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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 SongsJan 05, 2020

Mother's Blood, Sister Songs: Episode 2 'Sister Songs'

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.

Jan 05, 202056:03
Mother's Blood, Sister Songs Episode 1 'Mother's Blood'

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

Dec 29, 201956:11
Linda Buckley, Journey's End

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

Nov 25, 201914:54
Melkorka Ólafsdóttir, Flautist, on Being a Modern Melkorka
Nov 18, 201919:54
Joan Perlman with Linda Buckley on the making of 'Drowning Pool'
Nov 13, 201920:07
Vilborg Davíðsdóttir, Giving Voice to the Women of the Sagas
Nov 12, 201923:21
Éilís Ní Dhuibhne - Reading Iceland with an Irish Eye and Ear

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

Nov 12, 201931:40
Arnhildur Valgarðsdóttir 'Adda' on the Power of Choirs in Iceland

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

Nov 06, 201917:55
Jón Páll Björnsson on the Settlement of Iceland
Nov 06, 201914:56
Katie Buckley - Harpist

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'

Nov 05, 201917:23
Lára Bryndís Eggertsdóttir on why Iceland loves Organ Music

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

Nov 04, 201920:47
Kristín Lárusdóttir - Selló Stína - on music at the heart of Iceland
Nov 04, 201917:12
Bára Grímsdóttir & Chris Foster on Icelandic Folk Songs
Oct 30, 201923:43
Prof. Gunnþórunn Guðmundsdóttir on Storytelling in Ireland & Iceland
Oct 25, 201918:26
Dr. Kári Stefánsson The Genetics of Iceland and its Gaelic Roots

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.

Oct 10, 201912:47
Prof. Terry Gunnell - Irish and Icelandic Folklore and Folktales
Oct 09, 201918:06
Prof. Gísli Sigurðsson - Gaelic Influences in the Icelandic Sagas

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.

Oct 09, 201921:45
Dr. Emily Lethbridge - Women in the Icelandic Sagas

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.

Oct 03, 201919:38
Dr Elizabeth Boyle - Ireland, the Vikings and Slavery
Oct 02, 201923:49
Prof. Poul Holm - The Vikings in Ireland
Oct 01, 201924:26
Mother's Blood, Sister Songs: Presenter Linda Buckley
Aug 20, 201910:49