It Might Get Loud
White is what I call a primitivist. Not really a Luddite, as in someone who dislikes and opposes technology, but someone who is skeptical of it, and prefers the simple “human” solution to the adorned technological one. Hence the part where he fashions an electric guitar out of a few old pieces of wood, a few nails and a single wire. Raw is better than cooked. Less is more.
Look at this performance by Son House, one of White’s idols. Any musician will immediately point out that the damn guitar is out of tune. They will also concede that, in this case, it does not matter. That one man with one impaired instrument is more than the sum of the parts. The emotion and gravitas of this piece put today’s studio engineered sounds seem as sterile and cold and gray as a freshly scrubbed hospital hallway. Look at his weathered face, his calloused and stiff fingers. Only a man like that can pour out a song like that.
Page and The Edge are closer to the other end of the spectrum. Their musical explorations were also very much an exploration of the boundaries of technology and how much they could push it. Amps, pedals, effects, fancy guitars, sound engineering. They were not shy about using any of those tools to express what they wanted to express acoustically.
Look at this clip where he plays the intro to Elevation, with and without the effects pedal.
Like he says in the documentary, he is just trying to get the machinery to make the sound he can already hear in his head. So obviously, the technophiles can also emote and express. They just have a very different way of going about it.
Overall, fascinating documentary, and a must-see if you are even a little bit into rock. The money shot is the three of them jamming in the end. You can watch the whole thing on Youtube.