Audio: On the Score with Nathan and Rian Johnson

By • September 24, 2012

ON THE SCORE is sponsored by La-La Land Records

Sometimes it doesn’t take a time machine to bravely venture into the future of the movies. Often times, it’s hearing Hollywood’s familiar beats and turning them into something new, replacing one’s memories of countless films and scores for any given genre with a fresh sense of vibrancy. Such are the innovative powers of the composing-filmmaking team of cousins Nathan and Rian Johnson.

Like visitors from some eccentric twilight zone, the Johnsons first appeared out of nowhere to turn a high school into a stylized hotbed of pulp fiction with “Brick.” As Rian audaciously had teens mouth off with film noir finesse, Johnson cast an atmospheric spell that turned all manner of metallic sounds and unstrung instruments into the fast-talking patter for secondary education’s murderous underbelly, an eerily innovative “junkyard orchestra” that used every “found” instrument from cheese graters to closing cabinets to reflect “Brick’s” 40s era homages. When Rian Johnson next felt the sting of scam artists in Eastern Europe for “The Brothers Bloom,” Nathan got to play the con game with alt. Klezmer music, twisting the sound of traditional instruments to modern rock with even more joy, while also capturing the ironic melancholy of a life of crime.

But where “Brick” and “The Brothers Bloom” were low key productions, “Looper” takes Nathan and Rian Johnson into the studio big leagues, uniquely pairing Bruce Willis with their frequent star Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a future-past hitman, one regretfully trying to change his destiny, while his younger, foolhardy persona is hell-bent on putting himself in the furnace. The key to their respective fates reside with a mother and son, whose corn-surrounded farmhouse will serve as the showdown that’s been thirty years in the making. Yet nothing is obvious in a Johnson picture, even in a story throws the time-honored plot points from such diverse movies as “The Terminator,” “High Noon,” “The Fury” and “Le Samourai” into a mind-bending blender.

This captivating fusion is thematically embodied in Nathan Johnson’s score, one that again delights in the composer’s penchant for integrating sound design and music. It’s a realm that’s more emotional realm than ever, even as bullets serve as percussion, innocent bells embody an angry child and a piano takes on the fatal outlook for hitman romance. All manner of unknowable metallic percussion serves as the clock hands that will impactfully bring future and past together, “hybrid” music that truly loops around itself. Newly complementing Johnson’s knack for experimentation is the resource of an orchestra, a brave new sonic world for a musical approach once born out of budgetary necessity. The effect is as startling as it is seamless as Johnson dives into the Hollywood action sound in a way that’s anything but cookie-cutter, never selling out to the arthouse sensibility that’s made him one of Hollywood’s most innovatively rising composers. It’s a quality that also more than befits Rian Johnson in a movie that will most certainly make their reps with the “Matrix”-like acclaim that “Looper” is deservedly receiving.

Now on a new episode of On the Score, Nathan and Rian Johnson talk via telephone about upping the ante of their brave new worlds of sound and vision as they go back, and ‘round again to a killer future in style.

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Click above to Listen Now or Click Here to Download

a Buy the Soundtrack: LOOPER
a Buy the Soundtrack: THE BROTHERS BLOOM
a Buy the Soundtrack: BRICK
a Buy the Soundtrack: THE DAY I SAW YOUR HEART
a Visit Nathan Johnson’s website

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