I just tweeted out a quick RIP, but I think I should elaborate:
After my mother died in 2009, I wrote on an internet messageboard about how some particular kinds of music had helped me get through that difficult time. In particular, I wrote about the effect that the Sigur Ros album, ‘Takk…’ had on me as I negotiated the grieving process. A few days later, one of my online friends (what, exactly, is the word for someone you’ve never met who you only know because you share an enthusiasm for a radio presenter?) sent me some music which he thought would strike a chord with me.
Among them were Johann Johannsson’s ‘Fordlandia’ and ‘IBM 1401: A User’s Manual’. I listened, as I did to everything he recommended, and I was immediately struck by how Johannsson’s music was exactly the kind of music I like – as if it had been written expressly to fill a gap in my experience of the world. I find it at once calming and deeply emotional; soothing music to write to and an utterly engrossing physical experience which requires my full attention. How thrilling it has been over the last few years to hear Johannsson’s music appear on film soundtracks – I am firmly of the opinion that both Sicario and Arrival are lifted from the ranks of merely ‘good films’ to something approaching greatness by their scores – and how fascinating it has been to hear the evolution of Johannsson’s soundscapes.
As with all truly great composers, Johannsson could change the way you look at the world – his music had a universality and profound humanity to it; he could soundtrack experiences you will never have, and he could do so in a way which allowed your imagination to illuminate that which might otherwise be incomprehensible. He used age-old musical structures in new and surprising ways, and he embraced the modern without ever losing that key quality of all great composers – the ability to write music which you feel as much as hear. It’s the way his music makes me feel which has affected me so strongly today; that and the fact that this was not another aging musician at the end of a long career leaving us, but a composer in his prime, with who knows how much more wonderful music to come which we will never now hear.
That’s the context for this: