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The Official Jóhann Jóhannsson Thread

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For the record I have not heard this crowd pleaser yet. I'll give that a spin soon.

But do you honestly listen to Sicario-type music for pleasure? What is the attraction in such music for you? I am honestly interested in knowing.

Well no, I haven't been playing the album on repeat for days, if that's what you're asking.

But there are certain cues that tickle my fancy, and I have played now and then. Mainly because they make use of textures that I really enjoy. Swirling harmonics (like the opening of "Night Vision"), groaning brass/string clusters, impressionistic harmonies ("Desert Music"'s second half is quite lovely), all aesthetics that appeal to me both as a listener and a composer. These make Sicario's high-points rather appealing. And I think the album does much of what its film does. It's very effective with the sense of claustrophobia and oppression it builds. And any score that's able to get to me like that gets a pass by my book!

Having said that, I don't really listen to this for leisure. It meanders too much for that. Like you said, much of it borders on the aimless. But it has motivated me to check out some of Johann's other non-film works, like some of the great examples listed here.

Me?

Yes you and your mirror image. ;)

I started off here as Inky 2.0 and now I'm TGP 2.0...oh boy, who's next?? When will I be KK?! :(

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But there are certain cues that tickle my fancy, and I have played now and then. Mainly because they make use of textures that I really enjoy. Swirling harmonics (like the opening of "Night Vision"), groaning brass/string clusters, impressionistic harmonies ("Desert Music"'s second half is quite lovely), all aesthetics that appeal to me both as a listener and a composer.

That i can measure. I still don't think the score as such is that noteworthy. Too many flat soundscapes with drawn-out chords.

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I think the ambience is generally well crafted. But I think a shorter album would do the score more justice. It's a more sophisticated score than the ones these kind of films usually get.

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I'd maybe reduce the album to this:

1) Armoured Vehicle

2) The Beast

3) The Border

4) Explosion

5) Desert Music

6) The Bank

7) Night Vision

8) Soccer Game

9) Alejandro's Song

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Me?

Yes you and your mirror image. ;)

And anyone else who might want to extrapolate on their fascination with this Sicario-styled music.

Aesthetically I'm most interested in the vague, the suggestive, impressionism, symbolism, strange and unidentifiable feelings and mindsets… it's difficult for me to talk about because by its nature it's ineffable, but it's probably the most fascinating, compelling part of any art form for me. I credit very early exposure to stuff like Kubrick, Fantasia, certain literature, and certain modern composers for this preference. I like art that gets into these elusive cracks in my mind that are difficult to find otherwise, difficult to identify or describe. The art that is most successful at that leaves room for the mind to do its own thing. It doesn't concern itself with direct, literal narrative or anything like that, but it creates an environment that can coax out these certain feelings and ideas. Like I said, I don't really understand it. I guess it has something to do with allowing more "participation" on the part of the brain, rather than simply showing or telling a story or something. It's art that doesn't tell you something, but suggests it, at most. Sparser, less thematic or rigidly constructed music give me more room to get "inside" and look for these things I'm trying to describe. As much as I enjoy great themes, great narrative arcs, straightforward music and scoring, I enjoy this weird realm more. It's somehow far richer in expressive capability, I suppose exactly because it tries to do less on its own, giving the imagination a starting point from which it can draw its own, and therefore perhaps more satisfying and unpredictable, conclusions.

If you think about the way that prose and poetry have evolved, maybe it's easier to make my point. Big themes and narrative rigidity and familiar musical structures equate with your average book. It's tried and true, it tells a story, there's nothing particularly daring or experimental, so that's it, it works. But when writers wanted to explore stranger, more abstract or elusive ideas and senses, they had to turn away from all of that familiarity, because the things they were trying to capture weren't familiar! So as the ideas that composers look to express are newer, less "defined" by historical musical association, more abstract, the music has to follow suit and look for the unfamiliar and the vague to be successful.

I type this while listening to The Mission.

Well that was a great and interesting answer to be sure. Thank you for taking time to formulate such an extensive response. Food for thought to be sure. :)

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Me?

