Portrait of composer Veronique Vaka

Spotlight

Veronique Vaka

11 mars 2024

Portrait of composer Veronique Vaka

Spotlight

Veronique Vaka

Portrait of composer Veronique Vaka

Spotlight

Veronique Vaka

11 mars 2024

Portrait of composer Veronique Vaka

Spotlight

Veronique Vaka

11 mars 2024

How did you get started with composing, and what drew you to it initially?

My musical journey started with the cello at the age of five, and since then, a sequence of events, encounters, and discoveries have shaped me as a composer.

A milestone in my musical life was going from being a classical performer to studying electro-acoustic composition. I began perceiving music and sounds with their colours and timbres. I learned to ‘listen’. And gradually, I morphed some electro-acoustic principles into a classical music setting.

What’s the first piece you ever wrote?

‘Tveir Heimar’ for string orchestra was my “official” first work, and the world premiere took place in 2013 with Sinfóníuhljómsveit áhugamanna, conducted by Oliver Kentish.

But before 2013, I composed music for short films and theatre. I also wrote and performed cello music for bands for live concerts and studio recordings in various genres, from folk music to electronic.

What does your workspace look like?

Workspace of composer Veronique Vaka

What inspires your works?

My works are rooted in the geology and topography of Iceland. From Earth’s inner core to its outer shapes, I am exploring the narrative of landscapes.

Since 2020, I have been working on a ‘Glacier Series’, which explores the transformation of Icelandic glaciers and their landscapes.

How does a new piece come to life?

It starts with a few weeks of research and, if possible, fieldwork. If the groundwork of a new piece is about geographic and geologic features of a place, I read articles about it, I look at maps and graphs, I take photographs or find some existing ones – and I compare, analyse and observe (and listen). Then, I create the structure/time progression of the work.

Here is a very brief example featuring the work ‘Inmost’: The work is about the Icelandic volcano Hekla. I gathered information about the eruptions before the settlement (circa 3000-950BC). Each eruption has a specific behaviour, a “gesture”, an impact on its surrounding landscape. The tephra left behind tells a story in the soil, the ice, and the trees.

Each eruption became an event in the piece, with its specific instrumentation and an emphasis on how and where the sound is moving on the stage based on the tephra dispersion.

The structure of the work is a guide – but I give myself freedom and flexibility once I associate geologic features with musical gestures, for example.

For someone who doesn’t know your music, what piece should they listen to first?

‘Lendh’ for orchestra, which I wrote for the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and Daníel Bjarnason.