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"Satchel of Hope"
by J.lynn Sheridan

More than a handful spilled them
over the gunwales into the open mouth
of the Atlantic. It was the hunger
that bared the shame for each. Stone
cold shame for failing in the land of
mothers’ lost kisses and tyranny.

I don’t dream
as a mourner, though I should; their
fingers broke
the land where my children carve
initials into acres of cement with sticks
grown from grafted roots carried across
that great mouth 
which boasted the great
hope.

fingers that 
bled
not for them,

but for the seed scattered
into hungry salt waters.
I hunger and feed on remnants.
I dream and open my mouth for more.

THE GHOSTS WE KNOW (CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS) 
The Atomy’s next theme will be “The Ghosts We Know.” We’re now accepting submissions from creators of all kinds: poets, photographers, musicians, illustrators, filmmakers, writers, artists…
We are looking for work that explores the imprints of the past, the psychological, the emotional, the historical remnants of who we were, the memories and fingerprints of the people that have passed through our lives, and the visual deterioration of the world around us.
Submit now!

THE GHOSTS WE KNOW 
(CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS) 

The Atomy’s next theme will be “The Ghosts We Know.” We’re now accepting submissions from creators of all kinds: poets, photographers, musicians, illustrators, filmmakers, writers, artists…

We are looking for work that explores the imprints of the past, the psychological, the emotional, the historical remnants of who we were, the memories and fingerprints of the people that have passed through our lives, and the visual deterioration of the world around us.

Submit now!

an interview with Looper composer Nathan Johnson.

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Nathan Johnson recording the sounds of a gun to create new instruments for the original score of Looper. (photo by Noah Segan)

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a brief introduction
Nathan Johnson is the innovative composer of Brick, the Brother’s Bloom, and Looper. Nathan’s work on films is unconventional; using “modified, organic instrumentation with unique approaches to recording and performing” to create scores that are both unique and memorable.

In Rian Johnson’s new time travel action film Looper (starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, and Emily Blunt) Nathan broke new ground, creating entirely original instrumentation through found sounds and field recording, adding live orchestration, to create the film’s powerful score.
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THE ATOMY: You were just up at the Toronto International Film Festival for the premiere of Looper. What were your initial thoughts after watching the film in front of that audience, knowing the creative process for the film was finished and out there for the world to see and hear?

NATHAN JOHNSON: Really just pure excitement. Seeing it as the opening night movie in Toronto, with this huge crowd who was really into it, just felt amazing. Like that buzzing feeling of excitement, know that this film we’ve been working on for the last year or so, was finally ready for people to see.

A: Was this a different experience compared to Brick, and the Brother’s Bloom, considering the wide release, and a bigger “buzz” surrounding Looper?

NJ: Yeah, I mean all three of them were independent movies, but the buzz around Looper, and so far the reception around it, has been a lot more heightened, and it feels like a new experience. Plus Sony’s on board for the distribution. They’ve been doing an amazing job of getting the word out. It’s incredible to see people getting excited about it. You make a movie in the hopes that it will connect with people. So it’s rewarding to know that people are excited to go see it.

A: What were your first thoughts about the project after reading the script?

NJ: I remember thinking how different it was. It’s a lot more minimal, in terms of dialog, than I’m used to from Rian. But it kinda felt that he honed it down, and it’s meaner and leaner, and quite a bit different from Brick and Bloom.

A: Apparently you and Rian worked together through ichat on Brick, you were in England. He was in California. How has the process evolved for you since then?

NJ: It’s kinda gotten, one step of a time, closer together. (laughs) For Brick I was in England, for the Brother’s Bloom I did that in Connecticut, with Rian in LA. For Looper, I actually moved out to LA. Which to be honest, didn’t feel that different. When it comes down to it, it’s me, in the studio, or at a workstation, writing. The only difference is, in LA Rian can hop on over to the place, rather than me emailing him the stuff to listen to.

A: How has you and Rian’s creative relationship/partnership grown since Brick?

NJ: Well we’re cousins. We grew up working together. Since the time we were kids, we were always making music and movies together. I love working with Rian, that’s one of the benefits of working together for such a long time, you can really explore new places, because you trust each other.  And that’s what’s required when you’re going down a new road like that. Trust.

A: Do you have a specific ritual when beginning a new project? What’s your creative approach like?

NJ: Um, it changes based on what the movie calls for. But I guess there is sort of a similar process, I usually come up with the main themes first. And that was really different on Looper, Partly because it’s not a hugely melodic score. For Brick we had a theme or instrumental voice for every different character, and for Bloom there were a lot of different melodic themes. But for Looper, our beginning process basically started with building these custom instruments out of the field recordings that I gathered. So that’s much more of an atmospheric starting point. I didn’t begin with the melodic, or thematic idea at all.

A: So the Looper score is more about the textures of the world. Does that mean the character themes are absent?