Yes you and your mirror image. ;)

I started off here as Inky 2.0 and now I'm TGP 2.0...oh boy, who's next?? When will I be KK?! :(

Well, you were KK 2.0 at the very start. So there's that. ;)

Inky (and whoever else might me concerned), I do like Sicario because it's well-written and well executed. It could have been just a regular thriller but it does actually combine synth and orchestra in a refreshingly organic way. It's a work of someone who can write proper music, in other ways. I would say the enjoyment factor is a secondary issue.

Karol

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Me?

Yes you and your mirror image. ;)

I started off here as Inky 2.0 and now I'm TGP 2.0...oh boy, who's next?? When will I be KK?! :(

Well, you were KK 2.0 at the very start. So there's that. ;)

Inky (and whoever else might me concerned), I do like Sicario because it's well-written and well executed. It could have been just a regular thriller but it does actually combine synth and orchestra in a refreshingly organic way. It's a work of someone who can write proper music, in other ways. I would say the enjoyment factor is a secondary issue.

Karol

On album I would say the enjoyment factor is very much the primary issue. Intellectually I might appreciate the effort but purely on listenable level not so much. This is really not a score I'll pop in the player (or playlist) to enjoy it.

And yes I am speaking of myself and my personal opinion in this case of course.

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But what if I actually enjoy this score?

Karol

Well naturally then it has succeeded on album for you as a listening experience. You'll get no arguments regarding personal tastes from me.

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Seriously though, I think film music is very different from any other type of music. We all know that. I (and I can only speak/type for myself) usually look for music that creates an interesting landcape/world/texture. Yes, it's always nice when you can just "enjoy" it, as you would a melody or clear storytelling arc. But that's not really essential. I want to be somehow transported. If that makes sense...

Karol

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Seriously though, I think film music is very different from any other type of music. We all know that. I (and I can only speak/type for myself) usually look for music that creates an interesting landcape/world/texture. Yes, it's always nice when you can just "enjoy" it, as you would a melody or clear storytelling arc. But that's not really essential. I want to be somehow transported. If that makes sense...

Karol

Well I think no form of music excludes a person from being transported by it really and I understand what you mean very well. Then again it is a very individual thing, a sum of so many parts of one's experience it is not even possible to foresee with absolute certainty what music might or might not transport you. General preferences in taste are something we can somewhat easily define in ourselves and others but some pieces of music easily transcend those preferences (or boundaries) in surprising ways. One can't know until one listens.

But you were right in that Sicario is really not an Inky score. The place it transports me is a bit too dark and grim for me to spend too much time in there.

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Seriously though, I think film music is very different from any other type of music. We all know that. I (and I can only speak/type for myself) usually look for music that creates an interesting landcape/world/texture. Yes, it's always nice when you can just "enjoy" it, as you would a melody or clear storytelling arc. But that's not really essential. I want to be somehow transported. If that makes sense...

Karol

Indeed. And Sicario does that in an evocatively claustrophobic way.

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Yes. And no, it's not something I will feel compelled to listen to frequently since that "place" isn't one I am often in the mood to visit, but that applies to basically any score, for me anyway, though to varying degrees. There are precious few scores that I'm drawn back to on a regular, non-mood-dependent basis.

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Does Johannson have any concert works similar to these moments in Sicario?

 

 

Everything I've heard tends to be on he introspective side. And my God, what kind of bass drum/surdo/gong drum set-up did have on Sicario? How did he get some a rich bass presense?

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I reckon it's the usual Hans method of "play it really softly, record it really closely, and turn it up really loud."

 

And I ain't heard anything like that from him outside of this.  Man, it really rocks!  I haven't really listened to this score since it was fresh.

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Once that contrabass ostinato starts...

 

batman_robin_headbanging.gif

 

Found this really great interview with Johannsson.

 

Quote

The percussion is definitely a huge part of the film and that came from our discussion about the film very early on. Denis said that he saw the film as a war film and that he wanted me to write “subtle war music.” That was the phrase that he used, which I found challenging. What is subtle war music? It seems almost a contradiction in terms, but I found that was kind of a phrase that I latched onto and used as some kind of guide. The music is driving and has this sort of pulse that drives the film forward. The percussion was a very important part of that. That was one of the first things that I determined in terms of orchestration.

