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A 2018 halldorophone with a combined neck and fingerboard in cast aluminium.
Electronic instrument
Hornbostel–Sachs classification513[1]
Inventor(s)Halldór Úlfarsson
Developed2008 -

The halldorophone (/ˈhældɔːrɔːfn/; also known as the dorophone, and dórófónn in Icelandic) is a cello-like electronic instrument created by artist and designer Halldór Úlfarsson.[2] The halldorophone is designed specifically to feedback the strings,[3][4][5] making use of the phenomena of positive feedback to incite the strings to drone. The instrument gained some recognition in early 2020[6][7] when composer Hildur Guðnadóttir won the Academy Award for her original soundtrack to the movie Joker, some of which was composed with a halldorophone.[8][9][2]

A halldorophone, a cello-like intelligent instrument embedded with electronic parts.
A halldorophone owned by the Iceland University of the Arts. It was commissioned by the Design Fund in Iceland and gifted on January 17th 2022.[10]

Operating principles[edit]

The halldorophone is an electroacoustic instrument which makes use of positive feedback as a key element in generating its sound. The player takes a sitting position behind the instruments and plays it a similar way as they would a cello. The instrument is predicated on audio feedback which is generated when sound picked up by a microphone (or comparable device) is passed to a speaker and then re-detected by the microphone. It causes amplification in the system and a sustained, recursive signal flow is created; a positive feedback loop.[11]

In the words of composer Nicole Robson: "The halldorophone utilises a simple system, whereby the vibration of each string is detected by a pickup, amplified and routed to a speaker embedded in the back of the instrument. By adding gain to individual strings in the feedback loop, the instrument's response can become rapidly complex, potentially spinning out of control. While every musical performance of a piece is unique in some way and contingent on its particular moment and situation in time, the unstable nature of the halldorophone exacerbates this condition."[12]

Electronics engineer Orfeas Moraitis who has worked on halldorophone electronics with Halldor Ulfarsson since 2018 recorded an instructional video for an experimental version of the instrument at Elektronmusikstudion in Stockholm at the start of summer in 2022 at the occasion of the instrument being on loan to EMS and available to users along with other studio instruments and equipment.[13]


Concert music[edit]

A number of pieces have been composed and performed for solo halldorophone, halldorophone in duet with a second instrument and with ensemble.

Several composers of the Icelandic S.L.Á.T.U.R. collective have used halldorophones in their works ever since the Hljóðheimar exhibition in Reykjavík 2011.[14]

One of these composers Hafdís Bjarnadóttir's piece "A Day in February", for halldorophone and accordion was nominated by the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service for the International Rostrum of Composers in Vienna in 2011. [15][16]

Another S.L.Á.T.U.R. composer Guðmundur Steinn Gunnarsson's (IS) suite for solo halldorophone "Hafið og Örninn" was premiered at Hljóðön concert series by Finnish cellist Markus Hohti in 2015.[17] His chamber opera Einvaldsóður which was premiered on Sláturtíð 2017 [18] also makes an extended use of the halldorophone in a chamber music context. It was selected as one of the top 5 pieces of its decade in Aesthetics for Birds.[19]

Nicole Robson (UK) performed a study for solo (digital) halldorophone "Dual/duel/duet/for/with/halldorophone" at NIME (New Interfaces for Musical Expression conference) in 2020.[12]

Secondson (UK) performed at The National Museum of Wales for the improvised performance 8 with Super Furry Animals' Cian Ciaran, The Gentle Good and others on 19 August 2019 with the halldorophone. The very first live performance with halldorophone in the UK.

First UK performance of a halldorophone

Johan Svensson (SE) has composed two works for halldorophone and a second instrument:[20] Piece for halldorophone and viola (2012) Composition for DIMI-A and halldorophone [music and video] in collaboration with Halldór Úlfarsson (2014)

Timothy Page (US/FI) premiered 'Toccata" for halldorophone, clarinet, electronics at Nordic Music Days in Stockholm in 2012 [21]

In December 2021, Mason Cook (US), Sherry Gao (CH), and Forrest Love ((US)), music composition students under the tutelage of Adam Schoenberg at Occidental College, would debut a series of new works for the halldorophone, which the college had acquired earlier that year. This marked the first time that the instrument had been showcased in The Americas.[22] Schoenberg would later use that exact instrument in May 2022, at a Latin American-themed festival by the Louisville Orchestra in Kentucky, where he premiered his piece Automation. It is a double concerto for orchestra, cello, and a custom built halldorophone. The conductor, Teddy Abrams, said using the electronic instrument was in keeping with the energy of the city and the orchestra's history, both daring and adventurous.[23][24]

Film music[edit]

In 2016, composer Jóhann Jóhannsson recorded Hildur Guðnadóttir playing halldorophone for his score of the motion picture Arrival (film).[25]

In 2018, Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir scored the film Sicario: Day of the Soldado using a halldorophone, which she claimed was her main instrument at the time, calling it an "electro-acoustic feedback monster" and a "Jimi Hendrix cello".[26][27]

In 2019, Hildur Guðnadóttir played and composed the original soundtrack to the movie Joker using a halldorophone. The score won the Academy Award the following year. [28]

Studio recordings[edit]

Drone metal band Sunn O))) recorded halldorophone with Steve Albini at Electrical Audio for their eighth studio album Life Metal, released in 2019.

