ALBUM: Johann Johansson ‘The Theory of Everything’

Some soundtracks do not require accompanying images (e.g. Jaws, Psycho, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly), even if you haven’t seen the films concerned you get a sense of the mood and of what is at the essence of the narrative.

Others employ a loop or recurring motif throughout the whole album which can be repetitive and tiresome. The best enable the imagination to run free and the mind to wander with the titles as a guide. Johann Johansson‘s soundtrack to The Theory of Everything is one.

A soundtrack without the accompanying images can often be incongruous, especially with this kind of film, one that tells the story of brainy-boffin and world-famous robot voice Stephen Hawking. The film has garnered extensive praise predominantly for Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of the scientist from his days at Cambridge through his physical deterioration/cerebral elevation to the collapsing of his marriage; the film’s central theme. Icelandic composer Johann Johansson’s elegiac soundtrack has swooping stirring strings and fragile ivories that articulate torn emotions, life’s trials and tribulations with the highs and lows captured in snapshots and extended mood pieces.

Despite its title ‘Domestic Pressures’ is particularly lovely; the mood is captured, one of suffocation, the testing of feelings and human nature rubbing up against one another. Featuring song titles that double as chapter headings wouldn’t go amiss on a Hawkwind LP (Stephen Hawkwind tribute band, anyone?) such as ‘A Spacetime Singularity’ with ‘Collapsing Inwards’ even deploying a throbbing bassline taking the listener on a trip through the stars and their infinite wonder.

At times it is evocative of Michael Nyman’s film work for Jane Campion (The Piano, in particular), and praise rarely comes as high as that. This a modern classical album that deservedly stands with and apart from the film. The theory of everything is a belief in it all.

Kemper Boyd