Like many of my fellow Americans born in the late 1980s, I previously drew all of my perceptions about Icelanders from the grossly underrated piece of cinematic art known as D2: The Mighty Ducks, originally released in 1994. Arrogant, youthful good looks, and a Soviet-style hatred of everything that epitomizes American culture — these were just some of the characteristics that were at the fore of Disney’s less-than-flattering depiction of the isolated island nation. It was only semi-recently that I discovered that Icelanders seriously kick ass at music. Like, very seriously. More-than-average seriously. Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson is just one of many talented musicians inhabiting the country, but he’s sure to draw some extra attention come late January and early February, when he headlines three unique performances in New York City, Winnipeg, and Los Angeles.
Here’s a basic rundown of the performances:
On January 31, as a part of WNYC’s Wordless Music Series, Jóhannsson, alongside a 22-piece brass and string ensemble, will perform the entirety of his reportedly “haunting” soundtrack to Bill Morrison’s film The Miners’ Hymns, which was released on DVD earlier this year. The event will take place in New York City, at the World Financial Center’s Winter Garden — a venue which appears dangerously susceptible to stone-throwing, but remains fitting nonetheless.
The second performance will take place at the Centennial Concert Hall in Winnipeg, Manitoba on February 3. Supported by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Jóhannsson will perform the world premiere of “A Prayer to the Dynamo,” a piece, according to a press release, specifically commissioned by the orchestra for the New Music Festival in Winnipeg. Adding further Icelandic flavor to the evening, Sigur Rós keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson will also be on hand for a performance of his own.
The final performance will occur on February 8 at the Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles. Jóhannsson will be joined by the California-based Formalist Quartet for a concert described as “retrospective,” and preceded on February 7 by a performance on KCRW’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic,” which airs at 11:15 AM PST.
I rarely resort to air travel for the purpose of seeing individual concerts, but I’m feeling a bit compelled this time around.