Review: Some Kind of Peace (Õlafur Arnalds)

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I have to confess that the name Õlafur Arnalds is new to me. But, even at the age of just 36, he has already released six albums, three EPs, five singles and 11 soundtracks, and has collaborated on some 15 other tracks. He’s a BAFTA award-winner, and has been nominated for an Emmy and two Grammys. Born in Iceland, he is perhaps most famous to those who watched the British crime drama, Broadchurch.

This sheet music collection accompanies his 2020 album, Some Kind of Peace. His music combines strings and piano with beats and electronic loops, creating a sound world a sound ranging from ambient to atmospheric pop. The first thing I’d say is anyone looking to play the piano versions of the album’s tracks would benefit hugely from listening to the original recordings. Whilst you could just play the tracks as standalone piano pieces, I think there’s a lot more enjoyment to be derived from seeing how you can recreate the electronic sounds within the confines and possibilities of the acoustic piano.

"We Contain Multitudes" from Some Kind of Peace
"We Contain Multitudes" by Olafur Arnalds

In the introduction, Arnalds describes the way in which the collection arose from very personal emotions, and way he tried to convey these in an open and honest way. Interestingly, Arnalds wrote many of the original tracks at the piano, and he describes how the versions presented here, are rearrangements of the originals, demonstrating that songs are never finished, even after being recorded.

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There are some beautiful tracks included in this sheet music collection. I particularly enjoyed playing ‘Spiral’, ‘Still/Sound’, ‘New Grass’, and especially, ‘We Contain Multitudes’. Some of the pieces are rhythmically challenging, and overall, I’d suggest this collection would suit players from Grade 5 upwards. Some songs are also included too, offering some scope for those who want to either transcribe these for solo piano, or perform them as written.

"Back to the Sky" from Some Kind of Peace
"Still/Sound" by Olafur Arnalds

The sheet music collection for Some Kind of Peace is beautifully presented. Not only is it a really lovely collection of music, but the presentation stands out. Gorgeous images of the natural world really enhance the music presented, making this book, amongst other things, a great gift idea. In that sense, this isn’t just a book of sheet music alone, and therefore, I think the price tag is more than justified. I thoroughly enjoyed the piano music here, and I have to confess, I surprised myself in that respect. Written from the heart, and with a real desire to convey the deepest of personal emotions through music, Arnalds’ book will stand the test of time.

At the beginning of a new year, this is a great book for pianists and piano teachers to explore.

Some Kind of Peace by Õlafur Arnalds, is published by Bosworth Edition and distributed by Hal Leonard, ISBN 978395463081, RRP £20.99.

I was sent a review copy of this book free of charge; however, this review is my honest opinion as a teacher. You can find my Reviews Policy here.

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