Deutsche Grammophon, the legendary classical music record label, has recently released a documentary short on late Icelandic composer, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s roots in Reykjavík and his musical beginnings.


See Also: Beautiful tribute to Iceland’s late great composer Jóhann Jóhannsson


The revered neo-classical composer was found deceased from an accidental overdose in his Berlin home early in 2018, much to the devastation of the Icelandic and international musical community.

Jóhannsson received widespread critical acclaim for his creative outpourings, writing music for theatre, dance, television and films. Some of his best-known work is the score for The Theory of Everything (2014)—for which he received an Academy Award nomination—and in 2015, he went on to win the Oscar for the Best Original Score for Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario.

There have been many tributes since his untimely death at only 48-years old and this newly released short is by far one of the most touching, providing a rare and intimate glimpse into the places and people that shaped the late composer.


If you’d like to hear more Icelandic music, check out our large selection of Icelandic Music Playlists


The documentary begins with an interview with Jóhannsson’s parents who describe their son’s intense love affair with music beginning at the age of only 3-years old. A consistent focus throughout the film is the fact that Jóhannsson was a diligent and deep-thinking student of music; he was not formally trained but approached learning and creating from a seat of unbridled passion and respect.

Lárus Jóhannesson, a friend and co-owner of Icelandic record store 12 Tónar, describes the extraordinary effect he has seen the late composer’s work have on people over the years. Often playing Jóhannsson’s music in the shop, he describes how people from all musical backgrounds, classical or not, deeply resonate with the complex and profound creations almost instantly.

He reiterates that Jóhannsson didn’t have to go to school to know music; his lessons were at the movie theatre.

Johann Johannsson was a mastermind of sounds

Photo Credit: Facebook/Jóhann Jóhannsson

Perhaps the most touching contribution is from Dustin O´Halloran, a fellow composer and friend who comments on Jóhannsson’s unique ability “to create this very detailed and emotional sub-text to his melodies”. He continues to comment on the magical and soulful quality that drew so many to his music, concluding through somewhat teary-eyes, that in losing Jóhannsson, “We lost one of the greats”.

The film was created by filmmaker, Blair Alexander and producer Áine Devaney in preparation for the upcoming release of “Retrospective I” – a collection of Jóhannsson’s early works presented in a CD boxset and hardcover book. Deutsche Grammophon will be releasing his entire works and much of it is already available on Spotify.


Have you been touched by Jóhann Jóhannsson’s music? Do you have a particular Icelandic artist that you would like to know more about? You can check out a range of articles on Icelandic artists, here. Be sure to leave any comments or queries in the Facebook box below.