Thinking Out Loud: Sigur Rós & the Listening Experience

Sometimes you listen to music to have a good time, to sing along, to move to.

Sometimes it’s just plain catchy.

Maybe nostalgic.

Or maybe it’s more about the people.

The vibes.

Sometimes you listen to something sad because you need to be reminded how sadness can echo back. That you aren’t alone. And that the cavity in your chest can be more than a loss, can be an acoustic space, full.

Or maybe you’re on a train and feel incomplete without it.

I love Sigur Rós differently. I love them for the same reasons I love the orchestra. It is music not to reaffirm myself, but music as art. Individual compositions are explorations of what it means to be human, and their library of existence, an affirmation of humanity. I am not listening as me, but as a person who happens to be me. A person who is living in an atmosphere enriched by the musical talents of others. Musical artistry that adopts within its expansive form, new translations for the things in life we know to be true but cannot voice.

This is not to say it isn’t beautiful to listen to music simply because it makes you feel good, but to appreciate that the varied, and sometimes complex ways in which we listen to music can be as beautiful as the music itself. It’s not clear cut. How I feel about Sigur Rós today is different to how I did, and different yet again to how you feel.

Not going to lie, the concept behind their latest album, route one, is pretty quirky.


According to their Facebook page:

“on the longest day of summer 2016 sigur rós drove the whole way round iceland’s ring road, broadcasting the entire 1332km journey live on youtube. the soundtrack to this “slow tv” adventure was created using generative music software taking the multi-track stems of the sigur rós song ‘óveður’ and endlessly reinventing them to create new and unpredictable musical directions in real time.”

It is a strange concept. Highly experimental. Non-traditional. But I like it.

Life necessitates the creation of new and unpredictable musical directions in real time.

At least the kind of life I want to live does.

And admittedly, sometimes Sigur Rós’ music makes me feel unpleasant emotions like discomfort or fear. Sometimes I feel tense. An unexpected sound will emerge and dissolve, flash into existence in discordance that resists so obviously to the rest of the score and yet somehow still belongs. Sometimes I feel ecstatic with happiness. But mostly I feel soothed, at peace, limitless. I also realise they’re not everyone’s cup of tea, or perhaps I should say, that not everyone likes tea (another strange concept).

The point of it all is that you are listening to abstract themes, told through sound. You are not listening to yourself through song. And in removing whatever you are feeling, to immerse yourself in the kind of music that is grander than you, anything you currently are, you are completely free to explore the depth and spread of your emotional capacity. Limitless across a landscape completely unknown. In an atmosphere removed and yet still belonging.

It is otherworldly.

But really, it is this world.


Featured Image: tree at Heide



An immense grief anchors this city, tethering Hiroshima to its past. To be here is to carve your emotional real estate bare and lay it in offering. Such tragedy cannot be contained within one person. Hope for peace cannot be contained within one person.

I had not known school children were mobilised during the war and that because of this, so many more had died that day on August 6th, 1945.

I’m sitting here, just having exited the museum. I am sitting on a bench behind the children’s monument where countless paper cranes hang in offering. There will always be an absence in our history, no matter the time elapsed. But peace is the result of a collective hope, cultivated.


The cranes collect.

The garden is cultivated.


The city moves and yet exists in reverence. I think about the immense pressure the world is bearing and I wonder about negative pressure. How it was a second blow, returning for an encore in a city already devastated.


Everything is consequential.

People died, are dying.

Trees grow upward from damaged soil.

Sakura season comes again.

A city rebuilds.



I am still preparing for the unimaginable. The unspeakable scenes we continue to rehearse each day in this world are enough to fill a person. A class of Japanese school children recite words in unison before offering their paper cranes. Their contribution adds to the collection, filling the row of little clear booths facing the monument.


A bell rings.

It resonates.


It is not the physical presence of paper cranes but the consciousness of their purpose that imbues me with a pin prick of hope. And that is hope enough.


Pen ink fractures page

       breaking Monday morning

in the dawn

 with little hairline splinters

dandruff dusted

              in false starts and

                          cheap ink streaks

             and hesitation,


                                lightly disguised

         as heavy cogitation

and premeditation

            empathising with page textures

instead of live people.

        Fractures on page

                 and fractures in people

                        fractures in time

          splicing spider webs –

                                                 silk lines –

                           snapping somehow

                      as sentences strain to hold


yet strength is still spun

        in the quivering tension

                                                 unseen between fragments.