Jóhann Jóhannsson: Last and First Men

A still image from Last and First Men depicting a dilapidated building

Music, visuals and narration form a poetic meditation on memory and loss in a performance of Jóhannsson's breathtaking multimedia work, Last and First Men.

Based on the cult science fiction novel by Olaf Stapledon, it combines music, visuals and narration from Tilda Swinton, sitting somewhere between fiction and documentary. Images of a decaying futuristic landscape – filmed in 16mm black and white in the former Yugoslav republics – are placed against Jóhannsson’s haunting orchestral score, crafted over seven years, before its premiere at the 2017 Manchester International Festival.

Having passed away in February, we've made the decision not to replace Jóhann – instead, the performance will go ahead in tribute to him, and recordings that Jóhann made of his own parts will be played live alongside the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Daníel Bjarnason.

Produced by the Barbican. Commissioned by Manchester International Festival, the Barbican Centre and Sydney Opera House. Film co-produced by Flanders Festival Kortrijk with the support of Gone West, Province of West Flanders. Supported by the Embassy of Iceland

Credits

A film and score by Jóhann Jóhannsson

Film narrated by Tilda Swinton
Cinematography by Sturla Brandth Grøvlen
Soundtrack performed by London Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by Daníel Bjarnason
Vocal performance by Theatre of Voices (Else Torp, Kate Macoboy)
Lighting Design by Stuart Bailes 
 

Programme

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Podcast: Remembering Jóhann Jóhannsson – Episode 1

We meet some of the people who worked with the late composer, including Kitchen Motor co-founder Kira Kira, Barbican programmer Chris Sharp and Fat Cat Records’s David Howell.

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Podcast: Remembering Jóhann Jóhannsson – Episode 2

In this episode we talk to filmmaker James Marsh about the score to The Theory of Everything, musician Adam Wiltzie about putting together Jóhann’s first tours, and his manager Tim Husom about future plans for Jóhann’s estate.

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Listen: Jóhann Jóhannsson

Jóhann Jóhannsson lay the foundations for a wave of musicians that have redefined contemporary classical music, by marrying instruments and technology in thought-provoking new ways.

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From the archive: Jóhann Jóhannsson on 'The Miners' Hymns'

In 2014, we invited Jóhann Jóhannsson on our podcast to discuss the silent film 'The Miners' Hymns' and the history - and future - of the mining communities in northeast England. Take a listen...
 

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