Creation as Remix: RE:GENERATION Doc Screening Feb. 16 at Carmike Bellevue 8

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We tend to think of creation as something that only God can do — whatever your version of God may be. (For Mayor Karl Dean, for example, there is the God behind the “bible” of Rolling Stone Magazine, which he cited at the opening of Marathon Music Works.) Another version of Genesis is captured in RE:GENERATION, a documentary about DJs who collaborate with musicians from different genres to produce new music.

The documentary, which is sponsored by the Grammy Association, follows the creative processes of five prominent DJs as they produce new tracks in partnership with leaders from various musical genres. Pretty Lights pairs up with crossover country pop star Leann Rimes and bluegrass legend Dr. Ralph Stanley in Nashville to produce “Wayfaring Stranger,” a bluesy desperado rock ballad. This project explains Pretty Lights’ recent frequent appearances in Nashville. DJ Premier pairs up with The Berklee Symphony Orchestra and Nas in Boston to rework classical music with a topspin. In Detroit, the Crystal Method unhinges the Motown sound with Martha Reeves and The Funk Brothers. Most ambitiously, Mark Ronson visits New Orleans to work with jazz artists Erykah Badu, Trombone Shorty, Mos Def, Zigaboo Modeliste and members of The Dap Kings. Skrillix emerges from the pack jockeying the leading track, a hybrid rock collaboration with members of The Doors. The tracks are perfect storms, meetings of hot and cold currents that result in lightning badness. The artistic prowess of each contributor is evident, but tussles in creative direction are highlighted even more so in the film itself. For example, at one point Dr. Ralph Stanley asserts, “I’d rather just do it my way.”

Pretty Lights in Nashville
  • Photo: Brian Nevins
  • Pretty Lights in Nashville
The commercial hook, “Five DJs turn the tables on the history of music,” is too grandiose to not be ignorant. These tracks may be awesome fun to dance to, but none of their creators is the Second Coming. As Picasso said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” These DJs rose to prominence by sampling, remixing, dubbing and blending influences, which makes them prime stars for a documentary about regeneration. Haydn, the classical composer, based his compositions off of Austrian, Croatian and gypsy folk music. Dvoƙák quotes Czech folk music in Slavonic Dances and Native American music and African-American spirituals, or “Negro melodies,” in the New World Symphony. Even Gershwin, who we tend to think of as a distinctly American musical revolutionary, brought the lowly jazz music of the streets into the concert hall with works like Rhapsody in Blue and An American in Paris. The pop word for regeneration — "remix" — is just another word for creation. And like Kirby Ferguson proves in his wickedly accurate and insightful video series, Everything Is a Remix.

The documentary premiers in Nashville Thursday, Feb. 16, at Carmike Bellevue 8. All five tracks are available for free download through the website.

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