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Mother's Blood, Sister Songs

Mother's Blood, Sister Songs

By Athena Media
How the genetics of Iceland reveals its Irish motherhood; an exploration of the connections between Iceland and Ireland presented by composer Linda Buckley and produced Helen Shaw at Athena Media.
Acclaimed Irish composer Linda Buckley has a personal and professional affinity to Iceland and in this radio series she teams up with documentary maker Helen Shaw to trace the connections between the two places. The Icelandic female line goes directly back to gaelic women, mostly taken as slaves, by Norwegian Vikings who settled the land over a thousand years ago.
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Mother's Blood, Sister Songs: Episode 2 'Sister Songs'
Mother's Blood, Sister Songs, Episode 2 'Sister Songs'. Broadcast RTÉ Lyric fm Jan 5th 6-7pm. In Episode 2 of this music led arts documentary composer Linda Buckley meets women composers and musicians in Iceland, exploring how the genetics of Iceland reveals its Irish motherhood. What is the root of Iceland's extraordinary creativity?  Linda talks to harpist Katie Buckley, flautist Melkorka Olafsdottir, and hears how Björk creates a collaborative and creative environment drawing on the rich legacy of Iceland's musical tradition. The music played in this episode includes, in this order: Linda Buckley - Fall Approaches Linda Buckley - Numarimur Björk - Mother Heroic  Linda Buckley - Siúil A Rún Sigur Ros - Odins' Raven Magic Melkorka Olafsdottir playing Telemann Fantasia 6 Dolce Móðir mín í kví kví - Icelandic folk song Bara Grimsdottir - Æskustöðvarnar Medieval Icelandic folk singing - Tvísöngur Kristín Lárusdóttir (Selló Stína) - Haustið nálgast  Kristin Larusdottir Sello Stina - Fold  ( vox Steindor Anderson) Kristín Lárusdóttir (Selló-Stína) - Von Bara Grimsdottir - Blíðviðri Sigur Ros - Glósóli JFDR - White Sun Björk - The Anchor Song Lara Bryndis Eggertsdottir - I heard the Sound of their Wings Vox Feminae - Móðir mín í kví, kví Anna Thorvaldsdottir (Iceland Symphony Orchestra & Ilan Volkov) - Aeriality Björk - Utopia Katie Buckley - Snowy February Bjork - Violently happy Vox Feminae - Visur Vatnsenda Rosu Björk - Tabula Rasa Björk - Blissing Me Anna Thorvaldsdottir - Heyr þú oss himnum á Linda Buckley & Irene Buckley- Song of the Siren (vox Annette Buckley) Linda Buckley - Fall Approaches Linda Buckley - Numarimur Find out more on Mother's Blood, Sister Songs is an Athena Media production for RTÉ lyric fm made with the support of the TV licence fee and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. The presenter is Linda Buckley, producer is Helen Shaw, the documentary audio editor is Pearse O Caoimh and the production digital editor is John Howard.  The RTÉ lyric fm commissioning editor is Olga Buckley.
