Southbank Centre’s Head of Contemporary Music, Bengi Unsal (pictured), looks ahead to Ólafur Arnalds’ OPIA, part of our new Contemporary Edit programme, and its appeal to contemporary and classical audiences alike.
In the last decade or more, the contemporary music audience have started taking notice of musicians who were classically trained, but coming up with their own compositions; new contemporary classical artists who were going over towards the side we’d perhaps more traditionally describe as contemporary, rather than classical. In the last five years, many of these musicians have become quite popular artists, especially with the rise in curated playlists by platforms such as Spotify. Artists like the late Jóhann Jóhannsson, Dustin O’Halloran, Nils Frahm, Max Richter and others.
The idea behind the Contemporary Edit programme, is finding one artist who has made that successful crossover, from classically trained musician to contemporary composer, and going into their world, into their community and getting to know other musicians we might not have known, through their lands.
And so, we are giving one of the prominent artists from this movement, Ólafur Arnalds, a day in Southbank Centre to programme events for all our halls; Purcell Room, Queen Elizabeth Hall, and Royal Festival Hall. Six concerts in total on one day, plus a late night event in the Queen Elizabeth Hall Foyer which will feature artists such as Kiasmos, Vaal and Rhye.
Arnalds has called his festival OPIA, which he defines as ‘the ambiguous intensity of looking someone in the eye’. Essentially, Arnalds believes that in this digital age, with all its industrialisation and commercialisation of the music industry, people forget what they came into music for, and why they started making music. So as a classically trained musician Arnalds is going back to those roots of community; the creation and collaboration and bringing out like-minded people – friends and musicians he has worked with – so we can get deeper into that way of thinking, which is very poetic and very beautiful.