Division of Laura Lee guitarist Viktor Lager: “I don’t care how the guitar sounds”
A famous example is the Led Zeppelin saga. I sincerely doubt that when they first “borrowed” musical themes from their heroes, they imagined that they would soon be the biggest band on the world stage. They were just doing what blues and rock musicians had been doing for ages: playing the sounds they loved, no matter where they came from. Under the critical copyright microscope (amplified by the huge sums of money involved), these reinterpretations have been deemed unsavory and even illegal. I don’t think most fans saw it that way. I feel the same about guitars.
At some point, we all take a stand on the derivative nature of new things. Some of us revel in discovering an artist or group that seems to break free of any recognizable influence, while others may feel more comfortable with an obvious nod to it. which preceded. I have endured arguments on both sides and found it curious why this even matters. Certainly, as musicians, we all had to start somewhere.
Many of what people think of as original musical examples are actually reinterpretations of something they simply didn’t know existed.
Usually it starts with a sound that catches your young ear: a song on a TV show, on the internet, or played to you by a friend. Maybe it was your uncle’s record collection. The music is so pervasive it can almost fade into the background like the hum of traffic, so it takes something special to grab your attention. It could even be a photo of a band, a photo that piques your curiosity as to what they do and what their music sounds like. Whatever appeals to you, if the music delivers, you’re hooked. This sound is cataloged in your gray matter and becomes a touchstone for future encounters. It’s up to you whether you just want more of the same flavor or the taste of a different flavor.
I think it’s the same with instruments. Maybe your head exploded when you first heard Van Halen, and that wacky red, white and black striped guitar made an indelible impression that was forever tied to the sound and feeling that intoxicated you. That permanent scar in your brain fused those two together until they were identical, and you’ll know forever that it’s your benchmark for all that followed. That’s why guitar makers are looking for artist endorsers, influential musicians who can vouch for the virtue of their products. Like signing a check, popular guitarists put their stench on the products, and, in turn, the gear deposits its sweet smell. In turn, we are attracted to perfume like bees to a pretty flower.
We’ve all seen guitar collectors whose interests revolve around one model or manufacturer. Others may run the gamut of legendary ‘blue chip’ instruments – the foundations of electric music of the latter half of the 20th century. I’m always surprised when guitarists give up looking at new versions of the instrument – or music for that matter. People can’t help but compare new things to what’s come before because that’s how the human brain works. We see something new and the mind seeks a reference to make sense of it. It’s natural.
What comes next is up to you. You can ridicule something as being a copy of a copy, or you can accept that art, in all its forms, is built on what has come before. Sometimes it’s a tribute, sometimes a rip off, and sometimes it’s a tasteful tribute to his influences. Over time, it becomes difficult to create something completely new. I consider all of these things before passing judgment, but ultimately it’s the reinterpretationnot the copy, which counts.
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