person: nathan johnson

Looper - Nathan Johnson

Before I get to talking about Looper, I just wanted to say thanks to all of you for your support and having the interest to come back and read what I have to say on these matters.  It’s awesome to see that the art is more alive than ever.  

So, Looper - sure I’m a year late, but had I started this page last summer, it would’ve been the first thing I wrote about.

It’s a sci-fi film, but not like any I’ve really seen before.  It shows a lot of advanced technology that you’d expect to see, but illustrates a not-so glamorous future.  It’s gritty, thrilling, suspenseful, and really just flat out cool.

Nathan Johnson, a relative of director Rian Johnson, chose to bring a somewhat experimental score to Looper - but not quite as experimental as everyone may have thought.  From Looper’s trailers, a lot of music featured was really heavy in electronic percussion, hybrid effects, and even a little dubstep in one of the later ones.  Clearly people got the wrong idea from that.

“‘When Rian and I first started dreaming up what the score was going to sound like, we knew it had to be really different,’ said Johnson. 'Looper is a big action movie, so we knew we needed the score to be massive, but we didn’t want to go down the road of traditional big action movie scores.’ 'Nathan’s solution,’ said Rian Johnson, 'was to build massive-sounding instruments out of digitally manipulated found sounds, and it worked beautifully.’” (From a recent interview).

It sure did turn out beautifully.  By chance that you’re not sure what that latter half means, basically, Nathan and Son Lux (Looper music co-conspiritor) made their own software instruments for the film.  You know, those little libraries we all spend thousands of dollars on - well instead of settling with the limits of third party libraries, they made their own.  

This is where the experimental came in.  They recorded themselves banging on dumpsters and all sorts of other metals for drums.

One thing I really admire about Johnson’s music is that he achieves so much with very little.  If you really listen to it, you’d accept the fact that it’s created by a 50-60 piece orchestra.  But that’s just it.  It isn’t.  The heavy factors here are the hybrid-percussion, pianos, very few strings, etc.

You’d never guess by the sound of it.  In this case, simplicity is everything - a lesson every young composer should learn.  You don’t always need blaring brass and heavy string sections.  It’s utilized and proven right here.

I don’t think the film or soundtrack would’ve succeeded as well as it did if it weren’t created the exact way they made it.  Every detail is beautiful in its own way.  Nothing is wrong.

Aside from the hybrid bits, there’s a lot of great orchestral pieces.  Tracks such as Her Face and Everything Comes Around are something else.  Putting these behind a scene is bound to give you something incredible.  They’re those songs that could work in any film, or just in any aspect of your life.

Looper’s soundtrack is defined by its diversity and simplicity.  A challenge for my fellow composers out there - see what you can create with as little amount of instruments as possible.

I think you’ll be surprised.