Amir Bar-Lev's Re:Generation Music Project is a truly sensational demonstration of the music that can be made when people have an open mind. As DJ Premier said in the film, "Music can't die as long as someone keeps on making it fresh, and that's what we did."
The Re:Generation Music Project features five techno artists and deejays putting a twist on their signature sounds by incorporating musicians another genre. Skrillex worked with rock, The Crystal Method got soulful with R&B, Pretty Lights threw some country in the mix, Mark Ronson got jazzy, and DJ Premier experimented with classical music. The collaborations with other artists made for some incredible finished products, and explored the notion that you don't have to have a guitar or piano to be a "musician."
Watching the song-making process was captivating. Each artist had to explain to the prominent artists from their assigned genre what was wanted of them and how the music was going to be reworked into techno. All of the collaborations were a humbling experience for all parties involved (except for Dr. Ralph Stanley, but more on that later). It was interesting to watch these techno artists and deejays expand their musical horizons and open up to incorporating new sounds into their productions. To see the interactions of the artists understanding where the others from another genre and generation came from was really something.
More on each artist's project after the jump...
Pretty Lights went to Nashville and wasn't excited about the "twanginess" of country music. His vision was to chop up a country song, make some loops and put it all back together. He got Dr. Ralph Stanley in on the project. Ralph wasn't all that receptive to making changes to his music, which initially made the project more complicated. LeAnn Rimes jumped in to provide the vocals. Pretty Lights ended up premiering his song at a show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. He really made a great new product out of Ralph's vocals, but completely over-processed those of LeAnn Rimes.
Mark Ronson already liked jazz, which he got into from deejaying jazz samples in the past. Ronson created a fantastic jazz number working with the Dap Kings. Trombone Shorty, Erykah Badu, and Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def). Ronson had the pleasure of premiering his track in New Orleans. "Erykah wrote the song. It's about gumbo, like you sort of mix it all in the pot and see what works," Ronson said. "I think that that's the mindset of musicians these days. Combine all these influences, and then when they come together, hopefully you kind of put it together in this ball that obscures the colors where everything came from."
The Crystal Method were into Detroit R&B and the Motown sound, so they teamed up with Martha Reeves. The Crystal Method was inspired by Martha Reeves' loyalty to the city of Detroit despite her having watched it become distorted and destroyed over the years and created a Detroit love song of sorts. To the surprise of The Crystal Method, Martha Reeves was eager to be part of the song-writing process, although she turned out to be very particular about what she would and wouldn't sing. The Crystal Method did a particularly great job of incorporating elements from their designated genre of R&B. In fact, the electronic elements of their song were pretty toned-down, which emphasized Martha Reeves' vocals and the brass riffs.
Skrillex's first love as a genre was rock. He loves The Doors, with whom he worked on this project. The Doors' collaboration with Skrillex was the most interesting. Skrillex made a pseudo drum beat on this computer, added in some of his puking machine sounds, and had The Doors jam over it. The Doors' drummer John Densmore said he wasn't partial to electronic music because he feels inclined to be the one to keep the groove. "It is worrysome to me that cultures prefer dancing to a machine," Densmore said of electronic music. Skrillex's project with The Doors came out surprisingly well, with a solid balance of The Doors' signature sound and mechanical beats.
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Usually DJ Premier listens to classical music so he can find sounds to sample, so he didn't have a very high tolerance for that genre at the beginning of the project. He worked with Bruce Adolf, a composer. DJ Premier also teamed up with Nas and the Berklee College of Music. He even learned how to use a baton to lead the orchestra. DJ Premier created a "third generation" song by taking original classical songs, creating something new, and then having it reproduced by an orchestra. DJ Premier's project was by far the best and most creative. All of the final products were actually very well-received by the crowds for which they were performed live.
Overall, Re:Generation exceeded expectations. It's even a great film for those who don't care for techno music. Re:Generation invites music lovers of all genres to come together to witness new musical creations.
Re:Generation Music Project is screening at FilmBar at various times over the next week.