Thursday, June 03, 2004

found some good books...

Have found a few good books to use as a starting point for my essay:

‘Rocking around the Clock’, E. Ann Kaplan, appears to be mainly a textual analysis of music videos. It does look into broader societal issues, but it takes an ideological and Lacanian Psychoanalytic perspective. I'm not sure at this stage if it's exactly what I need but it does have some interesting things to say. The chapter entitled "Ideology, adolescent desire, and the five types of video on MTV" attempts to create a schema of archetypal video types. This is a massive project and considering it was done in 1982, is somewhat outdated. The types outlined are; romantic, socially conscious, nihilist, narrative and post-modernist. I know that this last category is quite a contentious one. The author draws a great deal on Baudrillard's ideas about the transition from "the old, hot, sexual obscenity of the world of Freud" into the "cold and communicational, contractual and motivational obscenity of today", ie., the postmodern. By this they mean that through the world of television we have entered the realm of narcissism networks, complete interconnectivity and the loss of intimacy. I think this might be taking things a bit far. Another example of theoreticians getting caught up in their own brilliance.

He goes on to suggest that the revolutionary beginnings of rock are lost in the format that MTV provides, while an individual 4 minute clip may contain subversive material, its message is lost in the ubiquitous flood of commercial messages that is the reality of the non stop format of MTV.

'Music Television and Popular Culture', Andrew Goodwin.
In analysing music videos he sets up two themes that colour the entire book;
1. music videos are fun to watch
2. mtv's success is largely due to its commercial structure - it was a format ideally suited to cable TV, someone else paid to make the videos, ie, record companies.

He also suggests that the organisation of music and media industries sets limits and places pressures on the content of clips, basically because they are a promotional tool. I have heard debates between directors of music video directors opposed to advertisement directors, the former claims they are true artists because they have freedom to produce what they want, maybe so but only up to a certain point, they are still constrained by the larger commercial structure of the industry.

He also points out the importance of the concept of synaesthesia, (he describes it as the process of visualising music), I mentioned this in my posting about the Qld Art Gallery. I also think it is a concept that can be tied closely to what Michel Gondry has been doing in a lot of his film clips, ie, closely matching the visual action to the music. I think a lot of music videos are structured this way.

The third book I'm interested in is 'Thirty frames per second', published in 2000, so hopefully a bit more relevant to what's going on in video clip production now. But the UQ library doesn't have it, so I have to wait until tomorrow to view it at the state library.

Essay 2: Research Questionnaire

To fulfill my requirements to do some primary research for the second essay, I have decided to construct a questionnaire. I haven't come up with the questions yet but I have a general plan. It needs to be brief, open ended and relate to the theory I am structuring my essay around.

When I have completed it, I will post it to this blog and then put up notices (with a hyperlink) asking people to fill it out, at several relevant websites. I thought the triple j/rage site, and some of the digital and video clip sites I have mentioned earlier would be appropriate. People can make responses via the comments link, which are conveniently e-mailed to me instantaneously!

Method Studios

Method Studios

Method is a visual effects artists' studio specialized in the production of digital imagery for commercials, feature films and music videos.

"Since Method's inception in the summer of 1999, we have been fortunate to work with some of the most talented and prolific directors in the world. It is their vision that challenges us to innovate. This Web site is designed to help you explore the results, the quality of which stems from a true team effort. We wish to thank all of those individuals with whom we have collaborated to produce some truly compelling and imaginative commercials and music videos".

This is a great example of a hub of interaction between different artists and professionals from a diversity of fields. they provide lots of great video clips for viewing and information on their production. Similarly there is a wealth of information on directors. The site also provides new software for manipulating digital images, plus advice on how and where to use it. The community spirit seems to be quite strong in this field, there are lots of examples of altruistic behviour, aimed at advancing innovation and encouraging participation.



The name 'res' originates from trying to capture the feeling of what makes a special film resonate with an audience. There is a lot to see on this site, but for visual entertainment, check out the watch and listen section for some interesting clips. My favourite is the animation piece accompanying 'The Illness'. There are some pretty amazing effects on these clips.

The res site aims to promote the digital culture through the sharing of information and techniques, in the promotion of digital skills. It is a free site but you can subscribe to a 'paid for' magazine as well.

The jewel in the crown of the res organisation, is their travelling festival - resfest. It goes to 24 cities worldwide. In Australia though, it only stops in Melbourne in December.

Resfest is moving beyond the presentation of digital images to actively incorporating music into the festival program, both through music videos and live music performances.

Another intiative of the festival is to make innovative leaders in the field of digital image production accessible to the wider community, and thereby strengthening links within this community.

The festival director spoke as part of the QAG's 'Prime' week. He showed some of the latest developments in digital film. He was very supportive of inexperienced producers and explicitly stated his mission as the development of a stronger digital community.

Video Hits: Art and Music Video

The Qld Art Gallery

Music videos can be classified into two types, performance and concept video.

