This week I happened to learn of the death of Jóhann Jóhannsson, an influential composer of this so-called modern era. I say “by chance” because his death occurred two years ago. Stupidly, one might say. Cocaine and cold medicine don’t seem to go well together. This is both a tragedy and a non-event. How many people appear and disappear like this on this dizzying planet? One might say it is a pity because the man was only forty-eight years old and had so much more to create. But what do we know at the end of the day? Is it not the case with shooting stars that if they are marvelous, it is because they are ephemeral and luminous?
Jóhannsson’s work cannot be listened to for long before one falls into a kind of monastic lethargy. Many of his works can be heard to like vinegar mixed with wine, in small, inspiring doses.
And the older I get, the more I seem to breathe the same way, trying to feed myself with some opium by living dangerously close to the noisy cliff of nothingness.
How did the composer really die? Would he have been surprised to suddenly find himself gasping for breath after sniffing his line? Had he ingested so much of the substance that he now had to fight chronic sinus defects? Was this genius suffering from an unfathomable evil and that, in the end, this simple accidental mixture of substances was actually an involuntary suicide? We’ll never know? Astrologers will say that he had a Virgo Sun conjunct Pluto. That’s unforgivable in terms of intensity. It’s a cauldron of monstrous, dancing lava and incandescent possibilities.
People die anytime, anyhow. It’s the law of numbers that allows humanity to move forward on its path.
In his memory, a string quartet, the Echo Collective, took over his music by ridding it of the electroacoustics that surrounded the composer. It can be listened to like a prayer in the middle of an autumn field. Melancholy is a beautiful thing for those who know how to recognize it and drink it.
Jóhannsson remains for me the composer of Odi and Amo, based on a poem by Catullus. I had the beginning of this poem inscribed as an “exergue” to Falaise.
Odi and Amo. Quare id faciam, fortasse requiris. Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.
I hate and I love. How is this possible? You may ask yourself… I don’t know, but I feel it, and it is tormenting.