Halldorotones a collection of short pieces for solo halldorophone was released by Broken Strings Music in 2020.[29]

Secondson (UK) released "Suite for halldorophone and Synthi A" on 8 February 2021, a 21 minute long ascending drone piece. He also released the score "Tónlist frá: hér að neðan" on 1 October 2019 which features the halldorophone and Yamaha CS60 extensively.

The Icelandic electro-psychedelic-post-hip-hop-pop collective Cryptochrome (IS) released their Secondson (UK) produced EP "Love Life" on 2 February 2020 which features the halldorophone on the song 'Kali.'

Secondson (UK) released the solo halldorophone album "Any Other Place" on March 21, 2022, via SFDB Records. Recorded in the crypt at the Temple of Peace and Health in Cardiff.

Video games[edit]

In 2021, composer Hildur Guðnadóttir composed the video-game score for Battlefield 2042 by DICE (company) and EA Games using the halldorophone. The soundtrack was released 10 September 2021.[30][31]


A halldorophone from 2014

The instrument was originally conceived of as a prop for performance art during Halldór's time as a visual arts student. Starting out as kind of a joke, he says, but in time developed into a functional string instrument for string players interested in working with feedback.[32]


  1. ^ "Revision of the Hornbostel-Sachs Classification of Musical Instruments by the MIMO Consortium".
  2. ^ a b "This strange instrument from Joker soundtrack was invented in Finland". Aalto University. Retrieved 2020-10-26.
  3. ^ "Halldorophone".
  4. ^ Úlfarsson, Halldór. "The halldorophone: The ongoing innovation of a cello-like drone instrument" (PDF). The International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression.
  5. ^ Magnusson, T. (2019). Sonic writing: technologies of material, symbolic, and signal inscriptions. Bloomsbury Academic. Ch. 13
  6. ^ "KitMonsters – halldorophone - interview with creator Halldór Úlfarsson".
  7. ^ "Aukinn áhugi á dórófóni eftir sigurgöngu Hildar".
  8. ^ "Composer Hildur Guðnadóttir Finds the Humanity in 'Joker'". NPR.org.
  9. ^ "Film Composers Tap into Offbeat Inspirations for Scores". 14 November 2019.
  10. ^ "Sjálfbær þróun kaupmannsins á horninu, stafrænar flíkur og vatnavellíðan meðal styrkþega Hönnunarsjóðs".
  11. ^ Úlfarsson, Halldór. "The halldorophone: The ongoing innovation of a cello-like drone instrument" (PDF). The International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression.
  12. ^ a b "Dual/duel/duet/for/with/halldorophone". nicolerobson.com. 2020.
  13. ^ "Halldorophone @ EMS 2022-2023 - Elektronmusikstudion EMS". elektronmusikstudion.se. Retrieved 2022-12-08.
  14. ^ "Liðnar sýningar | Listasafn Íslands".
  15. ^ "Iceland Music Information Centre - Originators".
  16. ^ "Hafdís Bjarnadóttir - Composer".
  17. ^ "List of Works". 23 June 2015.
  18. ^ "Sláturtíð 2017".
  19. ^ "7 Experts Rank the Decade's Top 5 in Music". 23 December 2019.
  20. ^ "Works | Johan Svensson".
  21. ^ "Timothy Page Composer » Toccata".
  22. ^ "Archived Livestream of the December 3rd Occidental College Composition Seminar Concert".
  23. ^ Anderson, Colin (9 February 2022). "Louisville Orchestra: Festival of Latin American Music highlights spring lineup". Colin's Column.
  24. ^ Kaliss, Jeff. "Conductor of the Year: Teddy Abrams". Musical America.
  25. ^ "Jóhann Jóhannsson - Arrival (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)". Discogs.
  26. ^ "Sicario: Day of the Soldado". IMDb.
  27. ^ Hart, Hugh (5 July 2018). "Jimi Hendrix-Style Cello Hybrid Defines Sicario: Day of the Soldado's Brooding Score". The Credits.
  28. ^ "Composer Hildur Guðnadóttir Finds the Humanity in 'Joker'". NPR.org.
  29. ^ "BrokenStringsMusic". BrokenStringsMusic. Retrieved 2022-05-06.
  30. ^ Battlefield 2042 Reveals Official Soundtrack Details GamingLyfe.com, 10 September 2021.
  31. ^ "Hildur Guðnadóttir". IMDb.
  32. ^ Iceland University of the Arts receives a halldorophone - Kastljós News Segment, retrieved 2022-02-03

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