Sound and Vision: The Music Video Reader

When initially thinking about the video art, we were thinking about doing something along the lines of a music video or a trailer for a film. Looking at this, the concept of the music and the video as separate entities is somewhat strange. This led me to the book of Sound and Vision: The Music Video Reader and chapter 2, Sound, Image and Social Space: Music Video and Media Reconstruction.

In watching a video, the visual plane tends to dominate our attention right away, simply by arresting our eyes, by being (on) television. Television seems to absorb the musical matrix effortlessly and irrevocably into its visual field, to confirm the now commonplace knowledge that music television has reshaped the music industry irrevocably. Yet that which video seems so easily to dominate and to transform – the 3-minute musical single – remains the video’s raison d’être, its unalterable foundation, its one unconditional ingredient. A single can exist (technically, at least) without the video, but the reverse is not the cases. As if in evidence of this, music videos, almost without exception, do not make so much as a single incision in the sound or structure of the song. However bizarre or disruptive videos appear, they never challenge or emancipate themselves from their musical foundation, without which their charismatic indulgences would never reach our eyes.

The musical single may still seem more ‘real’ because it came first, in literal terms, and because we think of it as the commodity advertised by video. Many critics have argued that the song’s power to connect us with something (even with itself) is diminished by rhetoric of the video, which by acting as promotion for a song, suggests that the song is nothing but an object to be promoted. The commercial relation is one obvious reason for the changes brought about by the televisualization of pop music, and for the evolved metalanguage of visual plenitude and semantic cynicism with both confirms and disguises that circulation. Yet the commercial circulation or records and tapes tells us everything and nothing about the ‘use’ of popular songs by television. Everything in the world of pop music is a commodity, whether sound, image, word or act (just as this book it) – that tells us both everything and nothing about how it works.

Music video draws our attention simulatenously to the song and away from it, positioning itself in the place of what it represents. As a genre, its formal structure is based on a paradox, which is unravelled here through the trope of the guitar.

Source: Google Books

This made me, in a separate time and place, want to explore the relationship between the music and its video, and whether a video could be entirely single and without audio, especially for a music video.

What drew me to the book, however, was a small quote about Blackboard Jungle, in which

implicit connections between rock music, small-town culture, teenage rebellion, fun, anger and fashion were made explicit.

The kids are putting on the Senior’s Hop and somehow they get all these great rock’n’roll stars to appear from out of nowhere to play for them for nothing [oh sure, yeah] but the parents and the school commitee won’t let them put it on because it’s bad or something and somehow the big crisis is resolved and near the end Bill Haley or somebody is playing and the kids are all bopping away and the parents are standing around, watch, supervising, and the camera shifts to the parents’ feet and their toes are tapping, you know, and they’re snapping their fingers and their heads are bopping back and forth, looking at each other and saying, ‘Gee this music ain’t so bad after all is it? Kinda catchy.’

(Mike Daley, cited in Marcus 1976)

Source: Google Books

This once again made me want to explore what would happen if we did part of the video looking at the feet, so you grow a more intimate connection with the character as a whole. However, thinking about this side idea, [and during filming] I found that you could grow an intimate connection with the feet, as they are the character and you are going through the story with them, rather than the person as a whole.

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