© 2022
kunc-header-1440x90.png
NPR for Northern Colorado
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

'Looper': A World Of Musical Clicks And Pops

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars in the science-fiction thriller <em>Looper.</em>
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment
Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars in the science-fiction thriller Looper.

When you think about the great music of science fiction, a few staples spring to mind — say, the theme from the classic Star Trek series, or John Williams' compositions for the Star Wars movies.

Nathan Johnson, the composer for the new time-travel thriller Looper, wanted to break with tradition. Instead of going for that slick, orchestral sound, he immersed himself in the world of the film to find his source material.

"I actually moved down to New Orleans, where they were shooting the movie," says Johnson, "and just spent a month wandering around the city, walking around the sets, gathering anything that struck my ear."

<em>Looper</em> score composer Nathan Johnson
/ Courtesy of the artist
/
Courtesy of the artist
Looper score composer Nathan Johnson

That could include the sound of fingers drumming on railings, or the beep and hum of a microwave oven. Johnson gathered his sounds in the field, then used software to turn them into playable instruments. He says one fun challenge of the process was thinking of all the sounds a given object could produce.

"One afternoon I brought Noah Segan, the actor who plays Kid Blue, into the studio," Johnson says. "We recorded all the sounds of his gat gun from the movie — so not just the firing of the gun, but the actual cocking mechanism, the way the barrel spun around, all these little clicks and pops."

Johnson says he wanted the film's score to feel like an organic and inextricable part of its world.

"I'm really drawn to imperfection in music," he says. "So I took the same approach when I was gathering these sounds, rather than using a library where everything has been sampled perfectly and recorded in the studio. Part of it was just to get our own stamp on it so that the world of Looper, auditorily, felt really unique."

This story originally ran Oct. 11, 2012.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Related Content
  • Director Rian Johnson is known for his 2005 high school noir flick Brick. His new movie, Looper, jumps 30 years into a grim future for a twisty thriller involving time traveling assassins. Johnson says time travel stories are intensely relatable, because everyone wonders about their past.
  • Nigel Godrich is often called the sixth member of Radiohead — he's been the envelope-pushing producer behind the band's albums since 1997. Ultraísta is his new experimental trio, formed with an old ally and a new recruit.
  • The Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter titled her latest album Traveling Alone — a reference, she says, to the value of being self-sustaining.
  • Actress Queen Latifah could watch Steel Magnolias a million times. " I was around 19 years old when it came out, and I was sort of into those emotional types of movies," she says.