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Johann Johannsson: Bio

Jóhann Jóhannsson, born in Iceland in 1969, is an award-winning composer, musician and producer. His work often blends electronics with classical orchestrations and bears the diverse influences of the Baroque, Minimalism and drone-based and electro-acoustic music. Jóhannsson's most recent film soundtrack, for director Denis Villeneuve's thriller Sicario, has attracted Oscar®, BAFTA and Critics' Choice nominations for best original score. In 2015 he won the Golden Globe and received Oscar®, BAFTA, Grammy® and Critics' Choice nominations for his critically acclaimed score for The Theory of Everything, James Marsh's biographical drama based on the life of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking.

Jóhannsson began studying piano and trombone at the age of eleven in his native Reykjavík. He abandoned formal musical training while at high school, however, frustrated by the constraints imposed on music as an academic subject. After studying literature and languages at university, he spent ten years writing music for and playing in indie rock bands, using guitars to compose feedback-drenched pieces and sculpt complex multi-layered soundscapes. By manipulating the resonances of acoustic instruments with digital processing, Jóhannsson created music that integrated acoustic and electronic sounds into something strikingly individual and new.

His first solo album, Englabörn, was released in 2002 on the British Touch label. Its contents reveal influences spanning everything from Erik Satie, Bernard Herrmann, Purcell and Moondog to electronic music issued by labels such as Mille Plateaux and Mego. Later works include Virðulegu Forsetar (2004), scored for brass ensemble, electronic drones and percussion, and the orchestral albums Fordlândia (2008) and IBM 1401 – A User's Manual(2006), the latter inspired by the sounds of electromagnetic emissions from the first of IBM's pioneering mainframe computers. In 2010 Jóhannsson collaborated with the American avant-garde filmmaker Bill Morrison on The Miners' Hymns, a lyrical and reflective response to Britain's lost industrial past and the heritage of the mining communities of Northeast England. The film's accompanying score, conceived for live performance and also released as a soundtrack album, combines brass band, pipe organ and electronics.

In addition to his scores for Hollywood, Jóhann Jóhannsson has also created soundtracks for several acclaimed works of world cinema and for documentary films, including Lou Ye's Mystery, János Szász's The Notebook and Max Kestner's Dreams in Copenhagen. He recently completed his first short film as director, End of Summer(2015), which charts a slow, hypnotic journey across the austere landscapes of the remote island of South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula, its onscreen images accompanied by a haunting soundtrack score. As an orchestral, chamber and theatre composer, he has written works for, among others, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Bang on a Can, Theatre of Voices, Det Norske Teater and the Icelandic National Theatre.

Jóhann Jóhannsson is currently working on his first studio album in six years – set for release in 2016 to mark his debut on the Deutsche Grammophon label – and is also developing a major new audiovisual piece.

1 Odi et Amo  
2 Englaborn  
3 Joi & Karen  
4 Detta gerist a bestu baejum  
5 Salfraedingur  
6 Eg sleppi per aldrei  
7 Salfaedingur deyr  
8 Bad  
9 Eg heyrdi allt an pess ad hlusta  
10 Karen byr til engil  
11 Englaborn - tilbrigdi  
12 Eg atti graa aesku  
13 Krokodill  
14 Ef eg hefdi aldrei...  
15 ...eins og venjulegt folk  
16 Odi et Amo - bis  
17 Eg heyrdi allt an pess ad hlusta - A Winged Victory for the Sullen Rework  
18 Odi et Amo - Johannsson/Donadello Rework  
19 Englaborn - V?kingur Olafsson Piano Version  
20 Joi & Karen - Ryuichi Sakamoto Rework  
21 Holy Thursday - Theater of Voices Version  
22 Englaborn - Viktor Orri Arnason Rework  
23 Odi Et Amo-Bis - Alex Somers Rework  
24 Salfraedingur deyr - Hildur Gudnadottir Rework  
25 Odi Et Amo-Bis - Johannsson/Donadello Rework  
26 ...eins og venjulegt folk - Paul Corley Rework  
27 Odi et Amo - Theater of Voices Version  
Johann Johannsson - Full Performance (Live on KEXP)

During the weeks before his untimely passing on February 9, award-winning Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson was closely involved in preparations for the reissue of his debut album, Englabörn. Originally released in 2002, the record had been especially remastered, and a second disc containing reworkings of a number of its tracks had also been assembled. Some were by Jóhannsson himself – including a piano version of the title track, performed by fellow Deutsche Grammophon artist Víkingur Ólafsson – while others involved included Ryuichi Sakamoto, A Winged Victory for the Sullen and Hildur Guðnadóttir. Following discussions with his family, the release of Englabörn & Variations went ahead on March 23, 2018.