 

I was working with a large, 55-piece orchestra, strings, brass, woodwind, but they serve more of a textural function—they’re not really melodic. It’s more textural, with a lot of extended techniques and spectral, textural writing. I also use some six-string bass guitar, which is mainly used in the track called Melancholia, which plays during the closing credits. That’s actually one of my favourite cues in the whole score. And I used vocals as well,  a vocalist named Robert Lowe who did some work on the film. There’s also a lot of solo cello and multi-track cello that I did with my friend Hildur Guonadottir, who is a composer as well as a cellist that I work with regularly. There’s some electronics as well, but mostly it’s acoustic recordings that are processed electronically. There’s almost no synthesizer on the record. The electronic sounds are all acoustic sounds that are processed and manipulated digitally.

 

Quote

 

I tend to use references and influences from outside of film music, and I think for this one, there’s the percussive approach and the power of the percussion and this kind of relentless pulse, and also this kind of slow, mournful beat.

For example, in this cue, which is called “The Beast,”—and all throughout the score, really—I was influenced by industrial music of the ’80s, groups like Swans, Test Dept., and even Throbbing Gristle. In terms of the orchestra, the writing was influenced by certain spectral composers like Gerard Grisey and Badulescu, for example. In terms of film scores, one of my all-time-favorites is Planet of the Apes by Jerry Goldsmith, and I think there may be some influence there. I think there’s a little bit of Jaws in there somewhere as well.

 

 

Quote

 

Very early on I decided to focus on the low end of the spectrum—focus on basses, contrabasses, low woodwinds, contrabassoon, contrabass clarinets and contrabass saxophone. It sort of slowly comes together and it’s evolving all throughout the composition process.

 

http://deadline.com/2015/12/johann-johannsson-sicario-composer-oscars-best-score-1201664692/

 

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Cool interview with Jóhannsson and Villeneuve: 

http://www.dga.org/Craft/DGAQ/All-Articles/1701-Winter-2017/Collaborators-Villeneuve-Johannsson.aspx

 

Quote

DGA: What would you say makes for the best possible outcome when a director and composer are working together?

VILLENEUVE: Don't be afraid to bring the composer on early. The more you develop a relationship, the stronger the marriage will be. That's the thing I loved about Sicario and Arrival. It's a long process. Embrace the length of the process.


JÓHANNSSON: Music has to be treated in the same way as set design, casting or choice of location—it has to start at the same time. Give the composer time to experiment, time to try out ideas. Also, the time to fail. When the composer has very little time, the temptation is to reach for stock ideas—ideas they know will work and have worked in the past. But if you have more time, and the confidence of the director, the composer has more freedom and is, in a certain sense, able to reach out into the unknown.

 

Amen!

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So apparently I somehow missed that Johannsson is scoring Aronofsky's next film (which sounds from the description somewhat reminiscent of A History of Violence).

http://filmmusicreporter.com/2016/10/11/johann-johannsson-to-score-darren-aronofskys-next-movie/

 

Hard to believe it won't be Mansell.

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2 minutes ago, BloodBoal said:

So, is Mansell going the Shore route? First replaced on Ghost In The Shell by Balfe, now replaced by Johannsson on the next Aronofsky...

At least we've got Loving Vincent and The Spider to look forward to.

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To be honest, I thought Jjohhannssonn was the best thing about Arrival. You don't often hear music like that in a Hollywood sci-fi production. I wonder if he will go experimental in Blade Runner 2049 as well or if will he mimic the Greek. Probably neither. 

 

 

Alex

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Johannsson always likes to experiment and Villeneuve seems to be an ideal collaborative partner in that sense. I'm sure BR2 will be a mix between tribute and further experimentation.

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Too much experimentation is risky, and jeopardizes the upcoming Blade Runner Cinematic Universe.

 

I'm sure Ridley will ask his old buddy Hans to oversee Jonhannsson's work. And make the necessary corrections. 

