One thing you need to know about Cooper Carter is that he loves "Star Wars." Another thing you need to know is that he's a professional guitarist — been playing since he was 5, performed with the Indigo Girls — who also works in video production.
So when he said that it was not really a chore at all to spend hundreds and hundreds of hours rearranging and recording composer John Williams' 31-part orchestral "Star Wars" theme for guitar, he meant it.
"This was a perfect project," Carter told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution of his theme-redux, released Dec. 7, which has racked up more than 500,000 views on YouTube and been covered by Entertainment Weekly, Guitar World ("which I've been subscribing to since I was 6") and others.
In the video, Cooper, a Druid Hills native and Westminster grad, plays his guitars in a 16-split screen. The different guitars sub as the different instruments: flutes, clarinets, french horns and more (all while Cooper wears various "Star Wars" T-shirts).
His "guitar orchestra" has also earned plaudits from musicians, including Queen's Brian May, who posted about it on Facebook, and John Petrucci, a personal hero. The web traffic crashed Cooper's personal website, too, and it's still down.
But Cooper knew what he was getting into by recording and releasing the video how and when he did — mostly. He's an "enormous" fan of the "Star Wars" franchise, and he knew the run-up to the release of "The Force Awakens" would be a good time to drop the video.
He hoped it would be well seen. But all the press attention, plus reports that his version of the theme is being played on ESPN Radio and other stations, exceeded expectations, he said.
"It's been really fun watching it spread across the world," Cooper said.
The video was weeks and weeks — and guitars and guitars — in the making, starting around early November and snowballing from there, after Cooper started exploring the theme's melody on guitar.
Asked to estimate how many hours he spent on it, rearranging and playing and recording and editing and mixing, Cooper couldn't settle on a number. Two hundred hours? Three hundred? Four?
"Honestly, it was so much fun," he said.
(The guitars were mostly his, but the "Star Wars" shirts he had to buy.)
Some of the trickiest parts of the process were in playing the already-tricky violin and flute parts with a guitar, Cooper said.
But "Star Wars" is the film that made him want to be an artist when he was growing up, was "the most important thing" to him as a kid, he said. So the reward of pulling off the video, of learning and arranging all the theme's composite parts, was well worth the work.
And, yes, he'll be at the first showing of "The Force Awakens" in Atlanta tonight. He'll hear Williams' work again in the new film — from a different set of instruments.
"I'll never be able to hear them the same way again," Cooper said, "because I hear all these little parts that I had to figure out, and it's been such a joy to crawl into John Williams' mind in a way and listen to everything he was doing with it."