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Árni Heimir Ingólfsson

Árni Heimir Ingólfsson is a musicologist and lecturer. Born in Reykjavík, Iceland, he holds degrees from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music (BM, piano performance and music history) and Harvard University (MA and PhD in musicology).

Ingólfsson is an active researcher and writer on music, publishing widely in Icelandic and English. His most recent monograph, Jón Leifs and the Musical Invention of Iceland, was published by Indiana University Press in 2019 and was listed as one of that year’s best books on music by Alex Ross of The New Yorker.

Praised as "a terrific lecturer" by American Record Guide, Ingólfsson has given lectures and pre-concert talks throughout the world, including at conferences in Europe, Asia, and the United States. He was a special guest speaker at the LA Philharmonic’s Reykjavík Festival in 2017, an Erasmus guest lecturer at the Vienna Conservatory of Music, and has held visiting fellowships at Oxford, Harvard, and Yale Universities. In 2013, he was a Mellon Visiting Fellow at I Tatti – The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence, Italy.

Ingólfsson has held teaching posts at the Iceland University of the Arts, and was Artistic Advisor to the Iceland Symphony Orchestra for nearly a decade, demonstrating his deep commitment to programming that strives for artistic excellence as well as cultural relevance.

Ingólfsson has wide-ranging experience as performing musician. As conductor of the vocal ensemble Carmina, he is a two-time winner of the Icelandic Music Award, and their CD Melódía won rave reviews, including an Editor’s Choice in Gramophone magazine. He has been interviewed by international media such as The New Yorker, Gramophone, and BBC Radio 3, and has held advisory posts for international foundations such as the Nordic Culture Fund. He is also an active pianist and harpsichordist and has performed on a number of CDs, including Nico Muhly’s Mothertongue (2007).

Music at World’s End. Three Exiled Musicians from Nazi Germany and Their Contribution to Music in Iceland, 1935–1974. Forthcoming, SUNY Press (English) / Hið íslenska bókmenntafélag (Icelandic), 2024.  


The Songbook of Rev. Ólafur Jónsson of Sandar. Editor, with Johnny Lindholm, Margrét Eggertsdóttir, and Þórunn Sigurðardóttir.

Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í íslenskum fræðum, 2024. 

Jón Leifs and the Musical Invention of Iceland.

Indiana University Press, 2019.

Notable Book of the Year 2019, Alex Ross, The New Yorker

**** BBC Music Magazine, March 2020

Tónlist liðinna alda. Íslensk handrit, 1100–1800.

(Icelandic Music Manuscripts, 1100–1800, in Icelandic).

Crymogea, 2019.


Sounds Icelandic. Essays on Icelandic Music in the 20th and 21st Centuries. Editor, with Þorbjörg Daphne Hall, Nicola Dibben, and Tony Mitchell. Equinox Publishing, 2019.


Saga tónlistarinnar. Tónlist á Vesturlöndum frá miðöldum til nútímans.

(The History of Music, from the Middle Ages to Today).

Forlagið, 2016.

Nominated for the Icelandic Book Award, 2016

Non-fiction book of the year, Morgunblaðið, 2016

Jón Leifs. Líf í tónum.

Mál og menning, 2009.

Nominated for the Icelandic Book Award, 2009

Articles (selected)
CDs based on original research

Hymnodia sacra. An Icelandic Music Manuscript from 1742.

Smekkleysa, 2010.

CD of the Year (classical music), Icelandic Music Awards, 2011


Melódía. An Icelandic Manuscript from the Seventeenth Century.

Smekkleysa, 2008.

Editorʼs Choice, Gramophone, November 2009

CD of the Year (classical music), Icelandic Music Awards, 2008


Tvísöngur. Two-Part Music from Iceland.

Smekkleysa, 2004.

Other writings, lectures, broadcasts, etc.

Lectures on Icelandic music at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Northwestern Universities, University of Southern California, Mannes School of Music/The New School (NYC), Musik und Kunst Privatuniversität der Stadt Wien (Vienna).

Lectures at conferences of the International Musicological Society (Athens 2022, Tokyo 2017), American Musicological Society (Chicago 2024, online 2021, Boston 2019, Indianapolis 2010, Columbus 2002), Royal Musical Association (London 2024), Medieval/Renaissance Music Conference (Basel 2019, Maynooth 2018), and others. 

