Composer Anna Torvaldsdottir captivates listeners with otherworldly orchestral

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Composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir shows no signs of slowing down. The music alumna has been called “one of the most unique voices in contemporary music” by NPR, and her orchestral soundscapes have been described with adjectives such as “otherworldly,” “elementary” and “expansive.”

Last year alone, Torvaldsdottir premiered works with the New York Philharmonic (CATAMORPHOSIS) and the Los Angeles Philharmonic (ARCHORA). She has released two albums, of which “ARCORA /AION” was named “The Best Classical Music Album of 2023” by The New York Times. Audiences may also have heard her name and music in the psychodrama film Tár (she received so many inquiries that she talked about the project in a blog post).

This year she continues the momentum with a new orchestral piece titled METAXIS, which was presented at her Reykjavik Arts Festival in Harpa Reykjavik on June 1 Homeland received its world premiere, performed by the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra and Eva Olikainen. Thorvaldsdottir’s work was also recently awarded the 2024 Chanel Next Prize, which is awarded to 10 international contemporary artists who are redefining their disciplines.

To celebrate her productive year, we reached out to Thorvaldsdottir to learn more about her musical vision, how UC San Diego’s music program has impacted her career, and more.

What initially drew you to pursue your PhD in the music department at UC San Diego?

torvald’s daughter: When I was applying to graduate school, the music department at UC San Diego was definitely my first choice. The overall atmosphere and focus on contemporary music was obviously a very important factor, as was the great faculty, who had and continue to have a special openness and willingness to promote personal musical growth. That’s at least what I found special, and the approach suited me perfectly, having that environment to create my music. Spent a very meaningful time there!

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