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Ólafur Arnalds: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

Using an Edison "Fireside" cylinder phonograph and his own Stratus music software, Ólafur Arnalds' Tiny Desk (home) concert brings the past and the future into a heartfelt performance. Filmed in his tree-lined studio in Reykjavík, Iceland (the former studio of Sigur Rós), Ólafur and his string quartet perform three songs from my personal No. 1 album of 2020, some kind of peace. The pensive set opens with an older tune, "Happiness Does Not Wait," with Ólafur Arnalds seated at a short upright piano known as a Danish 'pianette.'

The delicate performance is the perfect window into this Icelandic composer's profound and passionate music. The Edison wax cylinder that we hear on "Woven Song" is a traditional Amazonian healing song sung by the late shaman Herlinda Agustin Fernandez.

Look closely at the piano toward the back of the studio during the tune "Spiral," and you'll see a piano playing seemingly without a performer. That piano is reacting to Ólafur Arnald's real-time performance using algorithms he and his coder friend, Halldór Eldjárn, developed. He used it extensively when he came and performed his Tiny Desk concert at NPR in 2018. Ólafur Arnalds is a gentle subversive of 21st century music, and I'm so grateful to be able to present his enchanting sounds.


  • "Happiness Does Not Wait"
  • "Woven Song"
  • "Spiral"
  • "We Contain Multitudes"

  • Ólafur Arnalds: piano
  • Geirþrúður Ása Guðjónsdóttir: violin
  • Sigrún Harðardóttir: violin
  • Karl James Pestka: violin
  • Unnur Jónsdóttir: cello

  • Audio: Ólafur Arnalds, Hafsteinn Þráinsson
  • Video: Blair Alexander
  • Local Production: Árni Þór Árnason

  • Producer: Bob Boilen
  • Video Producer: Morgan Noelle Smith
  • Audio Mastering: Josh Rogosin
  • Associate Producer: Bobby Carter
  • Tiny Production Team: Kara Frame, Maia Stern
  • Executive Producer: Lauren Onkey
  • Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann
  • Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

    In 1988, a determined Bob Boilen started showing up on NPR's doorstep every day, looking for a way to contribute his skills in music and broadcasting to the network. His persistence paid off, and within a few weeks he was hired, on a temporary basis, to work for All Things Considered. Less than a year later, Boilen was directing the show and continued to do so for the next 18 years.
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