Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Movies & Guitar Covers

I've been interested in guitar covers on YouTube ever since my older sister since me a guitar version of "Canon in D" while on my mission. I had stocked up my Trans-Siberian Orchestra collection already after my mission president had announced the rule regarding Christmas music. The policy was as long as they were traditional Christmas songs, the music was allowed. His words to my zone were, "If you can find Mick Jagger singing 'Silent Night', it's approved." But the version sent by my sister rivaled that of TSO (entitled "Christmas Canon Rock"). So, every now and then I'll peruse YouTube in search of worthy covers.

Another mission policy (which I simply ignored) was no movie soundtracks, even if they were purely instrumental. The reasoning was that these familiar themes would remind you of the films themselves, thus distracting you from the Spirit. I still remember quite clearly being told by a senior missionary to not even have conversations on the topic of movies with a certain missionary and fellow film nerd (supposedly, it would make us too "trunky"). It kind of made me feel like Michael Bolton in that track by The Lonely Island.

Looking back, this "distraction" rationale was tenuous at best. For one, why the thought of films would automatically imply a loss of the Spirit is beyond me. Many of the soundtracks I owned were from films that featured heroes who often lived and died in messianic fashion (e.g. Braveheart's William Wallace or e.g. Gladiator's Maximus Decimus Meridius), human triumph in the midst of pure evil (e.g. Schindler's List), or the age-old battle between good and evil (e.g. Lord of the Rings). Films were very important to me growing up and often provided more spiritual nourishment and human connection than the weekly sacrament service or Wednesday night YM/YW activity. For them to be seen as "apostate" (a word often misused by missionaries) in the mission field was, to put it mildly, very odd to me.

The death of William Wallace in Braveheart
 It can be difficult to find aesthetically pleasing guitar covers of movie themes. Often, they either aren't any good on a technical level or they fail to capture the original spirit of the theme (I'm thinking especially of the numerous metal covers out there). Acoustic covers tend to do well. There are fantastic acoustic renditions of themes from Lord of the Rings, Schindler's List, and even Pirates of the Caribbean. But electric covers seem to be more difficult. This one, however, touched my inner nerd on so many levels:

I've also been thrilled with musicians using movie themes or samples in their original songs or concert settings. Dream Theater is not only a group of Berklee-trained musicians, but apparently of cinephiles as well. Various movie samples can be found throughout their songs, such as "Honor Thy Father," "A Change of Seasons," or several from the album Awake. Metallica has been using Ennio Morricone's "The Ecstasy of Gold" from the epic The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly since the early 80s, as featured in their original S&M concert with the San Francisco Orchestra (they also eventually did a cover of it in a tribute to Morricone). Muse has also borrowed from Morricone in the intro to their live versions of "Knights of Cydonia." The piece is "Man with a Harmonica" from Once Upon a Time in the West.

These are a few of my favorite things. And those favorites coming together just makes me smile.

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