Christian Hannon (a.k.a. NON Visuals) is a rising star in the field of visual design, known for his innovative sound reactive projection mapping. Adam Fallen (a.k.a. Fallen Atom) is a musician and producer tearing down genre barriers by blending pop, hip-hop, jazz, R&B, and electronic soundscapes. Together, they’ve created Myth of an Atom, presented this weekend as part of the Charleston Arts Festival, an immersive experience featuring live musicians and stunning visuals all created in real time.
Hannon and Fallen both live in New York City now, but their artistic collaborations started right here in the Holy City. Pretty much when they first met in the 6th grade at Charleston School of the Arts. “We were both visual arts majors,” says Hannon. “Adam started playing guitar and [we’ve been collaborating] from that point on.”
This current project began — as so many artistic endeavors do — during late night conversations. Four years later, the project has been composed and performed to widespread acclaim. But it’s still a living organism continuing to evolve. “It’s like an ongoing experiment for us,” says Fallen. “We’re trying to constantly explore both of our mediums while being completely influenced by each other.”
That sense of exploration is an essential element in Myth of an Atom. For instance, even if Hannon and Fallen were to play the same list of songs every show, no two performances would be the same. “Kind of like in the way a jazz musician has the form and then improvises within the form, that’s very much what we do with our shows,” says Fallen. “So each time is a unique experience but we still have a basis of what we’re gonna do.”
And it’s not just the music embracing improvisation. The same is true for Hannon’s visuals. “The visuals are just as much of an instrument as the guitar and drums,” says Hannon. “Everything is being performed and generated in real time, live. So things start to happen during the show that we couldn’t expect, but with everything in real time, we can keep maneuvering it and kind of driving the ship in a sense.”
Hannon, Fallen, and the rest of the musicians perform behind a translucent screen on which the visuals are projected, creating a holographic effect where the performers are more than just performers, they are inseparable from — and enhancing — the visual experience.
Myth of an Atom explores the relationship between light and sound and the cinematic experience. Hannon’s fluid visuals cascade and shimmer over the environment in perfect harmony with Fallen’s entrancing mix of hip-hop, jazz, and future bass. One can’t help but be astounded by how well these separate mediums complement one another.
Some of that probably has to do with how Hannon and Fallen are inspired. “Music was always driving me to do my visual media,” says Hannon, “and art was always driving Adam in his musical and guitar-based stuff.”
But ultimately, this completely cohesive production is the result of an artistic process that is about as collaborative as it could possibly be. “We decided to create all the content — the visuals and the music — together,” says Hannon. “It’s been an incredible process. There’s a lot more that you can explore with the aspect of sound when you have strong visuals. And we really wanted to make an immersive experience and doing the visuals and the music [simultaneously] was the best way to go about that.”
For Hannon and Fallen, this production is about more than just entertainment, about more than just having a good time and dancing (though you can definitely do just that). Beneath the surface lie narrative elements: mythic motifs and aspects of the hero’s journey. There’s a story to be discovered here. Says Hannon, “We’re kind of posing the question, not necessarily what is our myth but what are we the myth of.”
It’s a show that’s digging at something deeper, striving to impact its viewers. “When people come to the show and they leave, [I hope] they feel different,” says Fallen. “Like a story that affects them. In the way you see a movie and you’re inspired, you’re moved. Creating a world for the audience at that moment is really something we’re trying to do.”
Learn more about Myth of Atom and the Charleston Arts Festival, and buy tickets at charlestonartsfestival.com.