Berglind Tómasdóttir is a flutist and interdisciplinary artist living in Reykjavík, Iceland. In her work she frequently explores identity and archetypes, as well as music as a social phenomenon.

An advocate of new music, Berglind has worked with composers such as Björk, Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Peter Ablinger, Evan Ziporyn and Carolyn Chen, and received commissions from Dark Music Days, The National Flute Association, Cycle Music and Art Festival, Reykjavík Arts Festival and Nordic Music Days, to name a few.

Berglind Tómasdóttir holds degrees in flute playing from Reykjavik College of Music and The Royal Danish Music Conservatory in Copenhagen and a DMA in contemporary music performance from University of California, San Diego. 

Berglind is a professor in contemporary music performance at Iceland University of the Arts.

The Origin of Things

by Berglind María Tómasdóttir

Duration: 16:19

Erlendur Sveinsson
Haraldur Sigurbergsson
Sæmundur Ari Halldórsson
Frankie Martin
Carolyn Chen

Music by Berglind María Tómasdóttir

Special thanks: Lee Lorenzo Lynch


The Origin of Things is a video essay on sound, memory and identity.

The Origin of Hrokkur - an excerpt from the film:

The hybrid culture of Southern California can be traced to numerous nationalities immigrating at the turn of the twentieth century. Rockriver Mary emigrated from the Meðalland region of Iceland, hoping only to make money to send home. Instead, she built a life here.

When Rockriver Mary arrived in Imperial County, her homeland was still under Danish colonial rule. Because she had previous farming experience, the Imperial Valley was a natural choice. There is a saying in Icelandic that you are not a real Icelander unless you own some land -- Rockriver Mary certainly took that to heart, laboring and saving her money toward the goal of a farm all her own.

While working in the fields, she would recite rímur: the traditional of chanting epic poems, and the Icelanders’ way of surviving the long, cold, gloomy winters in their rural homeland. So, too, chanting rímur would become a way to survive under the blistering sun of California, and would achieve great popularity among the people of Imperial Valley.

Weekly gatherings of rímur emerged as early as 1913, concurrent with earliest evidences of the instrument known as Hrokkur. A traditional hybrid, Hrokkur was heavily influenced by the Indian sitar, Mexican guitar, and, naturally, the Icelandic langspil.

The droning soundscape of Hrokkur underneath chants of rímur would come to symbolize the grand, cultural diversity of the Imperial Valley. And though Rockriver Mary made numerous contributions to farming practice—some of which endure to the present day—she will first and foremost be remembered for the indelible mark left on the rich musical heritage of this region.