January 05, 2020
Mother's Blood, Sister Songs Episode 1 'Mother's Blood'
Mother's Blood, Sister Songs : Episode 1 'Mother's Blood' Broadcast on RTE Lyric fm Sunday December 29th 6pm-7pm. Mother's Blood, Sister Songs is a two part radio and podcast documentary, the story of how the genetics of Iceland reveals its Irish motherhood, presented by Irish composer Linda Buckley and produced by Athena Media for RTE lyric fm. In Epsiode 1 'Mother's Blood' Linda begins her journey at her parents dairy farm at the Old Head of Kinsale, sharing her own story of sound and music and how Iceland became part it of through music and how when she finally went there in 2014 to write music, she felt strangely at home. That quest to uncover the connections between Ireland and Iceland starts a journey through time and history, from 9th Century Gaelic ireland during the Vikings to the genetics research of Dr. Kári Stefánsson in Reykjavik. Linda finds out about the female slaves taken by Norwegian Vikings to Iceland and becomes fascinated by one story in the Icelandic Sagas of Melkorka, a supposedly mute Irish slave, said to be the daughter of an Irish King. Is Melkorka real or imagined and where these Gaelic slaves the first mothers of Iceland? The music heard in this episode includes: Björk - Vísur Vatnsenda-Rósu ( Icelandic folksong) Linda Buckley - Fall Approaches * theme Sigur rós - Ekki Múkk Linda Buckley - Numarimur (vox Elizabeth Hilliard) * theme Steindór Andersen - Haustið Na´lgast Sigur rós - Sæglópur Linda Buckley Hekla Linda Buckley Fridur Linda Buckley - Drowning Pool Linda Buckley - Siúil A Rúin (traditional air) Valgeir Sigurðsson - Ghosts (World Premiere 2013 performed by Crash Ensemble) Daniel Bjarnason - Bow to String Linda Buckley - Ó Iochtar Mara (vox Iarla Ó Lionaird) Björk - Mother Heroic Sigur rós - Kjartan sveinsson-sidasti baerinn Sigur rós - óðin's raven magic - chapter 3 Muireann Níc Amhlaoibh - Slán le Máigh Linda Buckley - Torann Vox Feminae -Vísur Vatnsenda-Rósu Fields - Anna Thorvaldsdóttir Heyr þú oss himnum á - Anna Thorvaldsdóttir Sello Stína - Fold ( vox Steindór Andersen) Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh & Billy Mag Fhloinn - Port na bPúcaí Guðrún Jóhanna Ólafsdóttir - Móðir mín í kví, kví I (icelandic folk song - lullaby) You can find some of the music here in a Soundcloud playlist For more go to
December 29, 2019
Linda Buckley, Journey's End
In this final look back on her exploration from Ireland to Iceland, composer Linda Buckley gives an insight into what she discovered and what she feels it tells us about creativity and music making in Iceland.  The story of Melkorka, the Irish princess slave of the Icelandic Sagas, has haunted the journey. But her life and story has been given more substance by the genetic research showing the majority of women in the settlement period of Iceland were indeed gaelic and presumed, like her, to be slaves. The genetics has given reality to the theory that Irish and Scottish teenage girls and women were the first mothers of Iceland. Our project has been obsessed with not just giving voice to those often silenced lives but to a sense of what their impact and legacy has been, through the stories, the songs and the language they gave their children. How has that influenced and inspired the literary, musical traditions and creativity of Iceland from then to today? The documentary series Mother's Blood, Sister Songs - a two part, two hour series, goes out on RTE Lyric fm on December 29 and Jan 5th 2020. Music includes Numarimur, Linda Buckley FUNI Icelandic folk song - Kveðið við spuna / Rhyming while spinning Bára Grímsdóttir björk Vísur Vatnsenda-Rósu björk : sídasta ég Sellostina Haustið Na´lgast björk utopia Check out for the full podcast series and transmedia content. You can find full versions of the music on the primary playlist
November 25, 2019
Melkorka Ólafsdóttir, Flautist, on Being a Modern Melkorka
Melkorka Ólafsdóttir is a flautist in the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and takes her name from the Melkorka of the Icelandic Sagas. She traces her lineage back to that Melkorka, who is said to have been an Irish Princess taken into slave and bought by an Icelandic chieftain and brought to Iceland. Melkorka is a poet, as well as a flautist, and she has written a poem for her name sake and she shares it with us in Icelandic and English. In this episode producer Helen Shaw and composer Linda Buckley sit down with Melkorka and talk music, Bjork and motherhood. You can find out more about her music here And Melkorka's Svikaskáld (Imposter Poets) are here  Music: Melkorka Ólafsdóttir - Fantasia 6 - Dolce (from solo CD: Telemann Fantasias) björk - utopia Watch a short video cut of our chat with Melkorka (and her stunning cats!) - 
November 18, 2019
Joan Perlman with Linda Buckley on the making of 'Drowning Pool'
