This year saw the release of Denis Villenueve’s film called “Arrival”. One of the most important things that make this film special is the music written for it by an Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. What lies behind the magic of his work?


Jóhannsson’s Previous Work

Jóhann Jóhannsson

Most recently, Jóhann Jóhannsson is gradually becoming one of the most important film score writers of the century. In 2014, he was nominated for both Oscar and Golden Globe for his music for The Theory Of Everything. Eventually, he got the Golden Globe for Best Original Score that year.. A year after, Oscar once again outlined his work, now for Denis Villenueve’s Sicario, but he didn’t win. Now, he has decided to collaborate with Villenueve once again to make Arrival a masterpiece. Who knows, maybe this year his work will gather more acknowledgements.

Jóhann Jóhannsson

Obviously, this is not the first time the Icelandic composer and the French-Canadian director unite to create something staggering. It all began with Prisoners, the thriller released in 2013. Throughout 3 films that they did together Jóhann has developed a unique touch in his compositions. As the story evolves, music plays the role of a constant supporter of the plot. For instance, in Arrival, the secrets that surround the story unfold step by step throughout the whole picture. Thus, with each step the sonic background changes from dark and haunting low-tempo movements to a great explosion of alien sounds, when the final secret ‘s unveiled.

This subtlety of Jóhannsson’s approach really invigorates the picture and proves the composer to be a true talent in his craft. His next venture will be the score for the much-anticipated Villenueve’s film Blade Runner 2049, which is set to premiere this autumn. Apart from work with Villenueve, Jóhann will also collaborate with Darren Aronofsky on his new film called Mother.


The Birth Of The Writer

Jóhann Jóhannsson

Jóhann Jóhannsson was born and raised in Reykjavík, Iceland, where he later decided to learn languages and literature. Initially, he didn’t want to get a classical musical education, even though he loved classical music from the early age. Consequently, his own musical style started to evolve when he played in various shoe gaze and indie groups. Moreover, that was the time when he fell in love with the studio recording process. Layering sounds, creating mind-blowing sonic landscapes and working with studio equipment – all that took him by surprise.

Jóhann Jóhannsson

In 1999, he was one of the co-founders of “Kitchen Motors’. It was an organization designed to gather artists from absolutely different styles of music, from heavy-metal to electronic music. Eventually, surrounded by the multitude of different genres and approaches, Jóhannsson has developed a very diverse set of preferences in music as well as his own vision of craftsmanship. It’s also important to admit, that lack of professional musical education also played an unexpectedly positive role in his formation.


The Rise To Prominence

Jóhann Jóhannsson

His first serious project was Englabörn, his 2002 studio album, which contains music from an eponymous theatre play. According to Jóhannsson, this was a very dark and disturbing story, centered around the theme of domestic violence. Therefore, he wanted to shroud this depressive theme with the most beautiful music he was able to write. Hence, after a positive response from critics, he adapted the play’s music to a record format by editing the pieces into a solid body of work.

Finally, Englabörn set the beginning for a staggering career of a composer for Jóhann. Back then, in 2002, he already could show his excellence in creating beautiful and soft melancholic music. Furthermore, we’ve still got to hear a lot of new stuff from Jóhann Jóhannsson in the nearest future. And it should be worth the wait for sure.


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