JOHANN JOHANNSSON: in memoriam

“I’m obsessed with the texture of sound, and interested in minimal forms, with how to say things as simply as possible, how to distill things into their primal form.”


On February 9, Jóhann Jóhannsson's inanimate body was discovered in his apartment in Berlin. The cause of death still remains unspecified. The disappearance of the composer occurs at the age of 48, in a period of intense creativity and full artistic maturity.

His musical testament is the result of an obsession for simplicity and essential. The passionate concern for the microscopy of the sounds led him to a minimalist aesthetic that does not refuse melody but potentiates it through an emotionally articulated speech, at the intersection of the visual with the hearing. His imagist style helped him to work on collaborations in the fields of theater, contemporary dance, and cinema. Thus he has evolved from a talented indie author from Reykjavik to an admirable post-classical international artist (author of `Fordlandia`, `Englaborn`) and, finally, to a respectable film composer among the options of great directors of Hollywood. Denis Villeneuve has worked most frequently with Jóhannsson. Four of his major productions have Jóhann Jóhannsson in charge of music scoring: Arrival (2016), Sicario (2015) and Prisoners (2013). Jóhann Jóhannsson is the only Icelandic Golden Globe Award-winning composer thanks to the magnificent soundtrack recorded for `The Theory of Everything` (2014, directed by James Marsh), the movie illustrating the love story between the great British physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife, Jane Wilde. His latest completed projects, all dated 2018, are the soundtracks of the thriller `Mandy` (directed by Panos Cosmatos), the biographical film `Mercy` (directed by James Marsh) and the religious drama `Mary Magdalene` (directed by Garth Davies).

The tragic news of Jóhannsson's death inspired me to produce a new mix in which I tried to capture the specific sensitivity and visionary ingenuity of the Icelandic artist. Thank you Jóhann Jóhannsson, godspeed!


Note: The article and the mix were created for my project Cinémusique, a podcast series focused on film music.