February 11, 2018

JÓHANN JÓHANNSSON: 1969-2018  (Nick Allen, February 11, 2018, Balder & Dash)

The son of one of Iceland's first IBM computer programmers, Jóhannsson was born on September 19, 1969 in Reykjavik, Iceland. While in university, Jóhannsson studied languages and literature, and started off his musical career as a guitarist for various indie bands. Jóhannsson idea of music's potential, in terms of arrangement and composition, expanded as he grew into the artist's collaborative scene. In 1999, he co-founded the Apparat Organ Quartet, which featured four organists and a drummer, earning comparisons to Goblin, Wagner, and Kraftwerk. This group was an extension of an artist think tank/record label that he founded in the same year called Kitchen Motors. The group held the values that he would carry into his compositions across all mediums, of "breaking down barriers between forms, genres and disciplines," according to his official website. 

Jóhannsson made his first contribution to the world of film scoring with the 2000 movie "The Icelandic Dream," writing music for film from that point on. At the same time, he was working on his own music, releasing his first solo album in 2002, "Englaborn." Other solo projects of note include 2006's "IBM 1401: A User's Manual," which had a sixty-piece orchestra accompany computer melodies made by his father thirty years ago.  [...]

With 2016's "Arrival," Jóhannsson was involved with the film early into its production process in the film about a woman communicating with alien beings who randomly show up on Earth. Like how John Williams created an unforgettable presence out of the aliens in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," Jóhannsson helped design the soundscape for the extraterrestrials of "Arrival," particularly by using human voices of no discernible language. True to his other projects, he worked with sound recording technologies to create an arrangement that mixed natural and manipulated string instruments, to create the sense of an orchestra that is not of this world. 

As with these film scores and others, Jóhannsson took care to package them as standalone pieces. Always worth hearing in as loud a room as possible, he was able to make them separate from the images that inspired them, as if able to tell a story of their own. His score for "Arrival" in particular has the unusual seal of approval from prestigious classical music label Deutsche Grammophon, who also released his 2016 work, "Orphee." 



Posted by at February 11, 2018 12:30 PM

  

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