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.