Radio programs for Iceland National Radio, including ten-part series (40 minutes each) on women composers in the nineteenth century, 2021; seven-part series (50 minutes each) on Beethoven’s life and works, 2020.

CD liner notes for international releases by BIS, Da Capo, Delos, Smekkleysa, Sony Music.

Pre-concert talks at Reykjavík Festival, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Walt Disney Concert Hall, April 2017 (“a terrific lecturer,” American Record Guide).

Program notes and pre-concert talks, Iceland Symphony Orchestra, 2002–2022; pre-performance talks, Icelandic Opera, 2005–2011.

Organized international symposia on “Music and Exile in a Global Perspective” (Reykjavík, 2023) and “Music and Liturgy in Medieval Manuscripts” (Reykjavík, 2018). 

Interviews on Icelandic music for local and international media, including The New Yorker, Gramophone, BBC Radio 3, ARTE TV. 

Advisory roles and committees, including the Nordic Culture Fund, European Research Council. 

Performances at international music festivals (with Carmina Chamber Choir), including Spitalfields Music Festival, London (2010), Wege durch das Land, Germany (2010), Festival d’Ile de France, Paris (2008), Stockholm Early Music Festival (2006).

“Abgewiesen am Rande der Welt. Vergebliche Versuche jüdischer Musiker in den 1930er Jahren nach Island zu kommen.” mr-Mitteilungen/Musica Reanimata, Berlin (forthcoming).

“Iceland.” New, updated article for Grove Music Online. Oxford: Oxford University Press (forthcoming).

“A Devotional Song from Iceland.” In The Museum of Renaissance Music: A History in 100 Exhibits, eds. Vincenzo Borghetti and Tim Sheppard, 47–49. Turnhout: Brepols, 2023.


“The Reception of Hans Thomissøn’s Psalmebog and Niels Jespersen’s Graduale in Iceland.” In Danske reformationssalmer i kontekst, ed. Marita Akhøj Nielsen, 143–164. Copenhagen: Det Danske Sprog- og Litteraturselskab, 2022.


“Yet another “Foreign Tune” in Rask 98.” Gripla 32 (2021): 289–300.


“Singing and Writing Plainchant in Lutheran Iceland, ca. 1550–1800.” Gripla 31 (2020): 293–332.


“Copying the Icelandic Graduale in the 16th and 17th Centuries.” Opuscula 18 (2020): 1–59.


“‘Follow My Voice’: Structure and Improvisation in Björk’s Mouth’s Cradle.” In Music and Climate Change, ed. Britta Sweers. European Journal of Musicology, 2020.


“Drafting a New Lutheran Liturgy in Post-Reformation Iceland.” In Celebrating Lutheran Music. Scholarly Perspectives at the Quincentenary, eds. Mattias Lundberg and Maria Schildt. Studia musicologica Upsaliensia 29 (2019): 49–66.


“Starting from Scratch: Nation Building and the Creation of an Icelandic Choral Tradition.” In The Nature of Nordic Music, ed. Tim Howell, 71–86. Routledge, 2019.

“Two Sixteenth-Century Music Fragments at the Stockholm Royal Library.” Gripla 29 (2018): 7–33.


“Hymnodia sacra and its Influence on the 1772 Icelandic Hymnal.” In Mirrors of Virtue. Manuscripts and Printed Books in Post-Reformation Iceland, eds. Margrét Eggertsdóttir and Matthew Driscoll, 31–55. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 2017.

“Clothing Irons and Whisky Bottles: Creating an Icelandic Musical Avant-Garde.” In History of Nordic Avant-Garde, 1950–1970, ed. Marianne Ølholm, 273–290. Leiden: Brill, 2016.


“Echoes from the Periphery: Rask 98, Modal Change, and Oral Transmission in Seventeenth-Century Iceland.” In City, Chant, and the Topography of Early Music, eds. Sean Gallagher and Michael S. Cuthbert, 165–187. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013.


“Five “Foreign Tunes” in Rask 98.” Gripla 23 (2012): 7–52.

20 articles on Icelandic music in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, eds. Stanley Sadie and John Tyrell. London: Macmillan, 2001.

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