Jóhann Jóhannsson (1969–2018) was a prolific composer, who wrote music for a wide array of media including theatre, dance, television and films. His work is stylised by its blending of classical instrumentation with electronic elements.
His first solo album, Englabörn (2002, Touch), drew from a broad set of influences, ranging from Erik Satie, Bernard Herrmann, Purcell and Moondog to electronic music issued by labels such as Mille Plateaux and Mego. Another album would follow on Touch, before Jóhannsson released two orchestral albums on 4AD: Fordlândia and IBM 1401 – A User’s Manual. In 2016, Jóhann signed with Deutsche Grammophon and released his last solo record, Orphée.
A great deal of Jóhannsson’s work in his last years had been closely entwined with film: in 2010 he paired up with American avant-garde filmmaker Bill Morrison on the critically acclaimed The Miners’ Hymns. He has also scored a number of major cinematic hits, including Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners (2013), Sicario (2015), the score of which was nominated for all major awards, and Arrival (2016), which earned him Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations. His other notable film credits include James Marsh’s Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything (2014), for which he won a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score.
Beyond scoring films, Jóhannsson directed them as well: his debut short, End of Summer, arrived in 2015 and was followed up by a multimedia piece titled Last and First Men, which premiered as a live performance at the Manchester International Festival in 2017. Narrated by Tilda Swinton, the project combines film and music to create a poetic meditation on memory, loss and the idea of Utopia. The film premiere of Last and First Men will take place at the Berlinale in 2020.
At the request of his family, Redbird Music continues to manage Jóhann Jóhannsson’s estate.