Los Angeles based visual artist Joan Perlman came to Iceland through dreams, and has been going back regularly for 20 years. In her most recent project she focusses on The Drowning Pool in Iceland's old open valley parliament, Thingvellir, where, around a open neck of water, women were once executed by drowning for crimes often of sexuality and moral behaviour like incest, adultery and infanticide. For this project she connected with the Irish composer Linda Buckley who wrote a piece of music to score Joan's visual representation of "Drowning Pool". In this conversation Linda unpacks Joan's work, finds out what brought her to Iceland, what inspires her, and how they are both, as artists, drawn to Iceland's story of landscape and people for their work. Linda's exploration of the female voice in 'Mother's Blood, Sisters Songs' resonates with Joan's work and her witness with places that speak of hidden stories, voices and lives, particularly women's lives and stories. Find out more about Joan and Linda's work on their websites and visit the trailer for Joan's 'Drowning Pool' on our website for 'Mother's Blood, Sister Songs'. Joan Perlman Linda Buckley Music is Linda Buckley's composition for "Drowning Pool' and also 'Numarimur' by Linda Buckley sung by Elizabeth Hilliard. If you want to find out more about Iceland's history and Thingvellir check out
November 13, 2019
Vilborg Davíðsdóttir, Giving Voice to the Women of the Sagas
Vilborg Davíðsdóttir is an acclaimed Icelandic writer who draws on the women of the Icelandic Sagas for inspiration in her work. She has written a trilogy on the story of Auður the Deep Minded, who was married to Olaf the White, the Irish born Viking King of Dublin and a novel Korka drawing on the story of Melkorka the supposedly mute Irish princess slave who has been such a focus of our own series, Mother's Blood, Sister Songs. In this podcast, composer Linda Buckley and producer Helen Shaw sit down with Vilborg, in her Reykjavik home, and she talks about her self confessed obsession with the Scottish and Irish gaelic connections to the settlement of Iceland and the Icelandic Sagas. She shares why she made the birth of a red haired child to Auður the breaking point of her marriage to Olaf the White (who thinks the red hair is a sign of infidelity with an Irishman!) and why the slave narrative in the Icelandic Sagas remains a difficult one for Icelandic people who naturally want their origin story to be one of heroes, not slaves. The music is by Linda Buckley : Numarimur You can find out more about Vilborg's writing and her work here and to follow our project and stories go to
November 12, 2019
Éilís Ní Dhuibhne - Reading Iceland with an Irish Eye and Ear
Éilís Ní Dhuibhne is an acclaimed writer in both Irish and English. She often references folklore and folktales in her work of contemporary fiction and she is deeply immersed in both Irish and Icelandic folktales through both her own extensive academic research and also through that of her late husband the Swedish folklorist Bo Almqvist. Éilís first visited Iceland in the late 1970s, a time when few Irish people had the opportunity to go there, and when Iceland was quite a remote and isolated country. She returns often and has many Icelandic friends and colleagues including Professor Gísli Sigurðsson (who we talked to in an earlier episode).  Gísli was a student of Bo Almqvist at University College Dublin and it was during his time studying under Almqvist that he wrote his master thesis on the gaelic influences in the Icelandic Sagas. At the time his mentor and friend thought Gísli was overstating the Irish influences in both the settlement of Iceland and its literature but as Gísli himself told us the genetic research from DeCode Genetics, showing that over 65% of the women in the first generation of Iceland were gaelic, has proven his theory.  In this conversation for Mother's Blood, Sister Songs producer Helen Shaw sat down with Éilís at her home in Dublin to talk about Ireland and Iceland, what connects us and what defines us, and how our folk stories resonate with often dark and malevolent spirits, and where fairies are not tinkerbell but creatures who can steal your child, perhaps showing how closely our ancestors, particularly the women, lived with death and the precarious nature of life and birth itself. You can find out more about Éilís Ní Dhuibhne's work here and check out the rest of our project on Éilís has been involved in UCD's Ireland-Iceland project and you can hear a seminar she participated in last year about cultural connections between the two places called 'cultural dialogues and parallel histories'  Music : Linda Buckley - Numarimur
November 12, 2019
Arnhildur Valgarðsdóttir 'Adda' on the Power of Choirs in Iceland
