This Sunday, Oct 23 at 8 PM there’s an auspicious collaboration between the vivid and frequently haunting film composer and keyboardist Johann Johannsson, and indie classical chamber music stars American Contemporary Music Ensemble in a recently renovated old church at the edge of where Fort Greene meets Park Slope. The venue is the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph at 856 Pacific St, (Vanderbilt/Underhill); the closest train is the 2/3 to Bergen St. $27.50 advance tix are your best bet and available at the Poisson Rouge box office.
Johannsson works fast and is constantly putting out new scores. He’s also the rare composer with the good sense to release those scores as stand-alone soundtrack recordings. Of his most recent projects, the real creeper is Sicario, streaming at Spotify. It’s typified by all sorts of apprehensive white noise giving way to sudden swells – then virtual silence. It’s also a lot more electronic than Johannsson’s work usually is: its distant, echoey, icy gunshot sonics and relentlessly lumbering android stomp offer a fond nod back to Brad Fiedel‘s enormously influential Robocop score. A sad cello theme early on is unanticipated and welcome, as is a rippling, trebly electric bass passage. The music takes on more of the feel of a video game as it goes along – but that’s the nature of war these days.
Johannsson also scored The Theory of Everything (at Spotify), which supplies pretty much everything you would expect throughout a feel-good drama . If you’re one of the legions who enjoyed the Stephen Hawking biopic, you may remember the elegant but doggedly determined main theme, lots of anxious neoromantic piano-and-orchestra segments, pageantry occasionally sweeping in from a moody backdrop. You may not remember the composer’s sweet little lullaby, or how much fun he has building starry-night and deep-space scenarios. Hearing the score by itself facilitates new appreciation for such things.
Johannsson’s most recent instrumental album, also streaming at Spotify, is Orphee. The seemingly never-ending main theme and its variations have a surprisingly simple, indie pop touch, beginning with its minimalist, slowly rising waves of piano and strings. Half of it is so simplistic, and lacking in resolve, that it could be Arcade Fire – hmmm, maybe that explains the Poisson Rouge’s involvement with the Brooklyn concert. But that comparison is also not a dis – good film composers write to fit a narrative. Maybe Orphee is meant to follow a vaguely uneasy, possibly tortuous storyline that doesn’t move around much. The Greek myth certainly doesn’t offer much in the way of subtlety.