passing airport meeting, I’d shaved off all sixteen inches of my hair and kept it buzzed for several months. Fjóla wore her head bald back then too. We almost look related. Fjóla did her undergrad in cello at McGill, studying with Matt Haimovitz. I was to begin my master’s study with Haimovitz the following autumn. As it turns out, we also draw inspiration from similar realms: autocorrect describes Fjóla’s work as “a texturing fog”.
This recording of “Augun” (the eyes) contains seven cello parts layered together. It is a movement of Ölduvísur, a larger-scale work for cello and electronics that Fjóla created based on Icelandic folk songs. The piece takes its compositional structure and motivic inspiration from the Icelandic lullaby “Vísur Vatnsenda Rósu.” The lyrics are a love poem written from a woman's perspective, nostalgically describing her long-lost paramour as a coveted object of beauty. Fjóla’s intention was to keep the spirit of the original song, but to transform it into a darker and more complex sound-world.