Hildur Gudnadottir: Leyfdu ljosinu

Icelandic cellist Hildur Gudnadottir's Leyfdu ljosinu (Icelandic for ‘Allow the light') was recorded live in a single take at the Music Research Centre at the University of York in January 2012. No post-performance manipulations were applied, making the recording as accurate a rendering of the performance as possible. A solo recording in the truest sense, Leyfdu ljosinu finds the classically trained Gudnadottir (aka Lost In Hildurness) extending dramatically upon the sound-world presented in the work by using electronics to multiply her cello and voice. Loops are generated that then sustain themselves as base figures against which subsequent vocal and cello elements resound.

Opening with the cello alone and at its most natural, the brief “Prelude” lays the groundwork for the thirty-five-minute title track. Extended rests separate the bowed tones, almost as if to suggest the music's awakening, until Gudnadottir's soft voice appears to signal the start of the major section. An almost ghostly mood is created when her ethereal voice softly intones for minutes on end, the music's hypnotic character reinforced by the lulling, to-and-fro motion of its rhythms. Fourteen minutes into the second track, the cello starts to challenge the willowy vocals for dominance, the instrument swelling into rather cloud-like formations as it floods the aural space with its dramatic presence. Blocks of heaving strings surge dramatically, and a single cello eventually splits off from the whole, making it seem as if a single voice has risen to the surface of a turbulent, blurry mass, and grows ever more agitated as the end nears.

Gudnadottir makes full use of the title track's generous length to shape the music's arc with patience and deliberation. In fact, the growth in density occurs so gradually, it occurs almost imperceptibly, and it's only when one reaches the end of the recording that the overall shape of the material comes retroactively into clearer focus. Though it's admittedly more of a cello-based performance than cello-based composition, Leyfdu ljosinu presents a fascinating exercise in control in terms of execution and vision in terms of conceptual approach.

June 2012