Monday, March 19, 2012

A Musician To Watch Out For: Jónsi

"[It] would be foolish to place Jónsi in a specific genre, however, he manages again to create an isolated unique sound that only he could do without [being called] 'cheesy'."

Normally when I write my blog posts, I try to give an introduction into the topic instead of thrusting curious readers into unknown stories and details. But Jónsi's music is so special (in my opinion) that his music speaks for itself. Jónsi combines strong percussive sounds, atmospheric vocals, and unconventional use of his instruments to create music unique to him. Once the front man for Icelandic band Sigur Rós, Jónsi decided to pursue a solo career in 2010 after Sigur Rós went on an indefinite hiatus. Fortunately for us, Jónsi's innovative songwriting and music style decided to tag along for the ride, offering the world a Sigur Rós-esque style with an upbeat flair that only Jónsi can offer.

But who is Jónsi? Jónsi was born April 23, 1975 in Reykjavik, Iceland, Jón "Jónsi" Pór Birgissen (pronounced "Yohn-Poor Beergeeh-sehn "Yohn-see"). Rasied by non-musical parents, one wouldn't think that this blind-in-one-eye Icelander would show much of a predisposition towards music. But by a young age, Jón was playing Beatles records on his mother's turntable at twice normal speed and singing along to IronMaiden records. Jón's manipulation of sound as music as a child became the stepping stone to his creative processes as an adult. Now, Jónsi's most notable stylist achievements in music are a result of his innovations of traditional rock instruments and his ability to manipulate rhythm - as seen in the video above.

Jónsi is most well known, as I said, for his intricate rhythms and his manipulation of rock instruments. He was the first rock/pop artist to use a cello bow on an electric guitar. Believed to have borrowed the idea from the Erhu - a ancient, two-stringed Chinese guitar - the bowed electric guitar gives off an eerie, but calming, sound trademarked by Sigur Rós.

Now, I realize that this blog post is not about Sigur Rós, but it is important to understand Jónsi's past musical career before we start to understand Jónsi's future. Many fan were upset when Sigur Rós disbanded after 16 years of performing, but the band claimed that it was for the best (three of the four members were raising families). In reality, the Sigur Rós's disbanding was an opportunity for Jónsi to break free from the constraints of his former style. Since 2010, Jónsi has released his solo album, Go, and his in-depth DVD, Go Live. Additionally, multiple tracks from Go were featured on the Blockbuster, "We Bought A Zoo."

In conclusion, I believe that Jónsi's music, while considered "weird" by some, is quite creative. But the question remains ... why is it considered creative? Jónsi's music seems innovative, and he utilizes instruments in a unique way, but does his music really fit the definition of creativity?

Sternberg defines creativity as the "ability to produce work that is novel ... high in quality, and appropriate." First off, Jónsi takes an old instrument - the Erhu - and utilizes it's technique on modern instruments. While some have tried to recreate this technique, it is very difficult and Jónsi has proven to be the most adept player of this style. Even after Sigur Rós disbanded, Jón Birgissen had enough respect from his peers and his audiences, that he was able to successfully create his own solo label and unique style, producing a solo album in a little over a year. Not only do I love his music, but I believe that Jónsi has proven himself as a musician and a truly creative artist.

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