The central feature of music videos is the interlacing of sounds and images. There is a hierarchy in this relationship, where music is privileged over images. Their interaction can create some powerful effects, this combination is known as synaesthesia, the rhythm of the editing in time to the music brings the music to life.

While most videos are bad, the exceptions can be extraordinary, avant garde experimentation. The innovative edges of video clip production are fast changing new aesthetic possibilities.

VJ Art Jones: ”music video often functions as the repository of classic avant-garde film aesthetics in which linear narrative is often fragmented, elliptical or simply made secondary in importance to visual logic – beauty, even.”

"Music video is a mirror for broader cultural production, a music and image processing machine that digests anything in its field of vision - or within earshot."


To coincide with youth week, QAG hosted PRIME, a week of activities that culminated with a live gig. Performers included, The Kingpins,
The Bird, Cicada, Ponyloaf, Nightstick, Indigenous Intrudaz, Strictly & Lowdown, Master Jargo, and several DJ's. VJ's were a big part of the show, with two massive video screens flanking the stage. The highlight for me was The Kingpins' rendition of Guns 'n' Roses, 'Get in the ring'. It was an unusual experience seeing women dressed as men, reveling in their posturing and cynically overemphasising their macho antics. They are pictured below in another guise.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

music videos and video jockeys

Well, I've been up all night and I'm starting to dribble, so I'll keep this brief. This music video site, looks like a good one to fossick around on for my assignment. It describes itself as a "resource for Music Video Industry news, interviews and educational content". My assignment is going to be about the interaction between music video producers and directors and their interaction with musicians and their audiences, so this kind of portal is exactly what I'm interested in.

Of particular interest is this article about video jockeys.

It talks about musicians jamming live with the video stream that is generated by the vj. There's a lot of crossover in techniques between digital music production and djing and digital image production and vjing, eg, sampling.

I like the idea of digitally recording tv, then remixing it to create your own subversive message. It really turns broadcasting on its head. This article is also about the added dimension that projected visuals add to a live performance. I'm pretty sure this is an area that has been studied, particularly in the area of club/dance culture. Will have to look into that.

Anyone got any ideas on this topic?

a visual-musical instrument that's alife (sic) ????

Continuing on from my last post, I found this site and on first inspection it appears to just be another version of a visualiser. However, its creators believe it to be much more...

"Bomb is a visual-musical instrument. It uses alife, and is alife. It runs on your PC and produces animated organic graphics in response to the keyboard, audio music, or on its own. You can download it from this web site, and run it on your PC."

Essentially it is free software that the creators are encouraging users to use and contribute to, in the spirit of collaboration.

The manifesto of the people involved with this project is a bit too 'out there' for me, but it does fall within the realm of visual music that I am investigating.

"Bomb is a software system that produces visual music. It creates a video stream that is fluid, textured, rythmic, animated, and generally non-representational. It uses techniques of non-linear iterated systems, like video feedback, but implemented on an ordinary PC.

The result is a form of artificial life, or alife. The essential feature of life is creative expansion. When a seed develops it performs information decompression. In contrast to behavior that is static, repetitive, random, or predictable, life has the ability to keep doing new things. It maximizes how long you stare at it before you get bored. It cannot be quantified because random is a relative term; you can never be sure there isn't a message hidden in the noise."

The megolomaniacal creators of this software go on to hyperbolise how they have created life, simply by generating a positive feedback loop. I think they are loopy. Any ASIO/CIA/FBI key word search would send alarm bells ringing and warning lights flashing with terms and phrases like;

"Commandeering of matter by the spirit, and the origin of meaning"
"eschaton", which I had to look up and I assume comes from eschatology, which is...

# The branch of theology that is concerned with the end of the world or of humankind.

# A belief or a doctrine concerning the ultimate or final things, such as death, the destiny of humanity, the Second Coming, or the Last Judgment.

This reeks of cult [just stare at the screen while we subliminally alter your consciousness], no thanks, I'm leaving this site before I get recruited.


Well, I thought it was time for a change of tack. Of course, there are many different avenues of entry into investigating the visual presentation of music, so I thought i'd veer into the territory of computer generated visualisations. You know, the pretty swirly patterns of colours that seem to dance with the music emanating from your computer. According to this website the idea for this technology began in the 1970's but the first fully functioning software for a 'Music Animation Machine' wasn't developed until 1991.

According to Stephen Malinowski, the inventor of this technology, the idea grew out of an hallucination....

"The idea for the Music Animation Machine started with a hallucination that happened while I was listening to one of Bach’s sonatas for unaccompanied violin ...

As I listened to the music, the notes on the page were dancing to the music — but at the same time, they were the music. It was so charming and graceful — the flag of an eighth note extending like a ballet dancer's arm; pairs of notes moving in parallel thirds and sixths like pairs of dancers stepping hand-in-hand ... I was delighted!

