The conductor who taught Björk how to sing

The conductor who taught Björk how to sing


norman lebrecht

December 16, 2020

From an interview in DocumentJournal with the great Icelandic icon:

In 1981, a 16-year-old Björk Guðmundsdóttir joined the Icelandic post-punk band Tappi Tíkarrass, which translates to “Cork The Bitch’s Arse.” Grainy footage from one of the group’s first performances is archived in an old underground toilet, repurposed for the Icelandic Punk Museum in downtown Reykjavík, and shows Björk howling into a microphone while dressed like a porcelain doll. The seeds of punk had been sown in Iceland a couple of years prior when The Stranglers drew 4,000 people—about 2% of the population at the time—to Laugardalshöll stadium, spawning an anarcho-punk subculture in which scores of Icelandic teenagers found their identity. (Friðriksson’s 1982 documentary Rokk í Reykjavík, which featured the same doll-like Björk on its promo material, captured this burgeoning phenomenon in all its intoxicating, controversial, chicken-decapitating anarchy.)

While Tappi Tíkarrass was making waves in Iceland’s underground, Björk started singing with another group of young musicians. The Hamrahlíð Choir was founded in 1982 by Þorgerður Ingólfsdóttir, who remains its conductor to this day, and has been formative for the some 2,500 Icelandic teens it has turned on to the enduring magic of classical music. Ingólfsdóttir’s face might not be plastered on the walls of underground toilets nor on posters in the window of every Reykjavík record store, but she is god-like in the tiny nation. (And often outside of it—besides commissioning works from all of Iceland’s most illustrious composers, Ingólfsdóttir has collaborated with American avant-garde giant John Cage, while Estonia’s Arvo Pärt even dedicated a composition to the conductor.) Those who didn’t join the choir likely grew up listening to its beloved albums. “I think every single Icelandic musician you have ever heard of was brought up and musically baptized by this miraculous woman,” Björk wrote in a Facebook post last year. “She is a legend in Iceland and has guarded optimism and the light in the tumultuous times that teenagedom is.”

The Hamrahlíð Choir’s latest release is a collaborative album with Björk. Come And Be Joyful,….

Read on here.

Thetracks are achingly beautiful.


  • Rogerio says:

    I am sure Iceland (rightfully) loves Bjork. But when she stopped making music some years ago, she was not missed by most of the rest of us. A fate much like that of “Cork the Bitch’s Arse”.

    • Genius Repairman says:

      Really? This comment was pretty demeaning and a cheap shot. If she does not sing much anymore then she is doing you a favour, isn’t she? Play nice.

    • Flying says:

      First, she didn’t stop to make music. If you know what she does and how, you would probably know she doesn’t make music, it is more than that: it is music, accoustic, lyrics, meanings… An artist whose each album is different from the others. An artist who knows how to collaborate and transcend the potentials of her collaborators … In short, you did not understand anything. Yet it doesn’t take a high IQ to understand.

  • Major Monarch says:

    Again, this is not a picture of Björk but instead a cover of a collaboration between Björk and Fever Ray. Most of the head in this image is FR’s. Björk is creative, not insane.

  • James Weiss says:

    Someone actually “taught” her to sing like that? Lol.

  • John Borstlap says:

    That face looks like how someone feels when coming out of a Donaueschingen festival concert.