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Jóhann Jóhannsson, 1969-2018

February 11, 2018 Leave a comment Go to comments

Composer Jóhann Jóhannsson died on February 9, 2018, at his home in Berlin, Germany. The cause of death is still unknown. He was 48 years old.

Jóhann Jóhannsson was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, in September 1969. After graduating from university he started his musical career in the mid-1990s as a guitarist playing in various Icelandic indie rock bands, before founding Kitchen Motors, an art organization that encouraged musical collaborations between artists from numerous different genres. He began scoring television projects and films in his native Iceland in 1999, beginning with the TV series Corpus Camera and the theatrical feature The Icelandic Dream [Íslenski Draumurinn] for director Robert Ingi Douglas, and went on to write several acclaimed scores for Icelandic directors over the next several years.

Jóhannsson scored his first English-language film, Personal Effects for director David Hollander, in 2009, first came to international prominence in 2013 when he was asked to score the dark thriller Prisoners starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal by director Denis Villeneuve. He followed this with the score for the Steven Hawking bio-pic The Theory of Everything in 2014, for which he won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Score, a BAFTA Award for Best Film Music, and a Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media.

Jóhannsson’s subsequent major works included the tense thriller Sicario (2015), for which he received his second Academy Award nomination; the acclaimed Icelandic TV series Ófærð [Trapped] in 2015; and the challenging science fiction drama Arrival (2016), which was nominated for a Golden Globe and a BAFTA, and was named Score of the Year by the International Film Music Critics Association.

Although he had his score for Blade Runner 2049 (2017) rejected, and chose not to write any original music for director Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! (2017), he had already completed work on three films scheduled to be released in 2018: The Mercy, Mandy, and Mary Magdalene.

Away from film, Jóhannsson was also a respected and successful classical and theatre composer. He released his first solo album, Englabörn, in 2002, and subsequently released several acclaimed works including IBM 1401: A User’s Manual in 2006, The Sun’s Gone Dim and the Sky’s Turned Black also in 2006, Fordlandia in 2008, And In The Endless Pause There Came The Sound Of Bees in 2009, and Orphée in 2016. Each of these works made use of Jóhannsson’s experimental style, blending restrained, ambient, minimalist orchestral writing with electronics and manipulated sounds to create moody, almost surrealist soundscapes. He also worked extensively with the Hafnarfjördur Theater and the Icelandic National Theatre, writing incidental music for both original plays and new adaptations based on the works of Ibsen and Sophocles.

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