Music for Dance: Introducing Jóhann Jóhannsson's 'Orphée'

Music for Dance: Introducing Jóhann Jóhannsson's 'Orphée'
© Photo by Jónatan Grétarsson
'People seem to need labels, but they can be needlessly reductive.' These are words that Icelandic composer, musician, and producer Jóhann Jóhannsson lives by. His music is a unique blend of electronics and classical orchestration, drawing on minimalism and drone music, as well as electronic and classical forms, but never settling into any predefined genre.

'I'm obsessed with the texture of sound,' he says, 'and interested in minimal forms, with how to say things as simply as possible, how to distill things into their primal form.' It's an approach that's served him well, whether in his own solo work or in collaborative projects across media as diverse as theater, dance, and cinema.

Orphée, his first studio album in six years, traces a path from darkness into light, inspired by the various retellings of the ancient tale of the poet Orpheus, from Ovid's to Jean Cocteau's. A many-layered story about death, rebirth, change, and the ephemeral nature of memory, the myth can also be read as a metaphor for artistic creation, dealing with the elusive nature of beauty and its relationship to the artist, as well as the idea that art is created through transgression.

Orphée’s sonic palette is varied, combining acoustic instruments, both solo and in ensemble, with electronics and the mesmeric sounds of shortwave radio 'numbers stations.' It draws on many facets of his previous albums, incorporating music for solo cello, organ, string quartet, string orchestra, and unaccompanied voices.

More Information

License the music in Orphée for dance in North America from G. Schirmer, Inc.
Purchase the recording of Orphée on Deutsche Grammophon
Follow the track-by-track guide to Orphée
Listen on Spotify
Watch the album trailer

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