From hype to holy: DJ Bunuel gets a feel for the nominees for the 2020 music prize

DJ Bunuel står under ett träd i höstsolen.

I feel very torn when it comes to awarding prizes in the field of culture. Culture, and in this case music, isn’t a sport where you have a stopwatch, tape measure, or referee deciding who’s best. Taste isn’t something that can be ranked by whose taste is more valuable than someone else’s. On this basis, all cultural practitioners should receive at least one award during their career.

That said, I can still see the matter from the other side. What does it mean for an artist to have their work nominated? Publicity? The opportunity for the work to reach people who would otherwise never have heard of the artist? In that case, the prize, for all its subjectivity, has a completely different purpose. The great dilemma of our time is that so many fine works never cut through the crowd, which means that each and every nomination is justified.

As always, this year’s nominations for the Nordic Council Music Prize include a wealth of fine music worthy of being discovered and listened to.


Niels Rønsholdt: Songs of Doubt (Denmark)
Mixing electronics with acoustic music is no longer innovative but rather it’s a natural part of music in the year 2020. In this case, it is harmonious and comes across as being natural. Nothing feels as though it has been glued together.

Den Sorte Skole & Karsten Fundal: Symphony II for Sampler and Chamber Orchestra (Denmark)
The best feeling when listening to music as a professional is when you don’t start thinking about where the sounds come from and how they fit together but just listen to it as a whole. That’s what happened to me here. All is one. This work rewards the listener if you just capitulate and let it flow into the soul.

3TM: Lake (Finland)
If you didn’t know the background of the musicians, I’m not sure you’d call this piece jazz. That’s something I find nice. By not giving the music a name, the listening experience is purer. This work is a journey. Art at its best takes the recipient to another place – somewhere where trust and calm reign, and where fears and anxieties disappear.

Sampo Haapamäki: Konsertto neljäsosasävelaskelpianolle ja kamariorkesterille (Finland)
Sometimes I notice that I haven’t listened to much orchestral music, so I can’t really interpret a piece. My ear is simply untrained and I feel like I’m standing on the other side of the window.

Jan Rasmussen: VÍN (Faroe Islands)
Jan Rasmussen’s music is free from limitations, even though the music is, in a way, quite typical of electronic music. For me, however, it doesn’t give the impression of something I’ve heard before. With the addition of vocals, it wouldn’t be all too different from much of today’s pop music.

Rasmus Lyberth: Inuunerup oqarfigaanga / Livet skal leves på ny (Greenland)
When I listen to music in a language I don’t understand but still get a feeling of understanding, the music almost becomes holy for me. The feeling and sincerity shine through regardless of whether or not I understand the words. There’s something very fragile and direct in Lyberth’s music.

Hildur Guōnadóttir: Chernobyl (Iceland)
It’s hard not to be influenced by hype. A composer who’s been the subject of so much attention somehow comes preapproved. That being said, I’m still touched by this music. It takes me away, and that feels right. For me, it’s comparable to the goosebumps you can get from music.

Veronique Vaka: Lendh (Iceland)
There’s both fragility and a sense of danger that appeal to me in this work. It feels like the soundtrack to a film that you see when you close your eyes. And in that film, there could be anything just around the corner.

Ørjan Matre: Lyriske stykker (Norway)
This music takes me to a comforting and somehow safe world. The timelessness and inexplicable geographical freedom of this music almost carry me.

Trond Reinholdtsen: Theory of the Subject (Norway)
Beauty and tranquillity are the first feelings this work evokes in me. And that gives me confidence throughout the journey, with a diverse bouquet of emotions and surprise after surprise. The combination of different media feels both natural and motivated. It feels not as though you’re watching a film, but as though you’re in the film. This is a work that I immediately know will elevate me more and more the more that I listen to it.

Robyn: Honey (Sweden)
When I listen to Honey together with all the other nominees, I get the feeling that this work should have been nominated for a different prize. Yes, she’s very talented and original in her own way, but I don’t hear her as someone producing something new or opening up the depths of her soul. Good pop – no more and no less.

Andrea Tarrodi: Acanthes (Sweden)
This work takes me to the countryside and out into nature. For me, art is at its best when it takes me away. Despite the insects that I can see and hear, it evokes conflicting feelings.

Although it will be a big day for Nordic music when the winner is announced on 27 October, I hope as many music consumers as possible will still listen to Nordic music every day.

DJ Bunuel

DJ, events producer, musician, and presenter based in Helsinki