Tim Blais, physics student, a capella singer and Queen fan, has created a music video based on “Bohemian Rhapsody” about science’s search for a Unified Theory of Everything.
The matching of music to matter is inspired. Freddie Mercury intended “Bohemian Rhapsody” to be a “mock opera,” and critic Judith Peraino agrees that it follows a “certain operatic logic: choruses of multi-tracked voices alternate with aria-like solos, the emotions are excessive, the plot confusing.” Likewise, Blais’ 10-minute performance is as complex and obscure as its inspiration.
The lyrics begin —
Is string theory right?
Is it just fantasy?
Caught in the landscape,
Out of touch with reality
On S5 or T*S3
Every lyric and vocal effect comes from the mouth of one of the multiple images of Blais onscreen, faithful in its way to how Queen produced the original —
May, Mercury, and Taylor reportedly sang their vocal parts continually for ten to twelve hours a day. The entire piece took three weeks to record, and in some sections featured 180 separate overdubs. Since the studios of the time only offered 24-track analogue tape, it was necessary for the three to overdub themselves many times and “bounce” these down to successive sub-mixes. In the end, eighth-generation tapes were used. The various sections of tape containing the desired submixes had to be spliced (cut with razor blades and assembled in the correct sequence using adhesive tape).
Though aided by technology Blais’ project must have been a Herculean effort. But with Queen’s original as his roadmap he knew it could be done. And as Dr. Robert Forward said, “Once you’ve proven it’s possible, the rest is just engineering.”
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]