This week I spoke with Academy Award winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim (also the director of An Inconvenient Truth) about his latest film, It Might Get Loud. This film centers on the history, evolution, and artistry of the electric guitar through three of the most significant guitarists of our time: Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), The Edge (U2), and Jack White (The White Stripes). Blending concert footage with interviews with the musicians, Guggenheim highlights three unique approaches to the electric guitar.
The legendary Jimmy Page,an undeniable influence on all of today's musicians, equates playing guitar to having sex, likening the curves of the guitar to those of a female body and comparing the progression of "Stairway to Heaven" to making love, gradually building in sound and intensity to the equivalent of a guitar climax.
The Edge, real name David Howell Evans, has a sound that is at once melodic and abrasive, focusing on heavy distortion, delay and effects pedals to create more of the arena rock sound that distinguishes U2 from other bands.
Known for his minimalist rock sound, Jack White articulates the influence that old blues musicians have had on his sound and style. One scene shows White playing the song "Blue Vein" with his band The Raconteurs and he seems to be engaged in a violent struggle with his guitar, playing it so hard that his hands visibly bleed all over it.
In the film, Page, The Edge and White come together for a meeting (which ends up being a jam session) perfectly exemplifying how the electric guitar can produce varying sounds and effects based on the techniques with which it is played, and that it is a language onto itself.
Next week I will be speaking with Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, the director of the film, "Youssou N'Dour: I Bring What I Love." The film focuses on world-renowned singer Youssou N'Dour, who is credited with popularizing mbalax, a genre that combines traditional griot percussion, praise-singing and Afro-Cuban arrangements. The film documents the frustrations that N'Dour has with the world's misconceptions of Islam as a violent and dangerous religion. In an attempt to convey to the world the positive messages found in Islam, N'Dour released "Egypt" in 2004, a heavily spiritual album that found success with Western audiences but stirred up a big pot of controversy in his home country of Senegal for what many said was a blasphemous integration of sacred Muslim themes into his songs. Vasarhelyi follows N'Dour from Senegal to Paris to New York and every in between to capture the artistry and charisma that is Youssou N'Dour.