NJ: It is focused more on creating the texture and emotion of the world, but there’s also one, simple theme that’s stretched throughout the whole movie. There are other melodic elements in there, but it mostly just comes down to one theme. In my mind, that theme relates to the main character (Joe), and since there’s an older version and younger version of him, my approach was to have this one theme represent both of them, as well as the change they experience throughout the film.

A: You’ve taken such a unique, ambitious angle for the score. Creating your own instruments, drum kits, and orchestra, through “found sound” (e.g. car doors slamming, industrial fans, gun clicks). The end result is something extremely original in sound, a score that’s beautiful and organic, rhythmic and epic. Though it seems like it was an extremely long and difficult process. 

NJ: (laughs) It took a long time. I don’t think it’s something you could do in say, a month in a half.  That’s one of the benefits of coming on board so early. I don’t have to start writing right away, I can be developing my ideas and building my sound library, recording and creating instruments. And yeah, you’re right it did take a long time, but it allowed us to go down roads, roads that we couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel so to speak. It was like setting off, down a dark hall, hoping eventually you’d find something that was worthwhile down there… and sometimes you didn’t, and sometimes you did. But that’s one of the exciting things working in this way, you’re writing with new instruments, ones that you’re not familiar with, and those end up impacting what you create.

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an interview with Jon Barthmus of Sun Airway

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a brief introduction
: Sun Airway, a music duo comprised of songwriter Jon Barthmus and fellow sound artist Patrick Marsceill, burst onto the scene with their vibrant debut album Nocturne of Exploded Chrystal Chandelier (2010). Reminiscent of such bands as Coldplay, Animal Collective, and the Strokes, Sun Airway brings a kaleidoscope of infectious melodies and sweeping lyrics to their electronic-infused, pulsating indie pop.

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THE ATOMY: Jon, It’s great to have you chatting with us. To begin, Sun Airway’s music, both lyrically and musically, is an interesting collision of epic and intimate. Your lyrics explore the natural: vast oceans, space, the universe, but everything is tethered in very personal human emotions and moments. Can you talk more about this?

JON BARTHMUS: To me, that’s something that is really beautiful about writing lyrics and music. You can make it both universal and personal. Music by nature is sort of a universal language and more and more I’ve been trying to reach for something further and further away lyrically. To me, it’s more about painting a broad picture than a literal, storytelling sort of thing. I like to use instances and experiences from my life but connect them to something bigger. For each of the sun airway records, there was a very specific feeling I wanted to get across and I use the space of the album to create this little world. For Nocturne, it was all about the night and space, but for soft fall, the world is more of a surrealist Versailles. Grand and bizarre, fantastical and mysterious. Hopefully that makes more sense once the album is released.

A: When thinking about music hubs, Philadelphia typically doesn’t jump to mind at first thought. But from living there for a few years I’ve seen personally that it’s very vibrant musically. What has been your experience making music there?

JB:Philadelphia is the perfect place to be a musician. Most importantly it’s a cheap place to live and work so there’s less pressure to focus on making money. That in itself has created enough of a scene that there’s always plenty of artists and musicians around and it’s close enough to NYC to play there and come home that night.

A: I know this is probably a cliché question when it comes to interviews, but it’s kind of essential I think, when talking about the arts… who has influenced you as a musician?

JB: My major influences have been people that have either crafted timeless melodies or been innovators in sound and production. There’s always new little things, but I always come back to the Beatles, Phil Spector, My Bloody Valentine, Spiritualized…I like massive layers of sound. Brian Eno is always huge for me too because he’s done so much and still works constantly either in production or on his own music. 

So I guess for a cliché question, that’s a pretty cliché answer. Aside from music, I always pick a few specific things to draw from for each project. For Nocturne it was Haruki Murakami and Dylan Thomas. For Soft Fall, the big thing for me was French surrealism, specifically Andre Breton. Every time I flipped through his poems or stories I found something compelling in some way or another.

A: Moving from inspiration to creation… explain your creative process.

JB: For me, it’s always different. I’m always writing down short phrases or words that I like and I’ll just go through these lists and wait for something to reveal itself to me. For Wild Palms, I was re-watching Godard’s Breathless and the Faulkner book of that name is mentioned. I wrote it down along with a full page of nonsense and came back to it and the rest of the song came into place. Once I have a few lines of lyrics I try to start singing it and playing it on whatever instrument might be lying around and the rest usually just happens. Other times I’ll start with some kind of beat or melody experiment and then try to find some lyrics that fit with that.

A: Your new album, Soft Fall, is releasing soon?

JB: October 2nd on Dead Oceans.

A: Wonderful. I found Nocture of Exploaded Crystal Chandelier by accident, and absolutely loved it. I cant wait for Soft Fall. Can you explain a little about the title and what it means? 

JB: Soft Fall is mostly about the universe I’m trying to create lyrically and musically throughout the album. It’s a place where weightlessness is a common reality. I like to imagine some kind of giant palace where things are just floating around and it’s not strange at all. 

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