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Jóhann Jóhannsson

“Life is for the living.
Death is for the dead.
Let life be like music.
And death a note unsaid.”

Langston Hughes

For those of us who spend entirely too much time alone in study will understand the gravity of friendship that music has on forming fond memories and stimulating the imagination. In my own private space, I’ve come to befriend the sound of a man who passed away at age 48 on Saturday and the sense of that future emptiness is palpable. Perhaps it is appropriate that he was signed on to score the upcoming HBO and Sky miniseries “Chernobyl” given my own near death experience being born in that region.

According to The Post, his body was discovered in his Berlin apartment. Cause of death remains unknown. With his seeming plans to use his music from Mother! and his pending work on Mary Magdelene, I can only fear the worse.

In honor of  Jóhann Jóhannsson, I offer two things.

First, is a paragraph from the book I was reading when I came to know of his death, a deeply relevant and sobering reflection on the state of our existence and the imposing prospect of Death that our memories desperately seek to avoid: “if that fear becomes conscious of itself, it becomes anguish, the perpetual climate of the lucid man ‘in whom existence is concentrated.'”

It comes from an essay by Albert Camus called The Myth of Sisyphus.

Now the main thing is done, I hold certain facts from which I cannot separate. What I know, what is certain, what I cannot deny, what I cannot reject—this is what counts. I can negate everything of that part of me that lives on vague nostalgias, except this desire for unity, this longing to solve, this need for clarity and cohesion. I can refute everything in this world surrounding me that offends or enraptures me, except this chaos, this sovereign chance and this divine equivalence which springs from anarchy. I don’t know whether this world has a meaning that transcends it. But I know that I do not know that meaning and that it is impossible for me just now to know it. What can a meaning outside my condition mean to me? I can understand only in human terms. What I touch, what resists me—that is what I understand. And these two certainties—my appetite for the absolute and for unity and the impossibility of reducing this world to a rational and reasonable principle—I also know that I cannot reconcile them. What other truth can I admit without lying, without bringing in a hope I lack and which means nothing within the limits of my condition?

The second is a playlist that I’ve created in the last three days, listening to his body of work, in honor of his memory, including some of my favorite compositions that have kept me company.


You will be missed.

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