Jóhann Jóhannsson

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This is an Icelandic name. The last name is a patronymic, not a family name; this person is properly referred to by the given name Jóhann.
Jóhann Jóhannsson
Jóhann Jóhannsson Analog.jpg
Jóhann Jóhannsson
Background information
Born (1969-09-19) 19 September 1969 (age 47)
Reykjavík, Iceland
Origin Iceland
Occupation(s) Composer and producer
Website http://www.johannjohannsson.com

Jóhann Jóhannsson (Icelandic pronunciation: [ˈjouːhan ˈjouːhansɔn]; born 19 September 1969) is an Icelandic composer. As a composer he has been identified with minimalist, drone, and electronic music. Jóhann is known for his film music, primarily for his Oscar-nominated, Golden Globe-winning score for James Marsh's The Theory of Everything and his Oscar-nominated score for Denis Villeneuve's Sicario.

Life and career[edit]

Jóhann was born in Reykjavík, Iceland. His first album, Englabörn, released in 2002, includes pieces for string quartet, piano, percussion and electronics.[1] Jóhann Jóhannsson has since released several albums with the 4AD, Touch and Fat Cat labels.

Whilst Jóhann's background is in the Icelandic alternative music scene, Englabörn combined holy minimalism, Erik Satie, Purcell and Moondog with the electronic music of labels such as Mille Plateaux and Mego. Later works include Virthulegu Forsetar (2004), scored for a brass ensemble, electronic drones and percussion, and the orchestral albums Fordlândia (2008) and IBM 1401, A User's Manual, a composition which uses sounds produced from the electromagnetic emissions of the old IBM 1401 mainframe computers.

Kitty Empire wrote about Johan's work called Virthulegu Forsetar in The Observer: "It's hard to classify this beautiful album by Icelandic composer Johannsson. On this, his second album, he employed an orchestra of 11 brass players, glockenspiel, piano and organ, with added bells and electronics and it lies somewhere between classical, ambient music and experimental soundtrack",[2] while Andy Beta gave Englabörn a score of 8.9 in Pitchfork: “exceptionally restrained, the piano moving like droplets off of slowly melting icicles, the violin breathing warmth from above. The hesitation of each breath and falling bead feels as though it were a Morton Feldman piece condensed to three minutes.”[3]

In 2010, Jóhann collaborated with the experimental filmmaker Bill Morrison on The Miners' Hymns (2011), a film and accompanying composition for brass band, pipe organ and electronics which "celebrates social, cultural, and political aspects of the extinct industry, and the strong regional tradition of colliery brass bands".[4] The piece had a live premiere in Durham Cathedral in July 2010 and was released on CD and DVD in May 2011. The album was described as, "A gorgeous brass-based requiem for northeast England's former mining community" by the BBC.[5] Writing in UK Sunday newspaper The Observer, Fiona Maddocks gave the London debut performance of the score at the Barbican five stars, writing: "The strange counterpoint between an Icelandic minimalist, an American film-maker and a bitter episode in recent British history has resulted in a work as unclassifiable as it is unforgettable. […] As a lesson in the power of film music, seeing The Miners' Hymns was basic and startling."[6]

His film work includes scores for Denis Villeneuve's Prisoners and Sicario, Lou Ye's Blind Massage, James Marsh's The Theory of Everything, The Good Life (Eva Mulvad, DK 2010), Varmints (Marc Craste, UK 2008) and For Ellen (So Yong Kim, US 2012).[7] Jóhann has written music for the theatre and he collaborated with the international choreographer and dancer Erna Omarsdottir on the pieces IBM 1401, A User's Manual (2002), and Mysteries of Love (2005).

He is a co-founder of Kitchen Motors, an art organisation with a record label which specializes in instigating collaborations, promoting concerts and exhibitions, performances, chamber operas, producing films, books and radio shows to uncover new art forms.[8]

Jóhann founded Apparat Organ Quartet in 1999, which has released two albums since 2002 with live performances in Europe, America and Japan.[9] Jóhann has also produced and written music with Marc Almond (Stranger Things album), Barry Adamson and Pan Sonic, The Hafler Trio, Jaki Liebezeit, Stephen O'Malley, Peter Rehberg, Stilluppsteypa, and others.

Jóhann has performed all over the world with his ensemble, including Paris in the Centre Pompidou, London's Barbican Centre, Brussels' Palais des Beaux Arts, and the Rudolfinum in Prague.

In 2016, Jóhann created the original scores for both Denis Villeneuve's Arrival and James Marsh's The Mercy. It was announced in August 2016 that Jóhann will be providing the score to Denis Villeneuve's Blade Runner sequel as well.[10]

In September 2016 Jóhann releases his debut album for the classical music record label Deutsche Grammophon, titled Orphée.




