Jóhann Jóhannsson

A few of the Spitfire team reflect on some of their favourite Jóhann Jóhannsson scores. We were all saddened to hear the loss of such an incredible composer. 

I discovered Jóhann later than everyone else, with his beautiful score to The Theory of Everything. Wonderful music that managed to create a warm, comforting elegiac mood, if thats not an oxymoron, that captures the speed and vibrancy of Stephen Hawking’s mind, even as his body deteriorates. Jóhann captures a very English mode in his harmonic language but adds his own spin on it. The music is so appropriate to the images, as it is in my other favourite of his scores, Arrival. This couldn’t be more different, full of extraordinary other-worldly textures and imagination. Again the use of the human voice is both ingenious and perfectly appropriate to the narrative of the film. His was a truly original voice in music.

Words by Paul Thomson.

I remember exactly when I was watching ‘Sicario’, the wide shots over Juarez and then this f@%*ing amazing sound fading in with these low glides accompanied by the dirtiest, angriest and darkest percussion I’ve ever heard in a film score. I instantly had to stop the movie and look up who on earth created these mind-blowing sounds. And this is pretty much my first, intense musical encounter with Jóhann Jóhannsson. I couldn’t quite believe that shortly after a friend asked me whether I am ready to listen to one of the most profound, dark and unique albums he’s ever heard - and before I’ve watched the film, I was listening to the soundtrack of ‘Arrival’. I didn’t think that there was another level to ‘Sicario’, but the sounds and the concept of the ‘Arrival’ soundtrack are so highly inspiring, interesting, new and emotional, that the score stands on its own as an artistic music album. I think Jóhann Jóhannsson is an outstanding visionary and artist, sonically always a step ahead.

I have not touched yet the side of him as a classical composer, I am in the fortunate position of still to discover his early work - maybe someone can suggest a good starting point?

My deepest condolences to his family, friends and everyone who cherishes and loves his art.

Words by Oliver Patrice Weder.  

I was introduced to the work of Jóhann Jóhannsson when I went to the cinema to watch Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners. Not only is this still one of my favourite films, but I found the score so hauntingly beautiful that it stuck with me on the journey home (and is still with me to this day). The moment I got home, the first thing I had to do was look up who had scored the film. This, in turn, lead me on a trail of discovery to all of Jóhannsson’s earlier works and made me look out for all his future projects. Some of the standout tracks for me on the soundtrack are The Lord’s Prayer, The Search Party and Through Falling Snow

As well as listening to the track you can also see Jóhann talking about how he wanted the score recorded and where he found his inspiration. Watch the film here

Words by Loren Sunderland

Even though Sicario came out in 2015, it was only until a couple of years later that I saw it on Netflix. I had heard a lot of praise surrounding it, from the cinematic direction to the score, and boy was that praise deserved. It was one of those slow sinkers, only until after the end credits rolled for a little while that you digest what you just witnessed and reflect. This was my first exposure to Jóhann Jóhannsson, like many it seems. The visceral nature and blend of sound design was quite something. After that, I looked back on his other works and was stunned to hear he also scored The Theory Of Everything, which could not have been more different. Was kind of hard to believe it was the same composer.

My attention shifted to his solo works and became obsessed with this album Orphee and its opening track Flight From The City. It just left me feeling a certain way. Delving deeper into his past albums the one that stuck out was Fordlandia released back in 2008. The entire album from start to finish is something to behold, a true masterpiece. Though, it is the title track itself, Fordlandia that can claim the ranks of being one of the most beautiful pieces ever written, in my eyes. With incredible film scores to his name, for me, it is his own albums which really shine. It feels like it is Jóhann being true to himself and writing the music that he wants to, and feeling like is inspiration and fuel for my own works. Forget that there are norms, boundaries and do what you feel is right.

Words by Harnek Mudhar