Arnhildur Valgarðsdóttir or 'Adda' (the name she performs under) is an extraordinary women of song and music. Linda Buckley and producer Helen Shaw met up with her at a church in Iceland where she plays organ, piano and leads the choir.  She is a multi-instrumentalist, a composer and a performer. She took her musical show inspired by the Icelandic Sagas to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year and as she says herself she always has half a dozen projects on the go at the one time.  Adda talks about the power of choirs in Iceland and how the church in Iceland is not so much about religion as community.  She talks about folk music and the influence of singer and folklorist Bára Grímsdóttir who we talked to in a previous episode. Theme music in the episode is Linda Buckley 'Numarimur' You can see a video of Adda on our website
November 06, 2019
Jón Páll Björnsson on the Settlement of Iceland
Jón Páll Björnsson on the Settlement of Iceland The curator of the Settlement Exhibition Jón Páll Björnsson takes producer Helen Shaw on a tour of the exhibition to find out more about the settlement and what it tells us about the people who first made Iceland their home.  He explains the way the Viking society was structured and how he thinks women slaves might have supported both the agricultural and sail weaving work of the community. You can visit the Exhibition here and find out more about our project on
November 06, 2019
Katie Buckley - Harpist
Katie Buckley is a classical harpist who hails from Atlanta in the United States but who has found a home in Iceland and a life with Iceland Symphony Orchestra. She began studying harp when she was 8 with Susan Bennett Brady, and started with an Irish harp, then classical harp and continued her studies in San Francisco with opera harpist Ann Adams. In 2006 she became principal harpist with Iceland Symphony Orchestra and she is a founding member of the ensemble Duo Harpverk. Duo Harpverk is a harp and percussion duo with percussionist Frank Aarnink. The Duo has released two CDs, The Greenhouse Sessions and Offshoots, and performs around Iceland and has embarked on several international tours. For the Mother's Blood Sister Songs series Linda Buckley (we've not found their genetic link yet!) and producer Helen Shaw sat down with Katie in Iceland's beautiful concert hall Harpa to talk music, Iceland and the phenomenal influence of Björk You can find out more about the series on Music Featured: Katie Buckley - 'SnowyFebruary2nd' Duo Harpverk - 'Leyndir Dansar/ Hidden Dances' Björk - 'Blissing Me' Katie Buckley - 'I'm done' Katie Buckley - 'February 1'
November 05, 2019
Lára Bryndís Eggertsdóttir on why Iceland loves Organ Music
Lára Bryndís Eggertsdóttir is the organist at Hjallakirka, Kopavogur in Iceland and she is passionate about organ music and the power it plays in Icelandic society, in bringing people together. She talks here with composer Linda Buckley and producer Helen Shaw about her work and how music is such a central part of the community through the church choirs in Iceland.  Linda and Helen met her when they joined the community at its Sunday's service where Lara played the organ and tutored the young teenagers on harmony singing. Lara's own three children, including her young daughter Hekla (called after the volcano) joined in and Hekla showed her own organ skills by playing the old organ now stationed in the church's lift. One of Linda Buckley's own Icelandic compositions is called Hekla and was inspired during a residency in 2014 when she was looking out at the volcano. In this episode Lara talks about a project, 'I Heard The Sounds of Their Wings' where she commissioned Icelandic composers to write for the organ and how women composers were a big part of it. And here's a little video showcasing that performance of her collection of new work for the organ in the famous Hallgrímskirkja Church in Iceland. Find out more about our project on
November 04, 2019
Kristín Lárusdóttir - Selló Stína - on music at the heart of Iceland
Kristín Lárusdóttir ‘Selló Stína’ on music at the heart of Iceland. Kristín Lárusdóttir is a cellist who crosses into electronica, jazz, tango and folk music and she loves to perform the traditional Icelandic folk rimur songs with her cello, mixing old and new. Linda Buckley and producer Helen Shaw met up with her at the local church in Iceland where she plays cello at Sunday services to talk about the importance of musice in Iceland and why Iceland draws people home and why music is now such a communal force in the country. Visit her website on and enjoy more of her music here:  for more
November 04, 2019
Bára Grímsdóttir & Chris Foster on Icelandic Folk Songs
Bára Grímsdóttir and Chris Foster are folk singers and musicians. Bára is a legendary force in Icelandic folk music and song tradition, and she is an accomplished composer herself.  In this interview with composer Linda Buckley they both shares the story of rima, the rhyming chants of Iceland, and their work in preserving them, as well as their performance together through their folk group FUNI.  Linda herself has been inspired to write music including her own piece Haustid Nalgast based on a rimur poem. Find out more about them and their work Find out more about our project on