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I'm still waiting for you guys to reveal that your love for the Arrival score is just one big prank you're pulling on me.

 

I mean, I can understand Cremers loving it, but the other members that pretend loving it too... KK, LeBlanc... I tried: I listened to it a few times on Spotify to really make sure I wasn't missing anything, but all I keep hearing is: "Droning, droning, droning...". There is nothing remotely interesting in this score that would qualify as music apart from a few 30-seconds moments here and there. It does not only leave me befuddled, it also makes me sad for this community as a whole: that the standards have now reach such a low point that we praise such nonsensical sound-designy doodling... It also makes you feel alone, isolated... Like you're the only one, among a brainwashed crowd, who see through all the bullshit...

 

2015-02-15-huffpic.jpg

 

Damn, I'm turning into some sort of Cremers-like character... Look what you have done to me and this community, Johannsson!

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3 minutes ago, BloodBoal said:

I'm still waiting for you guys to reveal that your love for the Arrival score is just one big prank you're pulling on me.

 

I mean, I can understand Cremers loving it, but the other members that pretend loving it too... KK, LeBlanc... I tried: I listened to it a few times on Spotify to really make sure I wasn't missing anything, but all I keep hearing is: "Droning, droning, droning...". There is nothing remotely interesting in this score that would qualify as music apart from a few 30-seconds moments here and there. It does not only leave me befuddled, it also makes me sad for this community as a whole: that the standards have now reach such a low point that we praise such nonsensical sound-designy doodling... It also makes you feel alone, isolated... Like you're the only one, among a brainwashed crowd, who see through all the bullshit...

 

 

I don't know how the music is without the film but I do understand that the function of this score is to evoke a feeling of 'incomprehensibility'. I thought it was refreshing not to hear anything familiar. I have to go back to Tarkovsky's Solyaris (1972) to hear that kind of approach.

 

4292_5.jpg

 

Heck, all this made me order the Blu-ray of Solyaris on Amazon UK.

 

Alex

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27 minutes ago, Alexcremers said:

I don't know how the music is without the film but I do understand that the function of this score is to evoke a feeling of 'incomprehensibility'. I thought it was refreshing not to hear anything familiar.

 

Oh, in the film, it works fine as it perfectly fits Villeneuve pretty depressing visuals. I was more referring to it as a standalone experience: people seem to really dig it on its own. Personally, every time I tried to listen to it, it was a chore to sit through the album program.

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59 minutes ago, BloodBoal said:

2015-02-15-huffpic.jpg

 

Damn, I'm turning into some sort of Cremers-like character... Look what you have done to me and this community, Johannsson!

No BB. There is another.

gandalf-the-grey-619-386.jpg

 

With that said I have no idea how it works in the film as I have not seen it but I wager this kind of alienating stuff is a perfect fit for it.

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19 minutes ago, BloodBoal said:

 

Oh, in the film, it works fine as it perfectly fits with Villeneuve pretty depressing visuals. I was more referring to it as a standalone experience: people seem to really dig it on its own. Personally, every time I tried to listen to it, it was a chore to sit through the album program.

 

Cause it ain't got no hummable themes you dummy!

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5 minutes ago, Incanus said:

No BB. There is another.

gandalf-the-grey-619-386.jpg

 

Yes! Yes! Mithrandir! Mithrandir! The One True Gandlf-Avatar-Worthy JWFAN Member!

 

4 minutes ago, Stefancos said:

Cause it ain't got no hummable themes you dummy!

 

Trust me: the lack of hummable themes is the last of this score's problems!

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Must have overinterpreted these posts:

On 13/02/2017 at 6:22 PM, Jay said:

I'm not really familiar with Johannson's work at all, but there was a bunch of cool stuff in Arrival for sure

On 19/12/2016 at 10:58 PM, Jay said:

Jóhann Jóhannsson - Arrival

 

I saw the film last week and quite enjoyed the score in it;  I just listened to it on its own for the first time and heard a lot of stuff I liked.  Must give it a more focused listen sometime soon!

 

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