Over the past few years, I had several opportunities to see the Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson - perhaps best known as the Golden Globe-winning composer of The Theory of Everything, Arrival, and Sicario - perform his often-somber, occasionally menacing music, often with members of ACME (American Contemporary Music Ensemble). For their tenth anniversary back in 2015, ACME commissioned Jóhannsson's epic Drone Mass, which they premiered in the Met Museum's Temple of Dendur alongside Roomful of Teeth.
Sadly, Jóhannsson died unexpectedly earlier this year at his home in Berlin. He was only 48, and had just started work on the Disney film Christopher Robin, which would have been his most ambitious scoring project to date. (The score was ultimately completed by Jon Brion.)
In tribute to their former collaborator, ACME performed a program of Jóhannsson's music last Sunday at Le Poisson Rouge, which felt like full circle given that this was where they first performed together back in 2009. The concert was part of LPR's ongoing 10th anniversary series, LPR X, which continues throughout the summer.
The selections, most of which were taken from Jóhannsson's albums Englabörn, Orphée and Fordlandia, were heavy and hypnotic, made all the more so by Jóhannsson's eerie absence. (The pre-recorded electronics were handled by Grey McMurray.) ACME artistic director Clarice Jensen performed the quiet, eerie “bc” for solo cello and tape loops, which she co-composed with Jóhannsson last year for her debut solo release, For this from that will be filled. Jóhannsson's music was an emotional trigger that called to mind any number of recent early deaths. At first, it felt like a blanket of pain and misery, but quickly dissolved into something resembling peace. Or, at the very least, acceptance.
More pics on the photo page. Set list below.