Monday, 12 February 2018

Jóhann Jóhannsson - Fordlandia (2008)

R.I.P. Jóhann Jóhannsson: 19 Sept 1969 - 9 Feb 2018

Wow, this has hit me hard.  One of my favourite modern-classical composers, and a prolific soundtracker (perhaps most notably for Golden Globe-winning Theory Of Everything score), has been found dead in his Berlin apartment at the age of just 48.  Jóhann Jóhannsson, born in Rejkjavik in 1969, is survived by his parents, sisters and daughter.  Orphée, his debut album for Deutsche Grammophon in September 2016, has become a huge favourite of mine, and I hoped at the time it was going to be another step forward in a long career.  Now it's a sad but perfect finale.  Will post it here at some point.

For now, here's IMO the highlight of his time at 4AD (IBM 1401 would be a close second).  Fordlandia was inspired by Henry Ford's failed attempt to build an American town-styled residence for the workers at his Amazonian rubber plant in the 1920s.  The title track comes in very softly and gradually in waves of Gorecki-esque melancholy, eventually joined by a circular figure on distorted guitar, and more production/electronics.

From then in, the pieces include little woodwind miniatures (the Melodia sections), subtle echoing beats (The Rocket Builder) and pipe organ (Chimaerica), as well as all those wonderful sweeping strings.  The Great God Pan Is Dead introduces a haunting choir, setting up for the last two epic tracks.  The beat-driven Melodia (Guidelines For A Space Propulsion Device Based On Heim's Quantum Theory) is just sublime orchestral minimalism, and the 14-minute How We Left Fordlandia is a beautifully sombre finale.  Jóhannsson's music, above anything else, always touches me and moves me, and the music that he's left behind will continue to do so for years to come.
Þakka þér fyrir alla frábæra tónlist, Jóhann.



  1. Very sad indeed... Great musician.

  2. Thank you for sharing this music and for breaking the sad news. It is so troubling when an artist passes at such a young age — and it does seem to happen terribly often. In this case I genuinely believe the music will endure for a long, long time.

  3. Agreed. A great loss. I had the good fortune to correspond with him about 7 years ago. I was learning parts of Englaborn, and wanted the sheet music. He very graciously send me some PDFs. We chatted a bit more back and forth and he seemed like a right decent sort. It's very sad to lose him so young.

  4. Thank you for posting this Alan. A wonderful piece of music.