On 10-FEB-2018, Icelandic musician and film score composer Jóhann Jóhannsson passed away at the young age of 48.  Words are still failing to describe the atmospheres his music created and the depths in which I would be lost within them.  I was able to attend two concerts that came through MN over the years and must now be content with their lasting impressions.

  • 6/30/2009 at the Southern Theatre
  • 5/8/2010 at The Cedar

Of the 15 albums and musical scores I have had the privilege of listening to, these are my favorites and ones that provide inspiration when writing or putting an end to the day.

  • And in the Endless Pause There Came the Sound of Bees
  • Arrival
  • Englaborn
  • Orphee
  • The Theory of Everything

More information and complete music catalog is on the official website at: http://www.johannjohannsson.com

It has been 14-years since we visited Iceland, and I finally have posted photos!

Through the open window
a voice whispering garbled
words drifted in with the
autumn breeze filled with the sea.

Through the morning light
reflecting off floating dust
I walked to the window
overlooking the center of town.

Empty fountain, streets, and cafe tables
sat in the mountain shadows.

In the distance a church steeple
rises sharply atop the hill
and I struggle with mixed emotions
until I see you walk from the light.

Some recent music, delving into new music and artists, as well as favorites, including a release by Hildur Gudnadottir, one of my favorite Icelandic musicians.

  1. Seven Lions – Worlds Apart (2014)
  2. Seven Lions – The Throes of Winter (2015)
  3. Celldweller – End of an Empire (Chapter 03: Dreams) (2015)
  4. Celldweller – Transmissions: Volume 01 (2014)
  5. Porter Robinson – Worlds (2014)
  6. Hildur Gudnadottir – Saman (2014)
  7. Shigeto – No Better Time Than Now (2013)
  8. Eraldo Bernocchi, Harold Budd, Robin Guthrie – Winter Garden (2011)
  9. Animattronic – Pirates of the Galaxy (2015)

This is somewhat of a belated review of the movie “Oblivion” starring Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, and Andrea Riseborough that was released in 2013.

I first watched this movie 3 or 4 months ago and while it was “good”, it did not make much of an impression or stick with me. I wrote nothing about it at the time and did not delve further into the soundtrack. If somebody would have asked have you seen any good movies lately, I would have responded with a flat “no” and disregarded this movie completely.

Until now.

Recently, I have had random images of lost and abandoned ships in the desert or the sky empty except for “them”. As everything happens for a reason, I worked to figure out where these images and thoughts came from, and determined it was from “Oblivion”.

This is why it has become my favorite movie and the reason I am listening to the soundtrack while trying to find the right words.  It seeped into my thoughts and subconcious.

For me the synopsis of the movie is clutching to memories, no matter how distant or esoteric, and knowing they are part of you from somewhere.  To have the determination to find your roots and follow what consumes you, be it your dreams, a face, something unknown.  Through the isolation, the desolation, and rawness we live within, we are born within, we are forced into simplicity, into ourselves to find the answers and the path.  The dream from each evening bleeds into each day and we begin to see faces, moments, and fragments that over time we start piecing together.  We think maybe this is a part of myself, this is who I was and now who I am.

This landscape is my empty field.

The aliens in his movie are never shown, but are implied based on the events and the narrative.  They are in control, they have covered eyes with a veil, and wiped clean the mind, the memories, the spirit.  But that spirit can only be suppressed, not deleted forever, and over time, it will come back, it will return home.


Oblivion Movie
Oblivion Movie

While I have been away from blogging way more than I would like, the music keeps on flowing as there is so much out there.  Found a nice treat with an Icelandic group that I had not heard of, and some other stuff.

An Indie-folk / classical band from Iceland that I heard of as a recommendation from Olafur Arnalds.  The classical elements are excellent and the singing is in English and Icelandic.  Really a great find.  I have been listening to both disks everyday since picking these up.

While watching the movie recently, I became really hooked on the music which is mostly electronic with some heavy guitars thrown in.  Providing an atmosphere that matches the gritty, no holds-barred, get-out-of-my-way action and cinematography, the music is treat, and a better experience than the movie itself.

  • Dredd – Judgment is Coming(2009)

Find this one by accident while searching for the movie soundtrack and am very happy with the electronic experience this provides.

As a follow-up to the recent Ólafur Arnalds concert we attended, here is a list of Icelandic musicians in the playlist.

  1. Siggi Ármann
  2. Ólafur Arnalds
  3. Ólöf Arnalds
  4. Hildur Gudnadóttir
  5. Jóhann Jóhannsson
  6. Sigur Rós
  7. Valgeir Sigurdsson
  8. Skuli Sverrisson


Last Thursday beneath the baking 90 degree sun, we made our way to The Cedar for a special evening: Olafur Arnalds. Olafur is an Icelandic musician and composer, whose work can be loosely described as neo-classical / electronic / ambient / ethereal / haunting / melancholy / sparse. In other words, it pulls at every emotion and sets you on a roller-coaster, that can drop and rise with no warning.