October 30, 2019
Prof. Gunnþórunn Guðmundsdóttir on Storytelling in Ireland & Iceland
MBSS: Podcast 8. Dr. Gunnþórunn Guðmundsdóttir on The Power of Storytelling in Ireland & Iceland. Dr. Gunnþórunn Guðmundsdóttir is Professor of Literature at the University of Iceland, Reykjavik. She's has been a visiting scholar at University College Dublin under its Iceland-Ireland project and for this podcast in the Mother's Blood, Sister Songs series composer and presenter Linda Buckley asked her to explore what links Irish and Icelandic storytelling.  You can find out more about Gunn and her work here and check out a short video from our interview with her on our website
October 25, 2019
Dr. Kári Stefánsson The Genetics of Iceland and its Gaelic Roots
Kári Stefánsson is an Icelandic neurologist and founder and CEO of the Reykjavik-based biopharmaceutical company deCODE genetics - . In Iceland he has pioneered the use of population-scale genetics to understand variation in the sequence of the human genome. His work has focused on how genomic diversity is generated and on the discovery of sequence variants impacting susceptibility to common diseases. This population approach has served as a model for national genome projects around the world.  The sequencing of the Icelandic population's DNA by deCODE genetics has also revealed more about who were the original settlers of Iceland, showing over 60% of the female and 20% of the male DNA came from gaelic people. But the deCode Genetics research also shows how the isolation of the Icelandic people, for hundreds of years, has shaped their genetic code so that the modern Icelandic people are quite different from their original Norwegian and Gaelic roots. In this small population of just 330,000 people (it was only about 150,000 until the mid 20th Century) genetics and ancestry is a national interest where people like to trace their line back to a character in the Icelandic Sagas. But while the Sagas were written a few centuries after the settlement the deCode genetics work, on both the modern population, and ancient skeletons gives a scientific window on a thousand year old story. Here's the article that prompted us to go further : The research data is here: Our transmedia project has more resources including a short video from our chat with Kari Music is Numarimur by Linda Buckley.
October 10, 2019
Prof. Terry Gunnell - Irish and Icelandic Folklore and Folktales
Mother's Blood, Sister Songs : 6. Professor Terry Gunnell. ProfessorTerry Gunnell is a well known expert on Icelandic and Nordic folk traditions and in this interview with Linda Buckley for Mother's Blood, Sister Songs he traces the links between Ireland's folklore and Iceland. Terry's roots are in Brighton, England but he has a PhD in Icelandic Studies from Leeds University and is now Professor of Folkloristics at the University of Iceland. His research field includes legends, folk beliefs and festivals in Iceland, the Nordic countries and the British Isles/Ireland; Old Norse religion; drama (medieval; Ibsen, Strindberg; Absurdism, Shakespeare, Total Theatre; comedy), folk drama; performance studies. You can find out more about his research and work here and check out the additional resources on his page on our website
October 09, 2019
Prof. Gísli Sigurðsson - Gaelic Influences in the Icelandic Sagas
Mother's Blood, Sister Songs: 5. Professor Gísli Sigurðsson. Professor Gísli Sigurðsson was a young Icelandic scholar of the sagas when he came to Dublin in the 1980s to follow an MPhil under Professor Bo Almqvist at UCD. His thesis resulted in a ground-breaking piece of research on the gaelic influences in the Icelandic Sagas. At the time his work was often seen, by his academic colleagues, as overstating the gaelic influences in iceland and the Icelandic culture. But today the genetic studies that show that the settler population were 60% gaelic women and 20% gaelic men, mostly slaves brought by the Norwegian Vikings, confirms his theory that there was a significant gaelic population during the settlement period. In this audio interview with Linda Buckley and producer Helen Shaw Prof. Gísli Sigurðsson explains the impact of his research, how it challenges the nationalist thinking of the time, and how the story of the Irish princess slave, Melkorka, is one of the few slave stories that the Icelandic culture has both embraced and celebrated. To find out more about Gísli Sigurðsson, who is a research professor at The Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, University of Iceland go to his page  and visit our website and see a short video of Gísli's interview with us under the dropdown menu VOICES. Mother's Blood, Sister Songs is a transmedia storytelling project exploring how the genetics of Iceland reveals its gaelic roots . The project is made by Irish composer Linda Buckley, and the documentary team from Athena Media Helen Shaw and John Howard. The radio version of the project will air on RTÉ Lyric fm in 2020.
