Jóhann Jóhannsson – The Miners’ Hymns’

Picture of Jóhann Jóhannsson – The Miners’ Hymns’
CD 12T057 (12 Tónar, 2011)


12 Tónar is proud to present ‘The Miners’ Hymns’, the newest release of Jóhann Jóhannsson, one of the most brilliant Icelandic musician and composer of today. Originally presented as a live performance at Durham Cathedral over two nights in July 2010, ‘The Miners’ Hymns’ album is the result of a collaboration between Jóhann and highly regarded American experimental filmmaker Bill Morrison. Says Jóhann of Morrison’s work: “I liked his aesthetic. His work reminded me of the kind of footage I use for my concerts, these abstract, blurry super-8 textures. His films deal with decay and memory, which are themes I work with a lot also, so there was a lot of common ground before we started.” In partnership with the British Film Institute (who are releasing the full DVD), a limited initial edition of the album will be packaged together with a DVD of the film and a full explanatory booklet.


‘The Miners’ Hymns’ project was initially commissioned for Durham County Council’s 'Brass: Durham International Festival', which incorporated the Durham Miners' Gala into a programme celebrating the culture of mining and the strong regional tradition of brass bands. Created from BFI, BBC and other archive footage and produced by the British arts organisation, Forma, Morrison’s ‘The Miners’ Hymns’ film celebrates social, cultural, and political aspects of the extinct industry, and the strong regional tradition of colliery brass bands. Focusing on the Durham coalfield in the North East of the UK, the film is structured around a series of activities including touching on the terrible hardship of pit work, the role of Trade Unions in organising and fighting for workers' rights, and the pitched battles with police during the 1984 strike as Thatcher's government sounded the death knell for the industry. Immaculately edited, the film serves as a “kind of requiem for a disappearing industry but also a celebration of the culture, life and struggle of coal miners,” describes Jóhann. The titles of the individual sections of the soundtrack are slogans taken from the trade union banners that are an iconic part of the Miners’ Gala.

Accompanied by Jóhannsson’s score, the results are powerfully compelling. Morrison’s film culminates with the finale of the annual Gala procession into the breathtaking Durham Cathedral, a focal point for the Gala, and revisited by Jóhann as the recording location for this score work. Performed and recorded live, the ensemble was led by Gudni Franzson, a Jóhannsson collaborator and, leader of Caput, Iceland´s preeminent contemporary music ensemble. After his lauded piece for brass ensemble and electronics “Virthulegu forsetar” (released on CD by Touch in 2004), ‘The Miners’ Hymns’ marks a welcome return to brass instrumentation for a composer whose recent work has been based around strings, and a reference to the popularity and symbolic importance of the traditional colliery brass band of Britain’s mining communities. A 16-piece brass ensemble (specially assembled and partly comprising members of the NASUWT Riverside Band, formed in 1877 as The Pelton Fell Colliery Band) is lamenting, lyrical, almost droning here. From ‘An Injury to One Is the Concern of All’s’ gently descending chord sweeps, to the huge shift in dynamics and heart-stopping, interweaving landscapes of ‘The Cause of Labour is the Hope of the World’, Jóhann expertly demonstrates how a single body of instruments can be used to create chilling, stirring and powerfully evocative music of genuine beauty."


12 Tónar releases ‘The Miners’ Hymns’ in Iceland and thereby continues its long-term and successful co-operation with Jóhann. Previous albums of Jóhann on 12 Tónar include Dís (2004, sold out), ibm 1401, a user’s manual (2006, sold out), ‘and in the endless pause there came the sound of bees’ (2009), and also the two albums of Jóhann’s band Apparat Organ Quartet (s/t , 2005) and Pólýfónía (2010). The highly respected label 130701/FatCat releases The Miners’ Hymns in the UK/EU.


+ “…radiates strength…Essential listening” – Grapewine

**** MOJO

**** "A bittersweet symphony for a dying industry" – Uncut

“supremely evocative… ghostly, cavernous sonorities…[A] highly emotive score” BBC Music 

“a master work… wonderfully crafted and sumptuously produced…an album which exquisitely tells the tale of a world underground” Oxford Cherwell

"Closing track The Cause Of Labour Is The Hope Of The World, a piece where a powerful melody is served by sweeping orchestral work, is equally as vibrant, but Jóhannsson pulls here some particularly emotional strings, to stunning effect." - The Milk Factory