  • The Sun’s Gone Dim And The Sky’s Turned Black (2006, 4AD)

Selected works[edit]

As composer[edit]

Feature films[edit]

  • Íslenski draumurinn by Robert Ingi Douglas (Iceland, 2000)
  • Óskabörn þjóðarinnar by Jóhann Sigmarsson (Iceland, 2000)
  • A Man Like Me by Robert Ingi Douglas (Iceland, 2002)
  • Dís by Silja Hauksdóttir (Iceland, 2004)
  • Wicker Park by Paul McGuigan (United States, 2004)
    • Writer and performer for tracks: "Sálfraedingur", "Ég Átto Gráa Aesku", and "Ég Sleppi Thér Aldrei"[11]
  • Blóðbönd AKA Thicker than Water by Árni Óli Ásgeirsson (Iceland, 2006)
  • Voleurs de Chevaux by Micha Wald (France, 2007)
  • Ashes and Snow by Gregory Colbert (US 2005)
  • Personal Effects by David Hollander (US 2009)
  • By Day and By Night by Alejandro Molina (MX 2010)
  • Dreams in Copenhagen by Max Kestner (DK 2010)
  • The Miners’ Hymns by Bill Morrison (UK 2011)
  • The Good Life by Eva Mulvad (DK 2011)
  • For Ellen by So Yong Kim (US 2012)
  • Free The Mind by Phie Ambo (DK 2012)
  • White Black Boy by Camilla Magid (DK 2012)
  • Mystery by Lou Ye (CN 2012)
  • McCanick by John C. Waller (US 2013)[12]
  • Prisoners by Denis Villeneuve (US 2013)[13]
  • I Am Here (with BJNilsen) by Anders Morgenthaler (DK 2014)
  • The Theory of Everything by James Marsh (UK 2014)
  • Sicario by Denis Villeneuve (US 2015)
  • Arrival by Denis Villeneuve (US 2016)
  • Lovesong by So Yong Kim (US 2016)

Short films[edit]

  • Keepsake by Tim Shore (United Kingdom, 2003)
  • Propinquity by Jonathan Skinner (United Kingdom, 2006)
  • Varmints by Marc Craste (United Kingdom, 2008)
  • Junk Love by Nikolaj Feifer (DK 2011)
  • End of Summer by Jóhann Jóhannsson (2015)

Television documentaries[edit]


  • Margrét Mikla by Kristín Ómarsdóttir (1996, Icelandic Take-away Theatre)
  • Vitleysingarnir by Ólafur Haukur Símonarsson (2000, Hafnarfjördur Theater)
  • Fireface by Marius Von Mayerberg (2000, RÚV)
  • Englabörn by Hávar Sigurjónsson (2001, Hafnarfjördur Theater)
  • Kryddlegin Hjörtu by Laura Esquivel (2002, Borgarleikhús)
  • Viktoría og Georg by Ólafur Haukur Símonarsson (2002, Icelandic National Theatre)
  • Pabbastrákur by Hávar Sigurjónsson (2003, Icelandic National Theatre)
  • Jón Gabríel Borkman by Henrik Ibsen (2004, Icelandic National Theatre)
  • Dínamít by Birgir Sigurðsson (2005, Icelandic National Theatre)
  • Døden i Teben by Sophocles/Jon Fosse (2008, Det Norske Teatret)
  • Ganesh versus the Third Reich by Back to Back Theatre (2011, Back to Back Theatre)

Stage works[edit]

  • IBM 1401, a User's Manual with Erna Ómarsdóttir (2002)
  • Mysteries of Love with Erna Ómarsdóttir (2005)


Academy Awards[edit]

Year Nominee/Work Award Result
2015 The Theory of Everything Best Original Score Nominated
2016 Sicario Nominated

Grammy Awards[edit]

Year Nominee/Work Award Result
2016 The Theory of Everything Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media Nominated


  1. ^ "Jóhann Jóhannsson, the post-classical elegist – Features | State Magazine". State.ie. 2011-07-20. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  2. ^ Kitty Empire (2004-12-16). "Other pop | Music | The Observer". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  3. ^ Beta, Andy (2003-03-05). "Jóhann Jóhannsson: Englabörn | Album Reviews". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  4. ^ "Fatcat Records | News". Fat-cat.co.uk. 2011-06-20. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  5. ^ "Music – Review of Jóhann Jóhannsson – The Miners' Hymns". BBC. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  6. ^ Maddocks, Fiona (16 March 2014). "The Miners' Hymns review – a rich seam of music and mine". The Observer. London. Retrieved 12 July 2015. 
  7. ^ "For Ellen – Online Film Guide | Sundance Institute". Filmguide.sundance.org. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  8. ^ Kitchen Motors website
  9. ^ Strauss, Neil (2001-10-25). "THE POP LIFE – THE POP LIFE – Iceland Shows Its Charm Is Still Vigorous". Iceland: NYTimes.com. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  10. ^ Johannson to score Blade Runner 2
  11. ^ Jóhann Jóhannsson at the Internet Movie Database
  12. ^ "McCanick (2013) – Full Cast and Crew". IMDb. 
  13. ^ "Prisoners (2013) – Full Cast and Crew". IMDb. 

External links[edit]