On February 9, 2018, composer Johan Johansson passed away at the age of 48 in Berlin, Germany. To some, he was known as an Icelandic musician who composed a mix of traditional music with electronic accompaniment. To the world of film, he was known for his work on films like The Theory of Everything, and several Denis Villeneuve movies such as Prisoners, Sicario, and Arrival. He received two Oscar nominations for his work, which managed to mix the ethereal with classical compositions in a way that captured the mood of the film. He was considered to be one of the best modern composers and leaves behind an enviable body of work. In his short legacy, he leaves behind an incredible body of work that shows the power of music in film better than most people.
Johansson was born in Reykjavik, Iceland on September 19, 1969. During his youth, he studied languages and literature. His music career began in the 1980's with the proto-shoegaze band Daisy Puppy, who had a fan in producer Steve Albini. Johansson would go on to work with various indie rock groups, eventually co-founding Kitchen Motors in 1999. He was inspired to explore various genres of music from punk to jazz, classical, metal, and electronic. His solo work would also be acclaimed for its mixture of sounds, of which ranged from short songs to hour long tone pieces. He was meditative as well as innovative.
He would go on to work in film on such films as Icelandic comedy Dis in 2004 and TV series Svartir englar in 2007. It wasn't until his partnership with Denis Villeneuve that he gained prominence, composing music for Prisoners, Sicario, and Arrival. He also composed the music for The Theory of Everything, for which he got his first Best Original Score nomination (his second would be for Sicario). He was set to work with Villeneuve on Blade Runner 2049, but was rejected in favor of a Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch score. As of 2017, he was scheduled to score the Darren Aronofsky film mother!, but was eventually rejected once again. He has several scores left to release for films, including: Mandy, The Mercy, and Mary Magdalene. Still, there's plenty of wonder as to what the future could've looked like with him in it.
Johansson's death is definitely a shocking one, especially given his young age. In such a short time working in film, he has managed to create an ethereal and incredible body of work that showed promise for what seemed like his inevitable Oscar win. For now, his work with Villeneuve speaks for itself thanks to its ability to blend styles and create something unique and fitting to the work. There's a few more scores left to go, but it will be bittersweet to wonder what he could've done if he lived. For what it's worth, he made the most of his music career and leaves behind some of the best music of the decade, which will influence composers for generations to come.