A lovely thing I discovered about the word “composer” in Icelandic is that it is “tónskáld,” which is a combination of “tón” (tone/note) and “skáld” (poet), rendering the full word as a tone poet, or poet of musical notes.

It is beautiful how a simple combination of words can create a compound to accurately express the essence of what something is. When we hear “composer” in English, it is just that: someone who puts things together, or composes music. It in no way hints at the artistic soul of the composer, and we are forced to search for the meaning of the composer’s work. But when hearing “tónskáld” and thinking of its literal definition, life is suddenly given to the composer. When I listen to composers like Ólafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm or Ludovico Einaudi, I don’t think of them as “musicians who have a way with composing music.” They are poets who string together notes and tones in an artistic way.

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