An artist who defies classification and disregards traditional generic boundaries, Icelandic cellist, singer, and composer Hildur Guðnadóttir has earned a unique place on the contemporary music scene thanks to her virtuosity, versatility, and originality.
Born in Reykjavík in 1982, Guðnadóttir grew up in a musical family and began playing cello at the age of five. She studied at the Reykjavík Music Academy, then moved on to study composition and new media at the Iceland Academy of the Arts and Berlin’s Universität der Künste. Now based in Berlin, she enjoys unprecedented international recognition for her film and television work, having just become the first female composer ever to win the Academy, Golden Globe, and BAFTA awards in the same season. She has also set a new record for the highest number of awards ever received in a single season by a female composer. Her ground-breaking score for the HBO series Chernobyl won an Emmy last September, led to her being named Television Composer of the Year at the 2019 World Soundtrack Awards in October, and went on to win the Grammy for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media, making Guðnadóttir the first solo woman ever to achieve victory in that category.
She has also made history with her haunting soundtrack for Todd Phillips’ dark psychological thriller Joker, becoming the first solo female winner of the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score (Motion Picture) since the introduction of the category in 1947. Having additionally won the Critics’ Choice, Hollywood Critics Association, and BAFTA awards for Best Score, the Joker soundtrack has now secured Guðnadóttir her first Academy Award, for Best Original Score.
An exclusive artist with Deutsche Grammophon, she had also worked previously with the Yellow Label on recordings with the late Jóhann Jóhannsson, as well as writing and recording a track for pianist Víkingur Ólafsson’s Bach Reworks album. She has written music for the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, National Theatre of Iceland, Tate Modern, the British Film Institute, Royal Swedish Opera, and Gothenburg National Theatre. She has performed and recorded with artists including Hauschka, Nico Muhly, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Valgeir Sigurdsson, Skúli Sverrisson, and David Sylvian, whether as vocalist or playing cello or one of the less traditional instruments she has made her own, such as the Halldorophone (a feedback instrument) or the Ómar (a six-string electroacoustic cello/viola da gamba).
Guðnadóttir was nominated for the Nordic Council Music Prize as Composer of the Year and for the WSA’s Discovery of the Year Award. She won Best Original Score at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards (for Mary Magdalene, shared with Jóhannsson) and Best Score at the Beijing International Film Festival for Journey’s End. She is also a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.