MUSV3138 - Iceland: Music, Geography, and Nationality on the Edge of Europe


Lessons are not given in the academic year 2023/2024

Course content

In this course we will study contemporary Icelandic music after 1980, with a special emphasis on the period surrounding the economic collapse in 2008. Social and political turmoil has resulted in a searching-out of new national narratives across literature and the arts. In the same period, exotic representations of "the land of fire and ice" was once again prevalent as the explosive growth of the tourist sector came to the rescue of the national economy. We will study the central role of music in this period - in ‘internal’ nation building and ‘external’ nation branding.

During the past three decades, Reykjavík has been home to a range of influential music artists and bands, such as Björk and Sigur Rós, but also classical composers such as Anna Þorvaldsdóttir, who is among the most performed composers of her generation globally. In this course, we will study examples of music across genres and styles, from hip-hop to orchestral music. We will analyze the music in dialogue with theories of geography, globalization, and national identity. The aim is a broad, interdisciplinary understanding of Iceland’s position in a global market of music, culture, and tourism. The study of Icelandic music in this course will function as a case study of larger, critical issues in contemporary musicology, including music and nationality, globalization, identity, nature and environment.

Learning outcome


Students who complete the course successfully will have:

  • Gained knowledge of Icelandic music history, especially after 1980.
  • Learned about a range of musicians, bands, and composers who have impacted understandings of Icelandic identity.
  • Deepened their understanding of the relationship between music and society in Iceland.
  • Learned about cultural and aesthetic assumptions that impact the reception of Icelandic music internationally.
  • Attained specialized understanding of music’s role in cultural negotiations of national identity.


Students who complete the course will have:

  • The ability to interpret and discuss cultural aspects of contemporary Icelandic society.
  • Practiced formulating and presenting their knowledge of music in written and oral form.
  • Strengthened their cross-disciplinary skills by connecting knowledge of Icelandic music to broader issues of identity, nationality, globalization, and geography.
  • Developed their skills in critical listening and analysis of music in a range of genres.

Learning methods and activities

The classes will consist of seminars with an emphasis on dialogue and discussion. Weekly preparation, in the form and reading and listening tasks, is therefore mandatory.

Compulsory assignments

  • Satisfactory participation in seminar activities, including oral presentations

Further on evaluation

Individual semester assignment (essay) submitted digitally in Inspera, as a pdf-file, at the end of the semester. The essay should have a length of ca. 4000-6000 words. The course instructor will present the essay question in the first half of the semester.

If the course is not passed, the student must retake the whole assessment. If the candidate retakes the exam, there is no need to retake the compulsory assignments.

Specific conditions

Required previous knowledge

Requires admission to one of the Bachelor's programmes or Master's programmes in Musicology, Music Technology or Music Performance Studies.

More on the course



Version: 1
Credits:  7.5 SP
Study level: Second degree level



Language of instruction: English, Norwegian

Location: Trondheim

Subject area(s)
  • Musicology
Contact information

Department with academic responsibility
Department of Music


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