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This Is Spinal Tap

This Is Spinal Tap
Comedy, Music | 1984 | R. 1hr 22min
CAST: Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer, Rob Reiner DIRECTOR: Rob Reiner SCIENCE ON SCREEN


Spinal Tap is the loudest band in England and they’re making a comeback with a North American tour promoting their new album Smell the Glove. Marty DiBergi (Rob Reiner) sets out to make a documentary of the legendary rock band’s exploits on the road, featuring front men Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) and David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean and bassist Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer), bearing witness to the highs and lows of what makes a musician into a rock star.

Topic: none more loud - the science of sound

Spinal Tap is mocumentarily described as the “world’s loudest band,” but what is “loudness”? How do we perceive it? How do aspects of distortion and high and low frequencies affect our perception? What are the characteristic sounds of heavy metal? Why do certain guitars have “sustain for days?” Why do guitarists cherish vintage instruments? Is D-minor the “saddest of keys?” And what is sound anyway? In an attempt to walk the “fine line between stupid and clever,” guitarist/ethnomusicologist Rob Carroll, Ph.D., will attempt to answer these questions in his introduction to This Is Spinal Tap


Rob Carroll received his Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from the University of Washington, where he researched Venezuelan gaita, a style of music that features a huge friction drum whose sound has been compared to an elephant belching (or worse). In truth, his research did not focus on that unique instrument, but rather on the way gaita songs create a sense of regional identity by invoking religious, historical, political, and geographical affiliation. Nowadays, most of what he does is play and teach guitar and coach rock bands at Holy Names Academy and St. Joseph School in Seattle. He also teaches classes at MoPop (formerly EMP) including “Science of Sound,” “Anthropology of Punk,” and “Jimi Hendrix: Guitar Genius.”

Reiner's brilliantly inventive script and smart visuals avoid all the obvious pitfalls, making this one of the funniest ever films about the music business.
Geoff Andrew, Time Out
It stays so wickedly close to the subject that it is very nearly indistinguishable from the real thing.
Janet Maslin, New York Times
Returning to Spinal Tap always brings with it a pronounced sense of discovery, a freshness that is uncommon with movies generally and unspeakably rare in a comedy.
Tim Brayton, Antagony & Ecstasy
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