Jóhann Jóhannsson, 'Take the Night Air'
This #NowPlaying pick comes courtesy of the New Music Friday podcast.
You may have heard more of Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson's music than you think. His scores for the films Arrival, Mandy, Theory of Everything and Sicario have secured legions of fans. Three years before his sudden death at age 48 in 2015, he finished Drone Mass, a kind of electroacoustic cantata for string quartet, voices and electronics which may be his finest work.
The 45-minute piece unfurls like a ritual, with washes of high Renaissance choral polyphony mixed with traces of contemporary mystics like Arvo Pärt and beautifully terrifying electronic treatments implemented by the composer himself. "Take in the Night Air" begins with weightless distortion, intensifying as voices pop in and out, calling to each other. If you were hurtling through space, this would be the music of the heavens.
While this debut recording was made after Jóhannsson's death, an engineer located his performance sound files, incorporating them with the musicians (members of ACME and Theatre of Voices) to offer a composer's gift from the great beyond.