Somewhere in the North Atlantic
Not many people could say exactly where the Faroe Islands are located. Some people in Europe, at least, will have noted the nation’s football team playing in qualifiers. But generally the group of islands on the periphery of northwestern Europe with a population of just 50,000 does not register on people’s radars.
It’s a similar story with one of the Faroes’ best-known sons. In 2003 Teitur signed his first record deal in far-away New York. With sensitive songs such as I Was Just Thinking and One and Only he sailed his way into the hearts of the singer-songwriter community. Four further solo albums saw him firmly anchored there. Compared to nearby Iceland – which now enjoys a solid reputation among music fans and pundits – the Faroe Islands remain largely uncharted territory for the wider world. It’s therefore perhaps apt that Teitur has earned his worldwide fanbase with a more calm and consistent body of work as to a big bang. As the man himself says in The Singer: “I’d never meant to be a singer, but I am slowly getting used to the idea.” His albums have that timeless quality that has you recommending them to friends with more discriminating tastes.
Seal pays for a paint job
He wrote songs with and for the likes of Corinne Bailey Rae, Aloe Blacc and Marit Larsen – while Seal recorded a cover of “You get me”. While Teitur initially thought the royalties might be enough to pay for his house, he recalled, they did at least suffice to give the latter a fresh coat of paint. Among more recent collaborations, he co-wrote the new album (Ich bin das Chaos) by Judith Holofernes of Germany’s Wir Sind Helden fame, and joined forces with the celebrated neo-classical composer Nico Muhly for the concept album Confessions, with lyrics inspired by Youtube videos and their below-the-line comments. Oh – and accompanied by a Baroque orchestra. What else.
The constrictions of compartmentalisation
The project with Nico Muhly alone showed that Teitur is far more than just another guitar-strumming Scandinavian with a bunch of mildly diverting tracks in his bag. His creative output is too broad in scope, too diverse and too multi-layered to be pigeonholed as “singer-songwriter”. And his latest project likewise defies that classification: Y Arpeggios.
Music. Colours. Isaac Newton
“Y Arpeggios is based on the idea that you play mirrored patterns in the shape of a Y instead of traditional chords and harmonies. The two root notes mirror each other; when one goes up, the other goes down and vice versa.”
What Teitur was creating on the piano were patterns.
As he does so often with new music, he sent preliminary takes to friends – among them designer Margrethe Odgaard. She immediately saw a link to a treatise by Isaac Newton from 1704, in which he assigned colours of the spectrum to different notes: C represents red, D orange and so on.
Odgaard combined Teitur’s music with Newton’s theory to develop a visual concept. Two semicircles printed onto different wood grains (e.g. oak and ash) symbolise two different notes blending in the middle: a visualisation of two hands playing in simultaneous and mirrored motion.
You may, of course, be thinking this has overtones of an uber-intellectualised and inaccessible world whose concept is an end in itself – but think again. Teitur and Odgaard are in fact opening up a rich pageant of colour for at least two of the senses: a world with the capacity to captivate some people on the basis of its theory alone, while proving just as enthralling for those who may not have read the promotional blurb.
The Y Arpeggios EP was recorded in Teitur’s studio on the Faroe Islands and mastered by Pink Floyd’s legendary sound engineer Andy Jackson.