This was our third time seeing him in concert in Minnesota, and it was well worth the wait. Set in a dark and open room, the stage contained a piano, a couple of chairs, and a notebook. Olafur played the piano and managed the back beats, layering, and composition (using an iPad) as a complement to the violinist and celloist. To see this music being played live, to see the emotion and physical movements of the musicians, creates a sense of wonder, respect, and supplies many “wow” moments.

I recognized most of the songs he choose to play, and gave in to the dim lights, soundscape, and warm temperatures, to close my eyes and truly feel the music sweeping into me. The concert was everything I had hoped for, and after the first song, I was already anticipating his next return here.

This short story is my first serious attempt at something other than poetry, and a desire to share with everyone. Since our visit to Iceland was in 2004, this story has been in the works for 8 years. It is based on people we met and cultural places that we visited.

Below is part 1 of this short story.  I have ideas for the rest, but have decided on its direction yet.  So, to be continued in another post.

The March sun rises steadily behind morning cloud cover and leftover moisture hanging in the cool salty air.

The silence here is unnerving. Well, maybe not what we usually think of silence, but rather, what is missing from sounds ushered into the open living room windows – car horns, jackhammers, sirens, or even crying children – instead replaced by ambient music from the corner cafe, that rises and falls like ocean waves lapping a distant beach. And Leroy’s bark breaks the moment.

Thoughts turn to the first cup of coffee and Joline’s homemade caramel rolls using a secret family recipe, that I have so far lacked enough guts to pry from her.

Leroy’s insistent barking hastens the need to dress and leave the house. Down the dark blue painted stairs creaking with each step, the white walls are bathed in an eerie orange glow – cold, yet soft. Stopping before closing the door behind me, I look down toward each end of the street, and take in what is Iceland. White breasted seagulls fly beneath the canvas of scattered grey and blue skies. Browning treetops hang on to the remaining scraggly leaves now encased and illuminated by the emerging orange and fierce yellow.

Automobiles line both sides of the narrow street that intersects with Main Street where the cafe is a cornerstone of this neighborhood. and a popular destination for both locals and the tourists passing by on their way to the Hallgrimskirkja Lutheran Church (the one with Lief Eriksson in the front).

Blocks before seeing the green neon coffee cup sign, I could have closed my eyes and followed the smell of fresh roasted beans and arrived there safely. Even Leroy sniffs the air and gains a bit of bounce in her step.

A few empty wrought iron tables are situated on the sidewalk in front of the cafe. I tie Leroy’s leash around a chair leg, near sparse day-old crumbs and purple tinged pigeons ambling about, peaking furiously at the thinly moistened cement, and head in for coffee.

As I had hoped with a somewhat child-like glee and anticipation at Christmas, Joline was working this morning and with body language that suggested she was waiting for me – this day has perked up. After ordering the usual of Sumatra, black, and a caramel roll, I grab a newspaper and head back outside. Before sitting down, Joline was kind enough to bring a bowl of water for Leroy.

What better way to start a Saturday than local gossip in the latest edition of the Reykjavik Grapevine. Amidst the celebrities, fishing reports detail the seasonal quotas for various species of fish and which canning operations are close to their limit. Also of note, the price of imports, including alcohol and, is increasing. It is getting more expensive each year to get a buzz in this country.

Looking up from the newspaper, I notice a bicyclist navigating carelessly or perhaps on purpose with a well executed slinking “S” across the cobblestone streets. Sitting atop the painted red frame with oversized rubber tires and white sidewalls, an old worn and weathered leather seat, basket in the rear, was a burly rider wearing pristine white gloves and shorts. He successfully made it to the next intersection and far from view without hitting one automobile. Impressive, I raise my cup to you.

My coffee mug says welcome to Iceland and I briefly remember I am a visitor of sorts here, as my residency has not yet been approved. In some respects I am a tourist experiencing this land from the outside, with a distant hand on the pulse of a culture so different and raw from the upper Midwest environment I arrived from. Most days I lose myself and blend with the people and activities that may seem mundane if recently arriving, but I am fascinated by their thoughts and approach to daily life. I soon forget the reasons for leaving home and seeking to be lost here.

Standing to get another cup of coffee, I stopped when Leroy barked at a distant squeaking noise. The air was calm and clear and whatever this was grabbed hold of my attention with curiosity as to its origin.

Waiting patiently for something to emerge, a minute or two later a large blue hat came over the hill, on top of a older woman, wrapped in a dark brown wool sweater, white scarf with one end at her knees, blue slacks, blue shoes. She appears to be pushing an off-white colored buggy with one squeaky wheel. She stops in front of the store on the corner. She takes out a pack of cigarettes and brandishes a lighter. Thick smoke disperses to wisps and fades into a birch tree.