Science on Screen: THIS IS SPINAL TAP
March 18, 2013
Director Rob Reiner’s largely improvised cult classic follows the key members of fictional British heavy metal band Spinal Tap – lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), lead singer/guitarist David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), and bassist Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) – as they embark on their first American tour in years, with filmmaker/TV commercial director Marty DiBergi (Reiner) on hand to document the occasion and retrace the group’s evolution. Responsible for such albums as “Intravenous DeMilo,” “The Sun Never Sweats,” and “Bent for the Rent,” the aging metal heads are now trying to make a comeback with their latest LP, “Smell the Glove.” But just about anything that can go wrong, does, from canceled shows to botched stage props to playing second fiddle to a puppet show. This hilarious, spot-on send-up of ‘80s rock culture includes cameos by the likes of Bruno Kirby, Dana Carvey, Fran Drescher, Billy Crystal, Paul Shaffer, Anjelica Huston, Fred Willard, and Patrick MacNee, and such unforgettable Tap hits as “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight,” “Hell Hole,” “Big Bottom,” and, of course, “Stonehenge.”
Before the screening of this aural masterpiece, guest speaker Christopher Shera, a physicist and auditory physiologist, discusses the science of sound and hearing. What is sound? How does it differ from silence? Can you hear yourself hearing? And how loud can we go?