Music and Humor

In case you aren't swifter than 120 beats per minute, I should note that what you are hearing is not Clapton, but rather someone cleverly syncing clichés of bad guitar playing to the video... and in the style of the guitarist as well.  (Whoever did this has applied a similar treatment to a number of other iconic guitarists.  See the YouTube page; the "Jake E. Lee shreds" video is even more hilarious if you're an '80s metal and/or Ozzy fan.)

I find this video and others like it interesting because I've been exploring the concept of humor in music.  Typically musical "jokes" tend to come through lyrics or occasionally "silly" forms like circus music.  Sometimes musical tricks can be applied to humorous effect such as punctuating phrases with well-timed dissonance or even employing rapid transitions to sound extremely fluid (e.g., trombones are "funnier" instruments than pianos).  In this video we have something else entirely.  In music, impressions are usually tributes.  In comedy, impressions are anything but flattering to their subject, and that's the source of the humor.  In this case the latter is operative, and that's a rare thing.

The only guitarist I know who effectively incorporates humor into his playing is Buddy Guy, and that's something I've only seen him do in the later years of his career.  If you've got ten minutes to listen to some amazing (and some mediocre) playing, check out this clip from the SRV Tribute that features Clapton actually shredding, particularly in the musical 'roll call' at the end.  However, immediately before Clapton, Buddy (with his signature polka dot guitar... if you needed a visual cue) throws in a wildcard lick that left me laughing the first time I heard it.  Clapton laughs and shakes his head through most of Buddy's solo (enters at 2:25).  In the meantime you can laugh at expense of SRV's brother Jimmy and Robert Cray for some incredibly weak playing.

Alternatively, the antithesis of the first video is this one in which EC totally shreds... but he looks like the Joker.  WTF?

Copyright 2007 hystericAle[x].
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