Samara Ginsberg’s career as a session musician went on pause in March thanks to covid-19. Now, the London-based cellist is spending quarantine arranging elaborate covers of pop culture classics for her YouTube channel — including, most recently, the Knight Rider theme.
For those not immersed in the world of cult NBC dramas from the 1980s, Knight Rider stars David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight, a man who fights crime with the help of his nearly indestructible and sort-of sentient car, KITT. The show also boasts an ultra-catchy theme song, which Ginsberg’s arrangement gives an extra layer of drama and camp.
Ginsberg had toyed with the idea of multitracking on cello for a while, but quarantine provided an opportunity to finally pull the trigger.
“Cello is the perfect instrument for multitracking because of its massive range — over 4 octaves in pitch and a huge variety of different timbres and articulations,” she explained via email. “I’d had the idea … in the back of my mind literally for years, but never found the time to do it until now.”
Knight Rider is Ginsberg’s third foray into cello multitracking in recent weeks. Her first was a cover of the Inspector Gadget theme, which she recorded in one take using the app Acapella. (You’ve probably seen quite a few Acapella videos before.)
She also used Acapella for her “Imperial March” video, which she recorded while wearing a Darth Vader mask. The mask impaired her sight, though, which made getting complete takes difficult. So she decided to change her approach. For the Knight Rider video, Ginsberg first created the arrangement by ear — in about an hour, she says — then recorded audio in Logic Pro and video on her phone. Next, she “stitched everything together” using Final Cut Pro.
“This sounds simple, but until this week I had never done any video editing of any kind and it took ages!” she said. “I expect the next one will go a lot more smoothly.”
Ginsberg’s work has gotten quite a bit of praise on the r/videos subreddit, particularly from Knight Rider fans, of which there seem to be a startling but not altogether surprising number. “This so super cool and I’d legit listen to an entire album of ’80s TV theme music,” wrote one commenter.
As for what hot tracks we can expect from the cellist next, she says she gets lots of requests but doesn’t want to make any promises. She does plan, however, to give the people what they want: nostalgia.
“For the time being I’m going to concentrate on retro TV, cartoon, movie and video game themes as they’re fun and people really seem to enjoy them,” she said. “I think at such a difficult, stressful time, people are really responding to content that takes them back to their childhoods.”
Despite her videos’ fun, effortless ethos, Ginsberg underscored that because she’s self-quarantining, she’s had to learn a lot of new skills to make her projects work.
“In my everyday pre-quarantine life as a session musician I don’t really do anything except turn up to the studio, play the sheet music that’s put in front of me, and leave the technical side to other people,” she said. “The only way I can work for the foreseeable future, whether on my own projects or on remote recording for external clients, is by doing everything myself.”
“It’s been an incredibly steep learning curve and has confirmed something I’ve always suspected,” she added. “Producers, studio engineers and sound technicians don’t get nearly enough credit for what they do.”