Born in Reykjavík, Iceland, Herdís Stefánsdóttir currently lives between Los Angeles and Reykjavík, where she works as a composer. Her scoring work includes Ry Russo – Young’s MGM/Warner Bros. feature film, The Sun Is Also a Star and the HBO series We’re Here. Stefánsdóttir was nominated for The Icelandic Music Awards for her score to The Sun Is Also a Star. She interned for the Oscar nominated composer Jóhann Jóhannsson in Berlin while he was working on the film Arrival (2016) and she has scored numerous short films that have premiered at top-tier festivals around the world like Berlinale, TIFF, Sundance and Palm Springs International Film Festival. Her music has to it a style and sound that is unique, innovative, and highly inventive. She creates thematic material and then presents it in such a way that one becomes even more drawn to it by the beguiling and hypnotic aura of the compositions, which she enhances and elevates via use of electronic support.
She, experiments with voices, synthetics, and acoustic performances, drawing all these components together and utilising them in an original and affecting fashion. Most of her scores for TV and film are filled with haunting and infectious compositions, the composer combining atonal textures with a rich and colourful sense of melody.
Her score for Y:The Last Man is a perfect example of the outstanding and wonderfully effective sound that she achieves, at times reminding one of the creative genius that was Morricone, and at other moments evoking the music and sounds of Jóhannsson. But there is also another style and another sound that is present throughout, and that is the sound of Stefánsdóttir, which can be jagged, but also effectual, sombre but filled with melancholy, apprehensive but at the same time bringing to fruition memorable themes, in short, a wonderfully complete musical package that is faultless for film and TV.
One of the composers most recent assignments is for the eight episode TV series Verbudin, (aka-Blackport) which is a score that she collaborates on with Kjartan Dargur Holm. This is one of my favourite listens now, the score encompasses so many styles, and oozes a sophisticated and appealing atmosphere. The melodies become engulfing and although subdued can at times be overwhelming but in a good way. Strings that are melodious but at the same time edgy are combined with a slow and jazz inspired solo trumpet performance, in the cue Luanapraelar, the trumpet is itself punctuated and supported by piano which gives a subtle but important performance, all this is underlined by an even more sparse scattering of percussion which is utilised as a background but only fleetingly marking a slightly ominous beat.
All of these are masterfully fused together to yield a theme that is effective in the context of the series but also moving when listened to away from the images it was written to enhance and support. The score also includes heartfelt violin solos which first manifest in the Main Titles, the performance personally reminded me of the score for Let the Right One In, being emotive but at the same moment apprehensive, the string section joining the proceedings after a short introduction, but then fading and returning the mesmerizing melody to lone violin performance, which is underlined by wordless female voice giving the piece an otherworldly sound.
The composers also utilise to maximum effect the more jagged and aggressive sound that is realised through electronic avenues, but although these are at times raw and foreboding, they work well with the melodious and thematic elements of the score. This is one to sit and listen to again and again, each time discovering sounds, nuances, and phrases that maybe on your previous listen you did not notice. It is an inventive soundtrack, a pleasing one and one that will I know be returned to many times.
Please check out the composers other scores which are available on digital platforms, such as We’re Here, and The Sun is also a Star. And watch out for her score for the new Apple TV series The Essex Serpent which she co-wrote with Dustin O’Halloran, the series begins on May 13th.