Jóhann Jóhannsson was a fantastic composer and brilliant artist of our time. Last week, we lost him by surprise. As of now, we’re seeing him get even more recognition from the mainstream media than he ever received in his lifetime. We would do good to recognize the impact he’s had on music as a whole. Ethan and Will have taken the liberty of putting together a list of some of their favorite Jóhann Jóhannsson performances, both on record and live, so those who might not know his genius can explore his endlessly wonderful discography.
“The Drowned World” – from Orphée (2016) (Live on KEXP)
Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, known for his scores for the films “The Theory of Everything” and “Arrival” among many others, passed away over the weekend in Berlin at the age of 48. Here he is, performing his devastating original piece “The Drowned World” from his 2016 album Orphée live on KEXP last year.
“Sapir-Whorf” – from the Arrival OST (2016)
This song, written for “Arrival,” was named after a linguistic theory that language influences your perception. I can say with absolute certainty that Jóhann has influenced my perception of music as a whole and (with Max Richter) was one of my many entry points into neoclassical music (-Will).
“Sálfræðingur” – from Englabörn (2002)
Englabörn, Jóhann’s first album, is a great survey of every idea he’d had up to that point before his career started in a fury of unbridled creativity. This song is a great propulsive cut from the record. It was released a few years after the Kitchen Motors label was co-founded by Jóhannsson (Jónsi of Sigur Rós fame was a member of the collective).
“The Beast” – from the Sicario OST (2015)
Here, Jóhannsson lets his evil show with a terrifying track from the “Sicario” soundtrack. He stated he was influenced by early industrial music when composing for the scene in which this song is featured. A truly spine-chilling experience.
“Part 5 / The Sun’s Gone Dim and the Sky’s Turned Black” – from IBM 1401, A User’s Manual (2006)
This song was notably featured in “Battle for Los Angeles” in the finale. This recording features a reel-to-reel recording of an early IBM computer his father had made. “Sun’s Gone Dim” is a breathtaking view of heartbreak, skyscraping in the end with a climax so big, even the Icelandic moors can’t hold it in. This is the ultimate exemplification of Jóhann’s sound and vision.