Record-breaking ratings of the recent Grammys award telecast suggest music is increasingly vital as a part of our national culture and identity. Music can bring people together, yet also break them apart. After all, mention the word “polka” at a party, and you just may clear the room.
“Re:Generation,” a new documentary produced in association with the Grammys, aims to bridge the gaps inherent between genres. For this unique project, director Amir Bar-Lev (following up his acclaimed docs “My Kid Could Paint That” and “The Tillman Story”) sends five noted electronic artists to create new music with an artist far out of their BPM wheelhouse, from the genres of rock, jazz, country, R&B and classical.
• Skrillex meets up with members of The Doors;
• Mark Ronson with Mos Def, Erykah Badu, The Dap-Kings, Zigaboo Modeliste and Trombone Shorty;
• Pretty Lights with Dr. Ralph Stanley and LeAnn Rimes;
• The Crystal Method with Martha Reeves and The Funk Brothers; and
• DJ Premier with The Berklee Symphony Orchestra.
The fun comes in seeing what will happen — and, of course, hearing the results. Initially, the experiment is like pouring cooking oil into water: They don’t mix well. At all.
For example, when the surviving members of The Doors first meet Skrillex — to say he looks strange is an understatement — and hear his idea, they can barely hide their contempt. For another, Pretty Lights (aka Derek Vincent Smith) is weary about being saddled with country, but soldiers on nonetheless. When he rather carefully, diplomatically conveys his thoughts to Ralph Stanley, the 84-year-old bluegrass legend just stares up at the youngster and says, “Well, I’d rather just do it my way.”
To me, the most appealing storyline among the quintet was DJ Premier (formerly of Gang Starr), who really takes to re-learning music in a way to best collaborate with a symphony orchestra. So what if he brings in rapper Nas? The crutch of comfort actually adds another layer.
“Re:Generation” comes heavily branded and co-presented by Hyundai. If it’s a commercial, it’s a damned lively one. Catch it Thursday night at Harkins Bricktown Cinemas (or at Sapulpa Cinema for those on the other half of the state), then go download the soundtrack for free at the official website. But only after you’ve seen it! To listen it to it beforehand would be like reading the last chapter of a book first. —Rod Lott