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Jóhann Jóhannsson
Jóhann Jóhannsson

Jóhann Jóhannsson’s previously unpublished soundtrack score to Personal Effects

Johan Johannsson - Personal Effects coverbild

“Jóhann’s work was quickly and rightfully compared to that of some of the finest composers in the world…” (David Hollander, director of Personal Effects)

Jóhann Jóhannsson’s music was in high demand in Hollywood. The Icelandic composer’s unique voice, with its distinctive blend of minimalism and ambient electronic sounds, was ideally suited to the medium of film. Deutsche Grammophon pays tribute to his work with the world premiere release of his music for Personal Effects, a sublime collection of sixteen previously unpublished tracks that form an essential addition to the Jóhannsson catalogue. Personal Effects will be available digitally and on vinyl from 29 May 2020. 

The new album originated in 2009 as the score to director David Hollander’s feature film debut. Hollander had fallen in love with Jóhannsson’s music four years earlier while exploring an art installation on Santa Monica beach in California. Although transfixed by the multimedia exhibition’s soundtrack, he left before discovering its composer’s name. By chance the producer of Personal Effects had visited the same exhibition and also been hooked by what he heard. “It was decided,” the director recalls. “This mystery person would be our composer.”

The quest led Hollander to Jóhannsson. Within a week of their first conversation, the composer had drafted music for sections of the film and recorded his ideas on piano. What followed was an intense three-month creative collaboration. Jóhannsson’s music, with its meditations on grief and loss, brought an extra dimension to Personal Effects, a romantic drama starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Ashton Kutcher as two grief-stricken individuals struggling to come to terms with the violent deaths of those closest to them. “Jóhann consistently reached into the images and emotions of the film to create something better than anything I had ever imagined,” notes David Hollander.

The two men became friends as they worked together on Personal Effects and Hollander has found great comfort in listening to the soundtrack since Jóhannsson’s death in February 2018. He describes his friend as “a kind genius”, justly celebrated for his pioneering scores, including those for Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario, Arrival and Prisoners and James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything, for which he won a 2015 Golden Globe. 

“I never imagined this score would be something that would help me not only to cope with Jóhann’s death, but to feel his presence and be moved, time and time again, by his work,” he adds. “It has. And I hope, for those of you who knew and loved him, or simply loved his work, it does the same for you.”

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