After hearing about the sudden passing of Jóhann Jóhannsson, I wanted to pay him tribute by compiling a (non-comprehensive) list of his works. The Icelandic composer was best known for his blend of electronic and classical genres. He received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations and awards for many of his film scores, and his solo albums set the stage for experimentation in electronic music. For more about Jóhannsson and his life, read here.
Please enjoy some of my favorite Jóhannsson pieces.
The Theory of Everything score was the first music I ever heard by Jóhannsson, and I immediately fell in love. The subtle blend of electronics mixed with classical ideas plays out beautifully; check out this blog post I wrote about it for more information.
This album was composed for the short film Varmints, and the delicate theme foreshadows the light and darkness in the story.
I’ll admit, I don’t know much about this movie or its score. But the first time I listened to Hetapod B, I was intrigued. The movie is about a linguist recruited by the government to communicate with invading alien life, and Jóhannsson captures that idea perfectly in the score. He combines different elements of the human voice with electronics and lush harmonies to create layers of sound rising and falling; it’s almost as if he invented a new (alien?) language in the music.
I haven’t seen this movie either, but the score is so emotional and raw that I had to include it here. This particular piece contrasts heavily with the other film scores in this post, and that goes to show how talented Jóhannsson really was. He had the ability to mold and adapt his compositional style, always pushing boundaries and looking for new sounds, while connecting with audiences around the world and staying true to himself as a creator.
Believe it or not, this piece was inspired by Henry Ford’s failed rubber plant; what Ford dreamed would be a utopia ended with disaster, and Jóhannsson portrays all of that in this piece. It’s exquisite.
From his most recent studio album Orphée, “Flight From The City” is a beautiful minimalist work that showcases Jóhannsson’s current style. I love how this simple (yet complex) piece builds and falls, creating a sense of flight and motion within a static world.
What are your favorite pieces by Jóhann Jóhannsson?