This Is Spinal Tap

82 mins.
Directed by Rob Reiner

Spinal Tap is the loudest band in England, and they’re making a comeback with a North American tour promoting their new album Smell the Glove.

Marty DiBergi (Rob Reiner) sets out to make a documentary of the legendary rock band’s exploits on the road, featuring front men Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) and David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) and bassist Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer), bearing witness to the highs and lows of what makes a musician into a rock star.

Science on Screen: Compelling films paired with lively talks by experts in science, technology and medicine.

Topic: The science of sound and the electric guitar.

Speaker: Steve Waksman has turned a lifelong involvement with music as a player and listener into a career as a scholar of rock and pop. Professor of music and American studies at Smith College, he joined the Smith faculty in 2001 after receiving his doctorate in American studies at the University of Minnesota. His research and teaching interests range widely across the subjects of U.S. popular music and popular culture, with particular specialty in the study of live music, music genres, music technology and musical instruments (especially the guitar).

Waksman's publications include the books Instruments of Desire: The Electric Guitar and the Shaping of Musical Experience (Harvard University Press, 1999) and This Ain't the Summer of Love: Conflict and Crossover in Heavy Metal and Punk (University of California Press, 2009), the latter of which was awarded the 2010 Woody Guthrie Award for best scholarly book on popular music by the U.S. chapter of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music. He has contributed essays to several journals and edited collections, including the Cambridge Companion to the Guitar, the Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, Listen Again: A Momentary History of Pop and Metal Rules the Globe: Heavy Metal Music Around the World. In 2008 Waksman was the keynote speaker at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's American Music Masters event honoring the legacy of musician and inventor Les Paul. In 1998 Waksman's dissertation on the electric guitar won the Ralph Henry Gabriel prize awarded by the American Studies Association.

Currently, Waksman is researching a new book on the cultural history of live music and performance in the United States, tentatively titled "Live Music in America: A History, 1850–2000." With Reebee Garofalo, he is the co-author of the sixth edition of the popular rock history textbook Rockin' Out: Popular Music in the U.S.A., and with Andy Bennett, he is co-editor of the Sage Handbook of Popular Music.

Science on Screen® is an initiative of the Coolidge Corner Theatre with major support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.