I don’t attend many conferences in the music industry, but for a reason that I won’t outline here I was at a Billboard Music event in Chicago about 10 years ago that I realize now helped to shape the Atomic Symphonies. 

 

It wasn’t anything said during the two days of presentations that originated this shift, but at a Happy Hour gathering after the first day’s proceedings where a DJ was playing dance hits from the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s. What struck me wasn’t the selection of songs, but the duration of the tracks as he wove one into the next. He only played about 30 to 60 seconds of each hit before moving on to another. 

 

Essentially, if you wanted to dance to a track you liked, you only had a few seconds to do so, and if you hated the song he was playing, well – it would be over in a moment.

 

Now my own clubbing days as a kid were in the 80’s when the extended remix was the DJ’s most common weapon of choice – so this hyperclip approach to party music was a bit of a shock to the ear. But I understood where the paradigm was coming from, and how a mindset newly framed by social feeds would inform the almost rapid-fire approach to delivery.

 

I began to wonder what it would mean if an artist transposed this structure from the set to the song – to build a single piece that wandered from one motif and beat to the another within the confines of a single track.

 

It is this idea, ironically coupled with the older notion of an extended remix that came together as the foundation for the movements in each Atomic Symphony. Of course, the practice of returning to an earlier motif or rhythm plays a great part in the movements as well – an experience that is common to both popular and classical forms of music.

 

This structure of wandering from one section to another gives the listener an experience of discovery and surprise, while the underlying rhythms and returns to earlier phrases and phases allows for a realization of its overall coherence.

 

The intent of the Atomic Symphonies is to let the audience discover the groove long enough to dig into it, and them move them on to something just as surprising, epic and a bit of a thrill.

– Nicholas Korn

 

ABOUT THE ATOMIC SYMPHONIES

The Atomic Symphonies reinvents the classical symphony for the digital age by creating a massive four-movement opus based on the beats and instruments of pop, funk, techno, hip-hop and EDM. I have been working on this epic music series since 2018.

In the 2014 biopic, Get On Up, there is a scene where Chadwick Boseman as James Brown tells the members of his band that no matter what instrument they carry, everyone is playing percussion. Of course, this is something we inherently know about Brown’s style of funk – that the rhythm is everything and everyone in the band is contributing to it. But to hear it stated so bluntly shows how much the approach goes against what musicians are taught to bring to the music they play.

 

Classical pianist, Leon Fleisher, also famously declaimed that the piano, the most melodic of instruments, was also percussive in nature.

 

Flashback to another time and music meister whose last name begins with B: Beethoven. Music historians have mentioned repeatedly that he lived for many years under the shadow of Mozart, who was perhaps the greatest melodic genius of all time. It wasn’t until the Fifth Symphony that Ludwig Van found his essential method and style – one that would drive him for the rest of his life as a creator and lift him to the Parnassian heights above all composers who would come before and after him.

 

My own thoughts on Beethoven’s style – which I do not suppose are really are original, though I have not read them elsewhere – is that the great master is constantly exploring the line where melody breaks down into rhythm and rhythm begins to vary enough in pitch to become melody. 

 

It is with all humility that I borrow these ideas from both men, who are vastly my betters in the venture of creating music. All of the virtual instruments I bring into the movements of the Atomic Symphonies are there to exert their sound and force for a primarily percussive purpose. And wherever the piece begins to settle into motif or melody, I am also looking for ways to break it down and rebuild it elsewhere.

 

Every artist has a selection of predecessors that influence their work, and they decide which aspects of their forebearers resonate most with them and eventually inform their work in a way that peculiar to them. Here are two of mine (though there are many others), which I acknowledge here in presenting the second of my Atomic Symphonies.

– Nicholas Korn

ABOUT THE ATOMIC SYMPHONIES

The Atomic Symphonies reinvents the classical symphony for the digital age by creating a massive four-movement opus based on the beats and instruments of pop, funk, techno, hip-hop and EDM. I have been working on this epic music series since 2018.

The most common approach to combining contemporary and classical music involves the arrangement of a pop tune for symphony orchestra. While this lends an element of old-world grandeur to the songs most readily found on the radio, I have often felt there are more interesting possibilities in the intermixture of the two.

 

This raises the question of what is really at the core of classical music – is it the grouping of traditional instruments into orchestral sections or is it a mode of composing that stretches into the epic and requires the listener to follow on an intricate and extensive journey?

 

Essentially, is a symphony still a symphony without the orchestra?

 

With the Atomic Symphonies, I wanted to explore the possibilities of what the intersection of pop and classical would be if I reversed the standard practice – keeping the intent and framework of the composition, while trading the strings and winds for synths and beats.

 

Again, my interest here was not to translate works already in the repertoire using digitally induced sounds. I have no desire to hear Brahms Fourth or Mozart’s Fortieth in the mode of Tiesto or Moby. I wanted to create something that would be both singular and a signature for my own work. 

 

So I set about building these Atomic Symphonies, movement by movement, using the instruments and percussive elements of pop, techno, funk and EDM. Much of our music today is meant to inspire us to dance, and I wanted that drive to be a part of what audience experiences when they hear my work in this form.

 

While I do not expect these musical works to enter any canon but my own, it has been a joy to work on them on a daily basis – to find out what comes next musically, discover where a motif can come back into play, and arrive at a new and momentary place that invites the ear to listen, and the body to move.

– Nicholas Korn

ABOUT THE ATOMIC SYMPHONIES

The Atomic Symphonies reinvents the classical symphony for the digital age by creating a massive four-movement opus based on the beats and instruments of pop, funk, techno, hip-hop and EDM. I have been working on this epic music series since 2018.

FEATURED POEM & PERFORMANCE | WILD SONNET #38

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Nicholas' Notes:

This poem may be the closest I can come to an artist’s mission statement – acknowledging and accepting the goodness and gravity that life delivers to us in equal measure. And making it a moment for song. All of the Wild Sonnets are meant to be occasions captured into words, feelings fit into fourteen lines of observation and wonder, soliloquies inspired by what is suddenly there and gone.

 

This poem appears in the paperback edition of The Wild Sonnets: Volume I (1-100) and The Wild Sonnets: Complete Poems | Digital 2021 (1-300), which also features links to the video library. The digital collection is now available for only $10 (originally $20). For more details, see The Wild Sonnets Bookstore below.