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American Contemporary Music Ensemble to perform the music of Jóhann Jóhannsson at UGA’s Ramsey Concert Hall

On Friday, February 9, 2024 at 7:30 p.m., the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME)will perform The Music of Jóhann Jóhannsson presented by the University of Georgia Performing Arts Center at Ramsey Concert Hall. The Icelandic composer was most widely known for his Golden Globe Award-winning and Oscar-nominated film scores for The Theory of EverythingArrival, and Sicario but was equally adept in the concert music world. ACME’s performance at UGA will feature his chamber music, traversing his recorded catalog in music from his albums Englabörn, IBM 1401, Fordlandia, and Orphée, as well as Clarice Jensen’s For This From That Will Be Filled.

Jóhann Jóhannsson

ACME toured with Jóhann Jóhannsson from 2009 until his death in 2018, and can be heard on his 2016 Deutsche Grammophon album Orphée. In 2022, they released the world premiere recording of his contemporary oratorio Drone Mass, which they commissioned in 2015 for their 10th anniversary season. ACME recorded the album, also on Deutsche Grammophon, in collaboration with Theatre of Voices led by Paul Hillier.


At UGA, ACME will perform perform Jóhannsson’s Odi et amo (Englabörn, 2002), Corpus Camera from the television score of the same name (1999), Ég heyrði allt án þess að hlusta (Englabörn, 2002), Englabörn (Englabörn, 2002), Sálfræðingur (Englabörn, 2002), Fordlandia (Fordlandia, 2008), Flight from the City (Orphée, 2016), and BC (For This From That Will Be Filled, 2018)  a collaborative work by Jóhannsson and ACME cellist and artistic director, Clarice Jensen. 


ACME first performed this program in Jóhannsson’s memory at (Le) Poisson Rouge in New York in 2018, reprising selections that they played with the composer during their first concert with him — which was his New York debut — at (Le) Poisson Rouge in 2009. An Earful described a performance of the program as, “as strong an argument for Jóhannsson’s ongoing presence in our musical lives as can be imagined.”


ACME members for this concert include: Clarice Jensen, cello and ACME artistic director; violinists Ben Russell and Laura Lutzke; Kal Sugatski, viola; Adele Stein, cello; Grey McMurray, guitar; and Daniel Neumann, sound engineer.


About ACME: Since 2004, led by cellist and artistic director Clarice Jensen, the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME) has risen to the highest ranks of American new music through a mix of meticulous musicianship, artistic vision, engaging collaborations, and unwavering standards in every regard. NPR calls them “contemporary music dynamos,” and Strings reports, “ACME’s absorbing playing pulsed with warm energy. . . Shared glances and inhales triggered transitions in a flow so seamless it seemed learned in a Jedi temple.” ACME was honored by ASCAP during its 10th anniversary season in 2015 for the “virtuosity, passion, and commitment with which it performs and champions American composers.”


The ensemble has performed at leading international venues including Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, BAM, The Kennedy Center, Washington Performing Arts, UCLA's Royce Hall, Stanford Live, Chicago’s Millennium Park, Duke Performances, The Satellite in Los Angeles, STG Presents in Seattle, Melbourne Recital Hall and Sydney Opera House in Australia, and at festivals including the Sacrum Profanum Festival in Poland, All Tomorrow's Parties in England, Auckland Arts Festival in New Zealand, Summer Nostos Festival in Greece, Boston Calling, and Big Ears in Knoxville, TN.


ACME’s collaborators have included The Richard Alston Dance Company, Wayne McGregor’s Random Dance, Gibney Dance, Satellite Ballet, Meredith Monk, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Max Richter, actress Barbara Sukowa, filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, Blonde Redhead, Grizzly Bear, Low, Matmos, Micachu & The Shapes, Jeff Mangum, A Winged Victory for the Sullen, Roomful of Teeth, Lionheart, and Theo Bleckmann.


In March 2022, ACME released the world premiere recording of Jóhann Jóhannsson's contemporary oratorio Drone Mass on Deutsche Grammophon, with Theatre of Voices led by Paul Hillier. Gramophone included the album on its list of best new classical recordings. Of the album, Gramophone wrote, “The compelling sound world of the late Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson is powerfully captured in this epic work” and says ACME is "superb on this recording." ACME's recordings also appear on Sono Luminus, Butterscotch Records, New World Records, and New Amsterdam Records.


Photo of ACME by Mark Shelby Perry available in hi-resolution here


About Jóhann Jóhannsson: Jóhann Jóhannsson (1969–2018) was a prolific composer, who wrote music for a wide array of media including theatre, dance, television and films. His work is stylised by its blending of classical instrumentation with electronic elements.

His first solo album, Englabörn (2002, Touch), drew from a broad set of influences, ranging from Erik Satie, Bernard Herrmann, Purcell and Moondog to electronic music issued by labels such as Mille Plateaux and Mego. Another album would follow on Touch, before Jóhannsson released two orchestral albums on 4AD: Fordlândia and IBM 1401 – A User’s Manual. In 2016, Jóhann signed with Deutsche Grammophon and released his last solo record, Orphée. Since his untimely passing in 2018, more work has surfaced including his 2021 EP Gold Dust, which includes previously unheard and unused music from past projects. Most recently his long-awaited contemporary oratorio Drone Mass, featuring ACME, Theatre of Voices, and conducted by Paul Hillier, had its posthumous release in 2022 on DG.

A great deal of Jóhannsson’s work in his last years had been closely entwined with film: in 2010 he paired up with American avant-garde filmmaker Bill Morrison on the critically acclaimed The Miners’ Hymns. He has also scored a number of major cinematic hits, including Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners (2013), Sicario (2015), the score of which was nominated for all major awards, and Arrival (2016), which earned him Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations. His other notable film credits include James Marsh’s Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything (2014), for which he won a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score, and Panos Cosmatos’ cult favorite horror film Mandy.

Beyond scoring films, Jóhannsson directed them as well: his debut short, End of Summer, arrived in 2015 and was followed up by a multimedia piece titled Last and First Men, which premiered as a live performance at the Manchester International Festival in 2017. Narrated by Tilda Swinton, the project combines film and music to create a poetic meditation on memory, loss and the idea of Utopia. The film premiere of Last and First Men took place at the Berlinale in 2020, while End of Summer had its online premiere over on Mubi during the same year.



Bruce King and the late Jane King




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