Oscar-nominated composer and pianist Dustin O’Halloran’s DG debut album is set to be released internationally on CD, vinyl and digitally on 11 June 2021 and is available for pre-order now. The album Silfur explores the shifting perspective of music through time and place in new pieces and reimagined earlier works.
O’Halloran worked on this project during the lockdown in Iceland, where he ordinarily spends part of the year. Unable to return to his other home in Los Angeles, he drew inspiration from isolation and Iceland’s unique atmosphere, revisiting works from four solo albums and refining them through the prism of his Icelandic experience.
Echoes of everyone from J.S. Bach, Chopin and Debussy to Arvo Pärt and Erik Satie can be heard in O’Halloran’s keyboard compositions. His personal aesthetic, gentle and restrained, magnifies the subtle nuances of emotion with acute awareness.
This new release of fifteen pieces distils and expands upon the composer’s concepts of time, past and present, perceived through music. It comprises two new works – ‘Opus 56’ for solo piano and ‘Constellation No. 2’ for piano, cello and electronics – as well as new recordings of a selection of tracks from O’Halloran’s solo albums, including four new string arrangements. The first taste of Silfur was revealed with the release of ‘Opus 18’ as a single, along with a beautiful live performance video, shot at Reykjavík’s Fríkirkjan church by director Blair Alexander.
At the first recording session for this album he was given a gift of silfurberg (“silver rock”), a native Icelandic crystal, which inspired its title. “As light enters it,” explains O’Halloran, “it’s reflected into two perspectives. It felt that that’s what I was doing in making this record. And I feel the place you’re in always has a resonance – it somehow comes through the music.”
“I’ve lived with these pieces for many years and performed or returned to them from time to time,” continues O’Halloran. “When Christian Badzura from Deutsche Grammophon asked if I would like to record them again, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to go back into my past. But I thought this was a chance to give them more of what I intended. This was an opportunity to try to finalise them in a way that I could put them to rest, because there were things I wanted to see if I could capture. There was a feeling of travelling back in time to my past while experiencing the music in new ways in the present. It’s very special that we can capture time in this way. And I think that’s almost what music is: it’s capturing time. It’s capturing a moment, which we can experience again later.”
In addition to performing ten solo tracks, O’Halloran is joined on Silfur by a number of friends and collaborators. The composer Bryan Senti is featured on the new arrangement of ‘Opus 55’ performing violin. The Siggi String Quartet joins on ‘Opus 28’ and ‘Opus 37’, and also contributes on a new version of ‘Opus 17’ for strings. Alongside this, composer and cellist Gyða Valtýsdóttir is featured on ‘Constellation No. 2’.
O’Halloran, raised between Hawaii and Los Angeles, began to teach himself piano at seven years old. During his years at art college in Santa Monica, he formed a duo with the singer Sara Lov. Their partnership evolved into the indie rock band Dēvics and led O’Halloran to move to Italy where his musical trajectory as a pianist was crystallised. His early solo albums, two volumes of Piano Solos (2004, 2006), were followed by Vorleben in 2010 and Lumiere in 2011.
Over the past decade O’Halloran’s acclaimed ambient music collaboration with Adam Wiltzie, A Winged Victory for the Sullen, has delivered four albums, two soundtracks and Atomos, the latter for Wayne McGregor’s dance company. Their most recent album, Invisible Cities, reached No. 4 in the UK Record Store Chart.
He has reached new audiences with his music for film and television, including scores for Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette (2006); Drake Doremus’s Like Crazy (2011), winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance; his Emmy Award-winning theme music for the US show Transparent (2014–17); and the soundtrack for George Tillman Jr.’s The Hate U Give (2018). His first soundtrack collaboration with German pianist and composer Volker Bertelmann for the film Lion (2016) was nominated for an Academy Award, a BAFTA, a Golden Globe and a Critics Choice Award. They recently joined forces again to compose the original music for Francis Lee’s romantic drama Ammonite (2020) and their score was shortlisted for an Academy Award this year.
Alongside ‘Opus 18’, the release of Silfur will be preceded by singles ‘Opus 56’ on April 30 and ‘Opus 28’, featuring the Siggi String Quartet, on May 28. O’Halloran’s live performance of ‘Opus 28’ with Bryan Senti at last year’s Capitol Studio Sessions in LA, recorded as part of DG’s revered Composers’ Label Night event, will also be released, as a video, on May 28.
Listen to the first pre-release track Opus 18 now!