Jóhann Jóhannsson, the award-winning Icelandic composer, has died, his manager confirmed to Pitchfork. He passed away on Friday, February 9 in Berlin, and the cause of his death is currently unknown. He’s survived by his parents, sisters, and daughter. He was 48. Jóhann was born and raised in Reykjavik, Iceland. In the mid-’90s, he played in Icelandic rock bands like Olympia, Unun, and Ham. In 1999, he became a founding member of the art collective and record label Kitchen Motors. He released his first solo album, Englabörn, in 2002. He was prolific in his output, and his last album was 2016’s Orphée.
Jóhann was also an award-winning composer for his work on various films. He scored Dennis Villeneuve’s Sicario, which earned him an Oscar nomination. He won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Oscar for his original composition for James Marsh’s film Theory of Everything. His other scores included Arrival, Mandy, The Mercy, and more. He was initially tapped to score Blade Runner 2049, but Denis Villeneuve removed him from the project. (“I needed to go back to something closer to Vangelis,” Villeneuve later said.) Alongside Hildur Guðnadóttir, Jóhann also provided the original score for the upcoming film Mary Magdalene.
Across his solo albums, Jóhann experimented with an array of instruments and compositional approaches. His 2004 album Virðulegu Forsetar is an hour-long drone piece played on pipe organ and brass. Several of his albums were conceptually driven. His 2006 album IBM 1401, A User’s Manual was inspired by his father, an IBM engineer who used early computers to compose music. In 2008, he made Fordlandia, which was based on Henry Ford’s plans to build a utopian city in northern Brazil. His 2011 album The Miners’ Hymns, accompanied by a film, paid homage to coal miners in Durham, England.