Anna Gréta: from ordinary moments into musical memories

Anna Gréta: from ordinary moments into musical memories
Anna Gréta by Birna Ketilsdóttir

One of the characteristics of artistic sensitivity lies in the capacity to find a reason for wonder in everyday life. Actions and details that are insignificant to most people can be immortalized through musical language for the right eyes. Through this alchemy, mundane moments transcend their ordinary nature to transform into extraordinary memories that give meaning to existence.

Star of Spring album cover. Photo by Birna Ketilsdóttir

In the contemporary musical scene, this creative perspective is exemplified by a Swedish flower named Vårstjärna, which directly translates to Star of Spring and can now be seen or heard since it was chosen as the title of an album. 'It's a cute, beautiful little flower that's one of the first signs of early spring here,' says Anna Gréta on the occasion of her last production, where nature serves as inspiration to develop her musical language. 'I thought it was so inspiring, with these flowers blooming just because they have to: regardless of what's going on or the prevailing mood in the world, spring arrives. It's brutal in that way.'

The Icelandic-born pianist, singer, and songwriter has resided in Sweden for several years. In this duality of life, the Star of Spring expands through two sources: from the cold green grass of Scandinavia and Anna's piano. 'My composing process varies for different songs,' she explains. 'I'm primarily a piano player, and singing is something I began doing relatively recently, about three or maybe four years ago. Usually, the piano is at the center of my composition process. I'm interested in harmony, modulations, and such, so it's the focal point. Most often, I'll start by playing something on the piano, and then I'll start singing along, so it develops from there.'

The connection Anna Gréta has forged with the piano is palpable throughout this production. Each song is full of vivid images, inviting listeners to immerse themselves in her universe and, at times, to experience the same emotions, sounds, and scents that inspired her. 'For me, it's often about processing emotions. I think to write music and play music it's the best therapy. It's like sitting down to figure out how you're feeling and trying to put those sentiments into music. Like, how can you use this feeling to create something? So, I love that you can do something constructive out of life if you're not feeling well, you know? You can try to use it and create something.'

Anna seamlessly blends elements of nature and personal sentiments, allowing them to evolve organically into each song. The inspiration for the first track, Her House, stemmed from memories of Iceland. Anna describes it as 'a song about falling in love and getting to know someone.' She elaborates, 'Sometimes when you're getting to know someone, it's like entering a house. The first thing you experience - whether consciously or not - is the smell; I remember that from when I was a kid, all my friends' houses had such specific smells, and you could feel that on people's clothes. So that's sort of like the first thing that greets you: the smell, and then you walk in, maybe notice the color scheme, perhaps some pictures are hanging on the walls.' The house serves as a metaphor for entering into someone's intimate universe.

Besides her surroundings, Star of Spring can be seen as a canvas where Gréta explores mathematical theories, musicalizes two poems of Silvia Plath, and remembers the women of Greenland who were victims of a contraceptive-spiral campaign carried out by the Danish Government in the 1970s. However, in the middle of this painting, there is a primordial element, without which the result would be completely different: improvisation. 'I wanted to make a record where improvisations are very carefully sewn into the composition, so it's almost a part of the song, then live, we can stretch it out and go anywhere. I love improvising, playing live, playing with bands, and interacting because you never know what can happen. For me, it was necessary to produce this album and create a sound world, like a sound universe, that's cohesive where improvisation is intertwined in the songs.'

Anna's career reflects a journey through diverse musical landscapes: from her classical training to her embrace of jazz, and now, as a vocalist who crafts narratives and conjures imagery from the recesses of her mind. 'I think it's a fantastic approach to music because it's all about openness, offering endless possibilities,' she reflects. 'Jazz, to me, is not just a genre but a mindset, and I adore the freedom of improvisation. Just last night, I was at a jam session, and it's such a joyous way to connect with new people. It's universal; wherever you go, you'll find jazz musicians to jam with because we share a common language. It's also about perpetual learning: there's always something new to explore. I've found this beautiful balance of learning from others while staying true to myself and letting my unique voice shine through. It's like expanding my musical vocabulary without losing my essence.'

Star of Spring blooms from ephemeral inspirations, and through its melodic body, it perpetuates itself as a haven to which we can always return to escape the arid soil of daily life. Anna Gréta has the ability to transport us to landscapes and situations we had never imagined before; her musical language crafts narratives that can be explored across all branches of art.