Jóhann Jóhannsson - In Memoriam

February 13, 2018

ASCAP mourns the passing of Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, who died on Friday, February 9 at his home in Berlin. He was 48.

In a career spanning two decades and numerous media, Jóhannsson developed a singular voice as a composer. His solo work merged ambient, drone, electronic and classical into minimalist music of otherworldly beauty. He brought these same influences to his scores for films. Whether the tone was gentle (The Theory of Everything) or unnerving (Sicario), Jóhannsson uncovered deep strains of emotion from small musical gestures that lent depth to every scene.

While Jóhannsson’s film work stretches back to the early 2000s, the public began to recognize his brilliance when he began a partnership with director Denis Villeneuve on the film Prisoners. Their next film Sicario netted Jóhannsson an Oscar and BAFTA nomination; their third, Arrival, earned him a Golden Globe and BAFTA nomination, plus the Film Composer of the Year trophy at the 2017 World Soundtrack Awards. Jóhannsson won the Golden Globe and received Oscar, BAFTA and Grammy nominations for his acclaimed 2014 score for The Theory of Everything, with director James Marsh. Jóhannsson also won numerous ASCAP honors, including a Composers’ Choice: Film Score of the Year Award in 2015 for The Theory of Everything. 

Jóhannsson continued to enjoy a busy, varied film music career up until his death. His new action thriller Mandy premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival in January; he passed away on the same day that his film The Mercy premiered in the UK. Jóhannsson’s final film project, Mary Magdalene, is set for a release in March.

All of us at ASCAP are deeply saddened by the loss of one of the most individual, influential voices to emerge in film music over the last few years. We are grateful that he left a wealth of unforgettable music to remember him by. 

+Read our 2016 interview with Jóhannsson about Jóhann Jóhannsson’s final solo album, Orphée.