Frontline World

ICELAND - The Future of Sound, January 2003

Synopsis of "The Future of Sound"

World Music's Global Reach

Sample Sounds From the Edge of the World

Learn More about Iceland

History, Culture and Unique Approach to Energy




Perhaps it's Iceland's extremes -- unlit winter days, undarkened summer nights and a vast landscape populated with just 300,000 inhabitants -- that set the stage for such remarkable innovation and unusual collaboration by the country's best-known musicians. Reykjavik, the nation's capital and home to most of the country's inhabitants, has become a creative cauldron for production of some of the most interesting music being made anywhere today.

The world first began to take notice of the vibrant sounds coming from Iceland in 1988 with the Sugarcubes, a quirky alternative rock band whose lead singer, Bjork, went on to become the country's biggest international star. Her unique voice and eclectic style set a new standard, shaking up rigid categories in pop music.

As Bjork showed, Icelanders may not be completely reinventing music -- but they're certainly reinterpreting it. They seem reluctant to mimic American and European trends and more willing to try something new. The next wave of the country's musicians has challenged pop music conventions, prompting critics and fans alike to rethink how they listen.

Independent radio stations in Iceland play quite a bit of commercial, mainstream music, so the prime showcase for talent has become the Icelandic Airwaves Festival. Sigur Rós played at the first Airwaves Festival, in 1999, and has since moved on to international critical acclaim.

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Written by Aerin Wison with additional reporting by Sheraz Sadiq. All Mum and Sigur Rós photos courtesy Aerin Wilson.

Producer: Angela Morgenstern; Designed by: Fluent Studios; see full web credits.

Freelance writer and photographer Aerin Wilson runs the online zine Music Spork.

Sheraz Sadiq is Associate Producer for FRONTLINE/World.