Frontline World


Iceland, THE FUTURE OF SOUND, January2003



Read through archived FRONTLINE/World conversations around this story, including responses from the reporter.

Angela Kim - Irvine, California
This is why I love Frontline! The report about the emerging Icelandic music scene was refreshing and engaging. I think the entire Scandinavian region has been putting out some amazing music. Artists, like Radiohead, should also be acknowledged for bringing experimental music overseas and having it more accessible to a wider audience. I know I learned about Sigur Ros when they supported Radiohead a few years ago. Hopefully, we'll be seeing many of the bands mentioned on tour in the states!

Charles Macphee - Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I found this segment very interesting especially the group Apparat Organ Quartet since they remind me alot of the German group Kraftwerk. Though several decades separate Kraftwerk and this Icelandic group it is nice to see that music is progressing in new and different paths. I hope that I can see their music played in Canada at some point and I would like to get a copy of the CD.

Keep up the great work on this program and all the best. Charles Macphee.

Iris Rollins - San Francisco, California
I really enjoyed this piece on music from Iceland, I wish all music from around the world can be more accessible to America instead of being regulated by the establishment that sells the music.

David Day - Somerville, Massachusetts
It was good to see Johan Johansson and Sigur Ros, but where was the music of Mum? They are the hottest thing. It seems Marco bought into the hype around the Apparat Organ Quartet.

The comments RE: Kraftwerk are appropriate, but Kraftwerk was much more techno while Apparat is more progressive.

Werman's opinionating at the end ("adding an invigorating sparkle to pop music that's been missing for far too long") was especially hard to take. Simply because you haven't been listening doesn't mean it hasn't been happening, Mr. Werman.

More stories on music, though. MTV has dominated the culture for so long, it's getting pretty awful in top 40 land.

FRONTLINE/World responds:

Thanks for your thoughtful comment. We wanted to let you and other visitors know that we did cover Mum on the Web site. You can read about them and hear streaming audio here.

Thank you...

Manchester, New Hampshire
Thank you for such a wonderful report on the music of Iceland. It makes me want to go there to experience such a unique place of people and music.

Angela Trombley - San Francisco, California
Excellent report and refreshing! What a great time I am sure you had! Let's bring the 'Quartet' to SF! Haven't heard anything like that since Kraftwerk. However, these guys are creative and different, that's for sure. Wish you could just go around the world a do a one-hour show each week on different music. So much more stimulating then the other media ^%%!!!! being reported these days!

Strongsville, Ohio
It is nice to finally see some experimental bands coming out from the underground. I am most certainly a fan of Apparat.

Kate Sandman - Novato, California
Astonishing to see the diversity of and interest in music. The Organ Quartet was particularly fascinating. Another element that draws me to visit Iceland.

Hill Pride - Rockland, Maine
I was sooo pleased to see the story on Icelandic music!! I have recently been listening to Sigur Ros and Mum and I really like it. It's great to have TV like this. Hehe, thank you!

Peter - Newark, New Jersey
These Apparat guys sound just like Kraftwerk did 22 years ago(with a dash of Vangelis thrown in to dazzle the "critic")...Marco was probably not even born when the Apparat sound was...

M. Fin
Loved your piece on the icelandic music scene. There are truly wonderful and innovative sounds coming out of there and it's nice to see that acknowledged and reported on. In general, I think Frontline is by far the best and most informative television program I've ever seen.

Robert Wilks - Austin, Texas
I really couldn't believe Marco Werman's treatment of the Icelandic pop music scene. He kept describing the Avatar (sp?) Organ group using words like "avant garde" and "experimental". My friends, this music was done by Kraftwerk over 25 years ago -- please! There is absolutely nothing new or experimental here. It is irritating to hear commentators on both PBS and NPR gush over artists who create nothing but tired old cliches. It just so happens that there IS a truly innovative, imaginative musician from Iceland, possibly the freshest, most creative popular musician in the world today. Her name is Bjork, and she was barely mentioned in this piece. How can Mr. Werman call himself a "music critic" and be so unable to tell the difference between originality and mediocrity?

Reporter Marco Werman responds:

Glad to hear you like Bjork. You're right. She continues to be fresh. Bjork, as I pointed out at the beginning of last night's story, is the best known of Iceland's artists. She has one box set of her work and a greatest hits album. To me that indicates she doesn't need a lot of publicity. The Iceland Airwaves festival presented nearly 80 bands all from Reykjavik, very few of whom have ever been introduced to this country. One of the problems with the inward-looking culture of the US is that we are fed a single artist from an "exotic" country, and that artist in turn somehow becomes representative of all music from that country. It's not a fair way to judge the body of art from a place. Is it right to think that all Senegalese music sounds like Youssou N'dour? Is Yungchen Llamo the only singer in Tibet? No and no, but when you go to the bins in the World Music section at the record store, you'll find that those two dominate the Senegal and Tibet sections.

You are correct in hearing echoes of Kraftwerk in Apparat Organ Quartet. But the similarity is only superficial. Where Kraftwerk was a group of guys doing electronic rock, Apparat is a group of guys who are preserving old technology with the conscious purpose of making a statement about disposable society. As for experimental and avant-garde: check out Apparat's entire CD, and then listen to what Johann Johannson of the band has done with his other project, "Motorlab3", with composer Barry Adamson and Finnish electronic artists, PanSonic. I think you'll hear what I mean. By the way, I've never considered myself a critic, just a reporter of musical trends around the world. Thanks for watching.


White Plains, New York
Maybe I didn't hear enough of Apparat Organ Quartet, but they reminded me of a lightweight pop clone of Kraftwerk - the German band from the late 70's. Not that that's bad. But "Stereo Rock and Roll" isn't in the same league as Autobahn, or Trans Europe Express.

I liked the music by Apparat Organ Quartet, but it's not really anything new....

Reporter Marco Werman responds:
Hi White Plains,

I agree, Apparat has a Kraftwerk sound, but I wouldn't call them a lightweight pop clone of the German band. Unlike Kraftwerk, Apparat has a conscious philosophy about why they make the music on the instruments they use (old Hammonds, Farfisas, even Rolf Harris's famous 1970s stylophone). That philosophy was best summed up by Johann Johannson at the end of lastnight's story: the beauty is in the fallibility of the old instruments that many people might just throw away. The band came together by that belief, but also by a more progressive feeling that many Icelanders seem to possess that the world is dominated by the economics of a disposable society, and that even musicians can do something to change that. I'd encourage you to take a listen to the story I produced for the public radio program The World on Apparat Organ Quartet where some of these ideas are further fleshed out.

Marco Werman

'Orbit Rain' - Bliss
f---ing awesome...

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