Jóhann Jóhannsson has died

It is with profound shock and sadness that I have read the news that Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson was found dead yesterday at his home in Berlin. Over the last several years I have enjoyed his music, particularly the albums ‘IBM 1401, A User’s Manual and Fordlandia, which are particularly moving and thoughtful pieces, and witnessed his rise as a film composer with such scores as Sicario, Arrival and The Theory of Everything. Last year  Blade Runner 2049 should have had a score by him. In fact, that score was likely the one thing I was most relaxed/looking forward to about that whole project. He seemed a safe pair of hands who might offer the film its own ‘voice’, especially following his score for Arrival, where the music was such a major part of the film. The subsequent news that he had been dropped from the BR2049,  announced late in the film’s post production, was the first real note of alarm regards the project. While so much else seemed great regards cast and crew, Jóhannsson being fired was my first real “oh, hang on, wait a  minute,’ moment when doubts began to leak in, and while the film finally turned out to be great, his absence seemed strange and I always wondered at what his score would have been like. I thought that maybe we would find out what happened and what his music was like, maybe even hear some of it someday.  But maybe now we never will.  

Berlin authorities are investigating the death and an autopsy will follow, so cause of death is obviously unknown. I am genuinely shocked and bewildered and so very saddened. Awful news. Maybe some sense will arise when we learn the facts behind his passing, but at the moment its hard to process it. I did not know the man but I did love so much of his music, and from a purely selfish perspective I am sad that I will not get to hear any further new albums/film scores from him. It feels like how I did when I learned that Prince had died. You think these guys will be around forever, and rather take the gift of their music for granted. We really shouldn’t.


5 thoughts on “Jóhann Jóhannsson has died

  1. Matthew McKinnon

    It’s a terrible shock – and he was only 48.

    I never got into his albums, I gave them a listen but there weren’t quite there for me. Bit his soundtrack work, particularly the stranger end of it for Arrival and Sicario, was excellent. I was looking forward to more of his work in films to come – imagine what he might have done for Dune?

    Life is appalling sometimes.

  2. Re: Typos, no problem at all, I’ve had a few sneaking into my posts. Don’t know if its the predictable horrors of predictive text or just being worse for sleep, but I’ve noticed quite a few slipping past me when I sometimes later review posts for errors.

    Regards Dune, yes, presuming his working relationship with Villeneuve was fine following the BR2049 situation, I do think Johannsson would have been a fascinating choice for something as wild and exotic as Dune. Films desperately need voices like his. As it is, I’m afraid we will likely be inflicted by something Zimmer-like. I mean, there’s fewer options out there with Johannsson’s passing. God, just writing that feels wrong. He’s gone.

    I wonder if we’ll ever learn more/hear something of whatever work he’d progressed on BR2049? He must have done some scoring sessions, even just demos, for Villeneuve to have tried and then decided it wasn’t working somehow. While the score the film has does work in a kind of Vangelis-lite sort of way, I do think I would have preferred a more unique ‘sound’ that no doubt Johannsson would have created. But maybe indeed it just wasn’t working.

  3. It’s certainly a shock, and such a shame we won’t get to hear more of his work going forward. He was already making quite a mark on film scoring, I think, which hopefully would’ve continued. Maybe imitators will crop up nonetheless (to give us more variety from all the endless Zimmer imitation!), but still…

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