NORDIC NOIR TELEVISION MUSIC: TOURISM AND NATIONAL ASPIRATIONS IN TRAPPED (2016)
This paper centers on the Icelandic television crime drama Trapped (“Ófærð”, 2015), and especially its introductory title sequence. By far the most ambitious television production in Iceland to date, Trapped has become an international success that continues to impact the circulation of images and myths about Iceland in popular culture. The popularity of the series makes it an important audiovisual accompaniment to Iceland in transnational markets of cultural consumption and tourism. This paper highlights aspects of its audiovisual aesthetics that construct a version of Iceland in line with current national aspirations and geopolitical rhetoric. With Iceland holding the chairmanship of the Arctic Council for 2019–2023, the government is keen to assert their economic interests as new opportunities emerge out of the melting ice cap. As such, the emphasis on Arctic aesthetics in Trapped can be read as part of a strategic nation branding that buttress Iceland’s geopolitical positioning. In the process of exposing this aesthetics, I emphasize how established musical markers of Icelandicness are changing, re-signifying a construction of Iceland sensitive to the success of the “Nordic noir” crime fiction enterprise. To this end, I focus on the show’s opening title sequence, where many of the key visual and musical features are distilled in a gripping montage featuring music by the composer Jóhann Jóhannsson (1969–2018). The analysis focuses on the use of voice, string instruments, and aspects of studio production that enjoy a lineage within the genre of Nordic Noir television music. In Trapped, these musical details are employed in new ways in order to provide an audiovisual narrative of Iceland as an “Arctic Scandinavia”.
Tore Størvold holds a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of Oslo. His research on contemporary music and culture in Iceland has appeared in the journals Popular Music and Popular Music and Society, as well as the Journal of Aesthetics and Culture. Starting fall 2020, he is a postdoctoral researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim. His postdoctoral project connects with music performance and music pedagogy in the search for musical ways of promoting ecological literacy.