Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sonic Architecture

Movie: It Might Get Loud (2009)
Directed by: David Guggenheim
Starring: Jimmy Page, The Edge, Jack White

It Might Get Loud is a love letter to the electric guitar which describes a 'summit' between three exceptional musicians who are generations apart: Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, U2's The Edge and Jack White of The White Stripes. Each in his own way reacted with his social and artistic environment to redefine rock guitar playing.

During the opening shot the camera almost indecently caresses the contours of a Fender Stratocaster. It's only a piece of wood with strings, but to aficionados the electric guitar has more sex appeal than an Aston Martin. For the following ninety minutes an enviable collection of classic instruments is paraded before the cameras for axe freaks like me to salivate over.

On the creative side, It Might Get Loud tries to explain how a guitarist discovers his inner and outer space. Thus we discover how Page abandoned session work to forge the heavy rock archetype with Led Zeppelin, how The Edge crossed a creative rubicon which led to his spiritual fusion of Celtic soul with digital technology, and how White recontextualized the blues for the White Stripes' alternative rock crowd.

There's an abundance of fascinating archival footage which only leaves one hankering for more and serves to underline that each of these stars really deserves his own documentary. For instance the movie affords a fascinating glimpse into the armory of effects which facilitates Edge's sonic architecture - interestingly White is the polar opposite, seeing technology as a destroyer of truth. I for one would have loved to see more of this.

As a guitar player I was transfixed throughout, and anyone interested in the magic of electric guitar should see this movie. It's also pretty cool to get a peek at the stars' record collections.

But in truth It Might Get Loud's rock star summit shows precious little chemistry between the participants. If anything it illustrates the characteristics which separate these icons and which perhaps explain their creative uniqueness, a fact which becomes all too clear in the final scene as the trio run through an embarrassingly naff version of The Band's quintessential classic The Weight.

Trailer: It Might Get Loud