Giving Life and Color to Olafur Arnald’s Bathtub Song

It was a world of pirates, of mermaids, of dolphins, in the newly built home that is to be the universe of our imagination. It sat there in the corner of our comfort room, its curves full of elegance and prestige. I and my three siblings marveled at its size. Before us, oceans are revealed; our fairy-tales formed souls and flesh. The bathtub became a ritual I look forward to every morning after waking. I would be Poseidon’s feminine soul, giving victory to my heroes and death to the defilers. Sometimes I played with my parents, and sometimes they dragged me out of it.

It was also the sister and brother that consoled me when the walls of our home shook with the horrifying screams and anger. I sat silent in the corner as I let the waters flow over me and drown me. A tear spills from my eyes, a sob from my chest. And I would let go of the pain. And it will hold on to it. It will let me rinse up to another day of being, loving, and becoming.

And I have long waited for the day my child will wallow in its waters and make it the home of her dreams. As I cupped the seas and poured them over her angelic face, she danced with joy and splashed me with her gentle fingers. So I had to join her too and guide her towards the seas I used to swim.

I am now tired in this journey we call life. How blessed I am with a daughter who cares for me and loves me in my days of rest. More so I am blessed with the embraces, the caresses, and the comforts of the bathtub that stayed with me since my youth. I reach upon the sun and its rays dancing in the leaves of the apple tree of our backyard. And I shall not fear, for the bathtub is always be here, for my daughter, and my daughter’s future daughters.

Ljósið Luxury Bathtubs. A comfort for your soul, for today and for generations to come. Made especially for you by Olafur Arnalds and Co.

I had long loved Olafur Arnalds, that awkwardly handsome and talented instrumentalist from Iceland, and his songs that took my writing spirits to landscapes beyond my imagination. I liked him particularly for the speculative take on his albums.

His Eulogy for Evolution, released in 2006, conjured stories of life and death in the plight of the human race, the species that placed the nail on the coffin of evolution. And it gives life to the land that exists before us, for us, and beyond us.

His Þau hafa sloppið undan þunga myrkursins (they have escaped the weight of darkness), packaged in the ominous minimalism of the eclipse, prolonged this heavenly phenomenon into a tapestry of sounds that captured the fascination of our being with the things that occur above

Even his short album, Variations on Static, weaves through rough loops of scratches, synths, and strings the philosophy of life and death as found in the living bonds two robots have formed. It provokes you to think: is death about dying or about forgetting?

Of course, like all artists, the majesty of his songs do not always come from grandiose imaginations, as he says so in the following transcript:

Arnalds: this song is called Ljósið, and it’s a song I originally wrote about bathtubs, because once I was asked to write music for an advertisement for bathtubs, like luxury comfort style, you know. And of course they go to the young classical composer for it.

And they offered me a lot of money so I said yes. It was kind of a stupid commercial though. So I wrote this song for them; I sent it to them. Actually they didn’t like it. They actually said it was not stupid enough for simple-minded people buying consumer products. So I didn’t get any money.

But I did really like the song; I got that from it. So I decided to give away the song for free on the Internet, put it on Youtube and stuff. Suddenly this was my most popular song.

Sometimes, when I’m a little bit bored, I like to go on the Internet and read Youtube comments, which is very entertaining when you make dramatic music. (Sorry, I just made fun of all of you.) Anyway, always, in these comments people are always writing stuff like, “he must be so inspired by the Icelandic nature and the beautiful scenery..” I guess why I’m always laughing is because I wrote this song about bathtubs. And I did it to make some money.

This was from his live KEXP.ORG-Seattle Performance held in the lobby of KEX Hostel at Reykjavik (video embed below). I really preferred watching this out of all his Youtube performances because you get to see his awkwardness work to his advantage. You get to see him play and interact with his tight audience. He would tell stories of how unserious his dramatic songs are while holding the microphone close to his lips. He tells stories like this awkward teenager and smiles like a kid.

But his smiles also has charm that captivates your lips to share it back, and it helps you reach out to the spirit that brings out his best songs. When he composes these soundscapes–as I prefer to call them– he does not do it like a master, declaring the heights and passions of humanity and the arts. He does it like a kid, with a backpack of toys, snacks, and books, and a trustworthy flashlight to help him navigate the adventures that lie before him. And what a talented kid he is to convey these in such heart-breaking and thought-provoking tapestries of sounds.

Which brings us back to Ljósið (pronounced Lyosef, meaning the light). He had long guided me in my writing experiments, but this song did not spring into my attention until this anecdote. The music is cute, romantic yet melancholic. And I cannot help but think: if Arnalds made the advertisement for this bathtub, how would he direct it? How would he produce it? How would Ljósið give life to it, with its music-box piano and lullaby strings?

And thus, with my still-improving creative process, I dug deep into his melody and gave birth to Ljósið Luxury Bathtubs. And it is a pretty romantic tale of life ’til death in the comforts of the elegant porcelain tub. Certainly not catchy, but it has a potential to become a great advertisement with proper cinematography and direction.

See Olafur Arnalds? Not even the charming laughter you give at all the overdramatic comments of your Youtube fans can compare to the power your music provokes. Even the commercial bathtub became literary with your sounds.

Here is his Myspace Profile. Here is his Youtube Channel. And here is the embed of his KEXP.ORG performance, my favorite so far.

Support Oli Arnalds and his music. I love you Oli. ❤


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