Home » Artists » The Mercy

Johann Johannsson: Bio

Jóhann Jóhannsson, born in Iceland in 1969, is an award-winning composer, musician and producer. His work often blends electronics with classical orchestrations and bears the diverse influences of the Baroque, Minimalism and drone-based and electro-acoustic music. Jóhannsson's most recent film soundtrack, for director Denis Villeneuve's thriller Sicario, has attracted Oscar®, BAFTA and Critics' Choice nominations for best original score. In 2015 he won the Golden Globe and received Oscar®, BAFTA, Grammy® and Critics' Choice nominations for his critically acclaimed score for The Theory of Everything, James Marsh's biographical drama based on the life of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking.

Jóhannsson began studying piano and trombone at the age of eleven in his native Reykjavík. He abandoned formal musical training while at high school, however, frustrated by the constraints imposed on music as an academic subject. After studying literature and languages at university, he spent ten years writing music for and playing in indie rock bands, using guitars to compose feedback-drenched pieces and sculpt complex multi-layered soundscapes. By manipulating the resonances of acoustic instruments with digital processing, Jóhannsson created music that integrated acoustic and electronic sounds into something strikingly individual and new.

His first solo album, Englabörn, was released in 2002 on the British Touch label. Its contents reveal influences spanning everything from Erik Satie, Bernard Herrmann, Purcell and Moondog to electronic music issued by labels such as Mille Plateaux and Mego. Later works include Virðulegu Forsetar (2004), scored for brass ensemble, electronic drones and percussion, and the orchestral albums Fordlândia (2008) and IBM 1401 – A User's Manual(2006), the latter inspired by the sounds of electromagnetic emissions from the first of IBM's pioneering mainframe computers. In 2010 Jóhannsson collaborated with the American avant-garde filmmaker Bill Morrison on The Miners' Hymns, a lyrical and reflective response to Britain's lost industrial past and the heritage of the mining communities of Northeast England. The film's accompanying score, conceived for live performance and also released as a soundtrack album, combines brass band, pipe organ and electronics.

In addition to his scores for Hollywood, Jóhann Jóhannsson has also created soundtracks for several acclaimed works of world cinema and for documentary films, including Lou Ye's Mystery, János Szász's The Notebook and Max Kestner's Dreams in Copenhagen. He recently completed his first short film as director, End of Summer(2015), which charts a slow, hypnotic journey across the austere landscapes of the remote island of South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula, its onscreen images accompanied by a haunting soundtrack score. As an orchestral, chamber and theatre composer, he has written works for, among others, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Bang on a Can, Theatre of Voices, Det Norske Teater and the Icelandic National Theatre.

Jóhann Jóhannsson is currently working on his first studio album in six years – set for release in 2016 to mark his debut on the Deutsche Grammophon label – and is also developing a major new audiovisual piece.

1 Flares  
2 Boating for Beginners  
3 The Good Ship Teignmouth Electron  
4 A Sparrow Alighted Upon Our Shoulder  
5 Terra Firma  
6 Into the Wide and Deep Unknown  
7 Good Morning, Midnight  
8 A Sea Without Shores  
9 Karen Byr Til Engil  
10 Innocence  
11 The Doldrums  
12 Meditation  
13 The Horse Latitudes  
14 Radio  
15 The Furious Sea of Fogs and Squalls  
16 Three Thousand Five Hundred and Ninety One Benches  
17 The Captain's Log  
18 The Mercy  
19 She Loves to Ride the Port Ferry When It Rains  
20 The Radiant City  
21 A Pile of Dust  
22 At 19*41'10.40 North 79*52'37.83 West, Lies the Shadow  
Johann Johannsson - Full Performance (Live on KEXP)

From Academy Award-winning director James Marsh (The Theory of Everything, Man of Wire) comes The Mercy, a tale of yachtsman Donald Crowhurst (Colin Firth)'s disastrous attempt to win the 1968 Golden Globe Race that results in his outrageous account of traveling the world alone by sea. The soundtrack for The Mercy features music by Jóhann Jóhannsson (Arrival, mother!). The music is a combination of newly written, commercial orchestral scores, and existing pieces from Jóhannsson´s catalog, such as Orphée, Englabörn, Free The Mind and Copenhagen Dreams.