Samn sampling Lake Superior in 2015
Samn Johnson (b. 1991) is a composer, electronic musician, and multi-instrumentalist from Kalamazoo Michigan. His work often fixates on mysticism and the passage of time, frequently adapting different layers of historical material; from classical antiquity to bedroom-produced pop music. He received his undergraduate degree in composition at the University of Michigan, and is currently pursuing his Masters in Music Theory and Composition at NYU, where he studies with Julia Wolfe. His former teachers include Robert Honstein, Kristin Kuster, Evan Chambers, and Michael Daughtery. His music has been performed by professional ensembles such as the JACK Quartet, Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, and Ann Arbor Camerata.
Samn started creating music in his early teens when he took up guitar and bass and began writing songs for rock bands. Soon, he took an interest in classical music, taught himself the piano, and began composing. His music has explored the intersection of these basic "popular" and "art music" influences ever since.
Less than a year after hammering out after his first compositions, he was admitted to the Interlochen Arts Academy in 2007, where he began composition studies with Cynthia VanMaanen and John Boyle Jr. During this time, his setting of Poe's A Dream within a Dream was a finalist for the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composers Award. Ever-fascinated with large-scale form, he completed his first attempt at a symphony at age 18, a 40-minute work that was recorded by the Interlochen Academy Orchestra. Samn also played bass in the orchestra while attending the academy.
In 2009, Samn began undergraduate composition studies at the University of Michigan. While in Ann Arbor he developed an interest in electronic music and began producing his own albums blending electronica with contemporary composition. He produced two full lengths in this period: Variations, and Epistulae. Samn also became active in Ann Arbor's thriving electronic scene, playing with artists such as Chrome Sparks, FTHRSN, and Pete Wiley of Pascäal. Samn continued to develop his abilities as a performer during this time, studying organ with Maryliyn Mason, playing in the Gamelan ensemble, and singing in the university choir.
After graduating from Michigan, Samn relocated to Brooklyn, where he continued to hone his skills as a producer while working on his third album, Ageless Sea, to be released later this year. He also worked as an administrative assistant for the Wet Ink and Early Music New York. In the winter of 2015-16, Samn spent several months in Reykjavík interning for Bedroom Community. During this interval he also became involved in film editing, and started releasing music-related comedy videos with his collective, Bach Party. He currently plays bass in Brooklyn-based indie band Selva, and produces music as a member of the electronic pop due ACRAEA.
Samn in 2013: photo by Ida Fey
In addition to his musical activities, Samn has an strong avocational interest in comparative Indo-European linguistics, and has participated in the Indo-European summer programme at Leiden University in the Netherlands. He is especially interested in poetry in Latin and the old Germanic languages, and often adapts these texts in his work. He has studied (and continues to study) German, Norwegian, Old English, Old High German, Old Norse, Icelandic, Gothic, Russian, Polish, Old Church Slavonic, French, Latin, Oscan, Umbrian, Ancient Greek, Hittite, Tocharian, and Sanskrit. He also enjoys translation as a hobby, and has translated works by Franz Kafka, Anton Chekov, Boethius, and Horace, among others.