Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds has collaborated visually with the photographer and film-maker Benjamin Hardman to produce a short film full of natural wonder to accompany the track “New Grass”, taken from his beautiful and contemplative album from last year, Some Kind Of Peace; and you can glory in that collaboration below.
Using a macro lens, the pair observed the 450 million-year-old secret life and natural phenomenon of Icelandic moss, capturing the phenomenon that when exposed to water it responds with bursts of movement and appears to dance.
The premise that dry moss “dances” when watered inspired Benjamin and Ólafur to build a narrative from the microscopic movements.
Gordon Rothero, research associate at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, explains this natural phenomenon: “Mosses photosynthesize but have been around for some 450 million years. Over that time they have adapted to different habitats. When water is available to them it is absorbed, and the moss photosynthesizes again. Mosses like the Racomitrium lanuginosum in the video grow in a habitat that frequently dries out and respond very quickly to rewetting so they can start photosynthesizing.
“This is what is happening in the video – a dry moss is dancing in response to rewetting. Ecologically important and fascinating as well as beautiful.”
Benjamin slowed down the footage to further elucidate the moss springing back into life; the focus is on a patch exactly one centimetre across.
He was introduced to the phenomenon by a friend who came across some volcanic rocks covered in moss on a construction site and decided to save them taking them back to his cabin to care for them. One morning when watering the moss-covered rocks with a spray bottle, he noticed the moss reacting to the moisture: it began to dance with fast and sudden bursts of motion as the water absorbed into its leaves.
Ólafur says of the track, itself a gem of cycling, glittery piano in tandem with a silky string section: “‘New Grass’ represents revival, growth and exploring new paths. So when Benjamin showed me some experiments he had been making, exploring how moss reacts to water, I instantly thought: We have to make a music video out of this.
“The challenge was to try and tell a compelling story within this minuscule environment – to change our perspective and see it as a huge world, full of life and possibilities.”
Benjamin adds: “The video is an ode to the incredible world of moss. In Iceland we have a volcanic landscape covered in various types of moss, collectively surviving the brutal Arctic elements in a magnificent macro world that exists at a scale too small for us to notice.
“It was an unforgettable moment when it dawned on me that the entire landscape of moss around Iceland and the world could be dancing just like our moss rocks, endlessly reacting to the changes in weather and seasons. What a beautiful world live in, it deserves our love and care.“
Ólafur Arnalds’ Some Kind Of Peace is available now digitally, on vinyl and CD via Mercury KX and may be purchased here.