updated 27 November 2023
© Gabrielle Motola

Bára Gísladóttir

Icelandic composer and double bassist born 21 November 1989 in Reykjavík.

Bára Gísladóttir studied composition at the Iceland University of the Arts, the Milan Conservatory, and the Royal Danish Academy of Music. A trained double bassist, she plays with the Elja Ensemble, the Skark Ensemble, and the Balkan group Orphic Oxtra. She also regularly performs her own compositions, such as Hringla (2022), a concerto for double bass.

Gísladóttir approaches sound as if it were a living being. Overtones, liminal registers, and multiphonics play an essential role in her works, instilling a gradually encroaching ambiance of mystery. The double bass’s wide range of harmonics naturally lends the instrument to her work. It is omnipresent in her catalog — whether solo, concertante, or accompanied with electronics.

The concept of non-interference is central to Gísladóttir’s work. Situations and developments are observed from afar and without judgment, as illustrated by the program notes that accompany Animals of your pasture (2021). In this piece, Gísladóttir engages with the idea of viewing a flock from different angles, close up and at distance, “where wild chaos is allowed to be wild chaos, with no parts stepping in to take or gain control, with no attempts to structure or systemize something that just is.”1 In the same way, she confronts uncomfortable subjects and situations, without ever conferring morality or meaning onto them. For instance, Suzuki Baleno (2016) takes a question as its enigmatic starting point: “What do you do when your father shows up [in] a brand new shiny dark blue Suzuki Baleno that you know there is no way he could have afforded and you’re eight?”2 By extension, violence is also a recurring theme. Examples include the suicidal thoughts in A lil requiem before Super Bowl (2018) and the 1995 sarin attack in the Tokyo metro in VAPE (2016), in which she focuses on the victims’ initial reaction to explain the event with non-violent justifications.

Her pieces have been played by the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Copenhagen Phil, Danish National Vocal Ensemble, Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra, Frankfurt Radio Symphony, Ensemble intercontemporain, Ensemble Adapter, Ensemble Recherche, and Riot Ensemble. Her work has been performed at festivals such as Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Musica, Warsaw Autumn, Transit, Dark Music Days, Darmstadt Summer Course, KLANG Festival, SPOR Festival, International Rostrum of Composers, Nordic Music Days, and Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik.

Gísladóttir is a member of the Swedo-Icelandic composition collective Errata, whose objective is to create a platform that enables young composers to present their art to a wider audience and promote innovative composition and distribution techniques. In 2021, she was among three artists to receive a three-year grant from the Danish Arts Foundation. Her works are published by Edition·S.

Prizes and Distinctions

  • Carl Nielsen and Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen Foundation Talent Award, 2019
  • Léonie Sonning Talent Prize, 2018
  • Grapevine Music Award, 2017

1. Program notes for Animals of your pasture, on Gísladóttir’s website. https://edition-s.dk/music/bara-gisladottir/animals-of-your-pasture 
2. Program notes for Suzuki Baleno, on Gísladóttir’s website. https://www.baragisladottir.com/suzuki-baleno.html 

© Ircam-Centre Pompidou, 2023


Site de la compositrice, Edition·S, Léonie Sonnings Musikpris

Liens Internet

(liens vérifiés en novembre 2023).


  • Bára GÍSLADÓTTIR, « SILVA », 1 CD Sono Luminus, 2023, ESP5081.
  • Bára GÍSLADÓTTIR, Skúli SVERRISSON, « Live From The Spirit Store », 2 fichiers FLAC Louth Contemporary Music Society, 2022.
  • Bára GÍSLADÓTTIR, « VÍDDIR », 1 CD Dacapo, 2022, 8.226643.
  • Bára GÍSLADÓTTIR, Skúli SVERRISSON, « Caeli », 2 CD Sono Luminus, 2021, SLE-70020.
  • Bára GÍSLADÓTTIR, SUĪ ; VĒXŌ ; no afterlife thanks ; her palms faced down forever after ; Tvíhirta ; Cusp day ; GRAVIS ; Fists clenched, dans « HĪBER », 8 fichiers FLAC Dacapo, 2020, 8.226621.
  • Bára GÍSLADÓTTIR, Rooftops of Marrakech ; Rooftops of Prague ; Rooftops of Barcelona ; I nostri dei sono morti IV ; Rooftops of Milan, dans « Different Rooftops », 1 CD Not on Label, 2015.