But ... what would a more complicated score look like ... ?"

This really is an interesting website and worth exploring for the full story on the development of this software, and discussion of the more technical aspects of whats involved, ie., sine waves, spectograms, harmonics, chords, octaves, psychoacoustic dissonance, etc.(you can even download some short movies of simple versions of the animator). This is all over my head, so I won't even attempt to explain what's going on.

Originally, this version of a music visualiser was conceived just to see what it would be like, and then progressed into an aid for teaching music. Most recently the same technology has been extended into applications like human and machine voice interaction and transmission.

More interesting though is what people actually do with the technology. At one of my previous share houses we put the windows media player visualiser to effective use. We were fortunate enough to have a large queenslander with a cement floored self contained flat underneath. When we had to evict our drug addicted flatmate from the premises, my mate and I decided to utilise the space for better purposes (than solo drug taking and not paying the rent). It was to be our den of iniquity for wooing women and general good times. We connected the computer to a digital projector and then bounced the image around the room on several wall size mirrors and other fragments of shattered mirror. The effect was sensational. We had created our own disco. It was the scene of many intoxicating nights of shenanigans.

I realise this ramble is turning into personal anecdote, but as a native inhabitant of the subculture in question, ie., users of visualisers I think it's relevant. But it does seem like such a grubby way to use this technology that was developed by such a pure geek.

I would love to hear about anybody else's use of the visualiser.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

"my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard"

I was randomly browsing some of the other blogs and came acros Kathryn Stolarchuk's. She is looking at the history of the sexualisation of women in video clips. This is a quote from her blog...

"Basically my hypothesis is that the introduction of MTV into the music industry created huge changes for female popstars in the way they were perceived as visual concerns became key, rather than an accompanying feature. Started to be perceived as sexual pin-up objects. Basically then going to go back and talk about how prior the explosion of MTV, the music industry placed little emphasis on the visual, or not little - but it was not the be all and end all."

Here is a great example of the oversexualisation of women in video clips. It's Kelis', "Milkshake".

If you watch video hits you've probably seen the clip, or you can view it at the website here, otherwise just imagine freshly baked buns being removed from an oven, milkshakes over frothing, girls sipping on straws and/or writhing, you get the picture. Subtle.

Unfortunately it seems like most video clips that get played on 'Video Hits' are of this type. A few have something other than flesh to offer, but I generally find I have to stay up late to watch 'Rage' to see a variety of good clips.

I recently saw part of the 'Rage' show hosted by Daniel Johns and Paul Mac, aka "the Dissociatives"
the highlight for me was when they played Kate Bush's 'Wuthering Heights', the hosts described it as pure "whimsy", very apt. Anyway, I enjoyed it greatly, once again you can't beat liturgical dancing, especially in a red dress in a cow paddock. It may not have had special effects, but it works to capture the emotion of the song.

This is not from the video clip in question but you get the idea from this. Self conscious quaintness indeed. Any closet Kate Bush fans out there?

Monday, May 24, 2004

some michel gondry video clips

Have been looking at this site about Michel Gondry quite a bit. He's done a lot of great video clips, for bands and artists including; RadioHead, Bjork, The Chemical Brothers, The Rolling Stones and Lenny Kravitz. He has been innovative in his use of special effects. I'm also a big fan of his use of liturgical dancing (see the photo of the video for Daft Punk's, 'Around the World').

This is what this site had to say about it;

"For "Around the World," the second single from Daft Punk's debut album Homework, Gondry gave the song lifeblood. Literally each part of the song is represented by a dancing quartet: the bass by super-tall humans, the spry glissandos by synchronized swimmers, the vocoderized "around the world" by robots, etc. The song choreographs each quartet's movements. As the melodies progress, the players performances evolve."

Very clever, but I just like the dancing.

Gondry continues to expand on this technique in later videos. In the video for The Chemical Brothers', 'Star Guitar'

"The video describes a journey as seen from a train window, only the disposition of each passing element in the landscape is positioned exactly in sync with the music.
"Every sound from the track will be illustrated by an element of the landscape that appears each time that sound is heard."

These are more than your average video clips, where the band stands around a studio and mimes along to their own imagined music. These clips aim to capture the essence of what the songwriter has created. I'm interested in the collaborative process between musicians and film makers. Has anybody out there had experience with this?

Also, I'd love to hear anyone's comments on how they relate to video clips.

Do you like a song more or less after you see the clip?

Does a song need a good clip before you'll go out and buy it?

Can you enjoy the clip and not the song?

First Post

Hooray!!! My first post. I want to make this blog about how music is presented visually, and how this visual presentation interacts with and influences music, hence the name 'audio-visual'. So, initially I think the obvious places to start are video clips, film scores and visualisers. This may not appear to relate to any kind of subculture, but I expect there will be lots of different subcultures popping up around different technologies, mediums and generally different ways of interacting with the music visually.