Hjálmar has been active as a composer in Iceland since his return in 1980 from studies in the US and the Netherlands. His work ranges from shorter solo compositions to larger symphonic works, from lieder and choir works to musicals and opera. Also, he has composed music for dance and theatre, as well as films.
Among his works are Spjótalög for Orchestra, In Black & White for Orchestra,
Concerto for Organ and Orchestra, Over a Still Morning for violincello and orchestra, the opera Rhodymenia Palmata, Five Preludes for piano, Partíta for solo violin, Nocturne for multi-channel electronics, sopran voice and alto flute, Mass in five parts for a mixed choir a capella, and the ballet Rauður þráður.
Hjálmar has written articles and essays on various academic and cultural-political subjects, as well as lecturing on matters of culture, science and the arts. His groundbreaking research on the music of Jón Leifs opened the way for worldwide recognition of Leifs’ music.
Hjálmar has been active in cultural politics and elected for leadership in various artists’ associations. He was appointed first Rector of the Iceland Academy of the Arts in 1998, serving consequently three five-year terms. Hjálmar lives in Kópavogur and Brüssels.