October 09, 2019
Dr. Emily Lethbridge - Women in the Icelandic Sagas
Dr Emily Lethbridge, at the University of Iceland, is an expert on the Icelandic Sagas, those unique manuscripts which tell the story of the Icelandic settlement and the story of the Norse Vikings themselves. The manuscripts were written some centuries after the events of the settlement but give remarkable accounts of both the heroic myths of the Vikings and the family sagas of the characters who are seen as forging the settlement of Iceland. In this exchange composer Linda Buckley sits down with Emily at the Arni Magnusson Institute for Icelandic Studies in Reykjavik and gets a deeper understanding not just of the sagas but how Ireland and the gaelic people feature in them, including the story of the supposedly mute Irish slave Melkorka. You can find out more about Emily's work and research here: and here's a link to the Saga mapping project : and you can follow our project on You can also see a video version of our short interview with Emily on the website. The music is Numarimur by Linda Buckley inspired by Icelandic music, poetry (rimur) and landscape.
October 03, 2019
Dr Elizabeth Boyle - Ireland, the Vikings and Slavery
Dr Elizabeth Boyle is Head of Early Irish at Maynooth University and an accomplished historian of the medieval world. She has a doctorate from Cambridge University in Anglo Saxon, Norse and Celtic Studies. Lizzie, as she is known, lives between Ireland and England. In this audio interview Helen Shaw gets Lizzie to describe what Ireland was like, as a political and economic society, at the time of the Norse Vikings invasion and settlements in the 9th Century. Lizzie gives a picture of the normalcy of slavery both in Irish society and in the Viking world and gives context to the story of Melkorka the supposedly mute Irish slave princess of the Icelandic Sagas - in the Laxdaela Saga. To find out more about Elizabeth Boyle's work and research visit: Her personal blog, full of interesting treasures, is here to find out more about our project go to Music is Numarimur by Linda Buckley - find out more about Linda's work on
October 02, 2019
Prof. Poul Holm - The Vikings in Ireland
Professor Poul Holm is an expert voice on the Viking settlements in Ireland. He is Professor of Environmental History at Trinity College Dublin. He is a Danish native and before moving to Dublin he was Rector of Roskilde University in Denmark. He is the Director of the Trinity Centre for Environmental Humanities, a member of the Royal Irish Academy’s Standing Committee for Archaeology, and Vice-Chair of the Humanities class of Academia Europea. In this audio conversation with producer Helen Shaw Poul gives an insight into the Norwegian Viking raids, and settlements, in Ireland from 790s and across the 9th and 10th centuries and how the Norse and Gaelic people became intermixed. He gives a sense of the market for people, for slaves, throughout this time and how by the late 9th Century the Norse Vikings took gaelic men and women, mostly slaves, to forge their settlement in Iceland. He draws on the famous story of Melkorka from the Icelandic Sagas, the slave Irish Princess, who mothers a future leader of the new Icelandic world, and a character, and story, who has inspired our 'Mother's Blood, Sister Songs' project. Find out more about the project on And Professor Poul Holm The music is Numarimur by Linda Buckley using Icelandic language and inspired by the landscape and soundscape of Iceland.
October 01, 2019
Mother's Blood, Sister Songs: Presenter Linda Buckley
Mother's Blood, Sister Songs is a documentary project by Athena Media exploring how the genetic roots of Iceland reveal its gaelic heritage. The documentary is presented by the Irish composer Linda Buckley and in this short audio feature Linda takes us to her own family home, a farm at the Old Head of Kinsale and shares how it has shapes her sonic and visual aesthetic and how this dramatic and isolated landscape connects to Iceland where she has written and composed work. In the piece you hear Buckley's orchestral and choral work - Fall Approaches - Haustid Nalgast, which she wrote long before visiting Iceland in 2014, and it uses an Icelandic rimur, or chanted poem, as its inspiration. Here's the piece performed by Ruthless Jabiru from 2013 Ruthlessjabiru – Linda-buckley-fall-approaches To hear our project playlist of music and stories that inspire us go to To find out more about the project go to our website The project producer is Helen Shaw, the assistant producer is John Howard.
August 20, 2019