Names like Skrillex, Mark Ronson, and Pretty Lights may be familiar to the generation of kids out there now, but what about Martha Reeves, or Ralph Stanley? Those aren’t likely to be musicians that anyone under 20 has ever heard of. In an idea formed with the Grammys, six DJs were given different genres of music and asked to create a song blending their style with a older form of music. Screening at the TIFF Next Wave Film Festival, Re:Generation Music Project, directed by Amir Bar-Lev, goes behind the scenes with DJ Premier, Skrillex, Pretty Lights, Mark Ronson, and duo The Crystal Method as they work with musicians like Erykah Badu, Ralph Stanley, Martha Reeves, and The Doors.
This is an incredible documentary, and an amazing idea, that will help open up young minds to all the different forms of music available in the world. Watching the process that each person goes through to create just one song is intense, and not everyone starts out very happy about it. While Skrillex is given rock as his genre, allowing him to work with the remaining members of The Doors, a band he grew up listening to, Pretty Lights is given country, something he isn’t very fond of. His remark is that all he hears is the twang in the guitar, leaving him wondering how he’ll blend that with his own sound. DJ Premier is given classical, which leads him to a different approach to music entirely. Usually working with samples and just naturally piecing everything together, this will be the first time his music is actually put on paper so the orchestra can play it.
The remaining DJs are in more familiar territory. Mark Ronson is given jazz, a form of music that has always been a big part of his life. The Crystal Method get R&B, something that both members have listened to their entire lives. Just because they enjoy the style they’re given doesn’t mean things will run smoothly. All the DJs are excited, although it takes Pretty Lights a little bit longer than the others, and they quickly find other musicians to work with. It’s The Crystal Method and Pretty Lights that find the most trouble putting everything together. The Crystal Method decide to work with Martha Reeves, lead singer of Motown group Martha and the Vandellas, famous for songs like “Dancing in the Street”. They couldn’t be any more happy to work with someone they idolize, until the finally get into the studio. Reeves proves to be a challenge when it comes to recording vocals, constantly altering what The Crystal Method have come up with, leaving them wondering if they’ll finish in time.
It’s the behind-the-scenes moments like these that are so entertaining, even if you feel a bit bad for the artists involved. Almost all of the musicians involved are learning about each other and their styles, giving viewers the same opportunity. Not everyone will be familiar with the people involved, but by the end of the film we have a much more clear idea of the work from each musician. Only a small taste of each song is given throughout the film, saving the reveal for the final scene, and what is eventually created is incredible. The artists perfectly blend their own unique sound with the form of music they were given and it’s hard to pick a favorite. It really shows that music is music, in any form.
Here’s hoping this documentary will be able to expand the musical taste of everyone who watches.
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