Sunday, September 18, 2011

Music Videos: Image, Lyrics, and Tone as Visual Literature

Whether you're crafting a documentary or sharing a funny moment from your childhood, photos and videos can significantly affect the audience's experience.  One of the best places to observe this effect is in music video covers, where a single song can be transformed using changes in visual imagery and themes.  In your writing, you can apply these same considerations as you compose the visual scenes within your stories and poems.  By drawing the reader's eye to certain images as opposed to others, you can adjust the way your writing is seen and understood.

Unit 2 / Music Videos - Parody Videos
Intro to Chaos and Narrative
Of Related Interest: Parody and Satire

Cover Albums: Reinterpreting the Originals

Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody"

The Original
At times poignant and sad, at times a frenzy of energy, "Bohemian Rhapsody" is certainly a "diverse" song.  In this video, note the attention that's given to highlighting the musical process.  We see the singers, we see the instruments - the intensity of the story is reflected in the expressions of the band members.  While the song itself may seem like a "simple" telling of a condemned man's attempt to reconnect with his mother and possibly escape prison, the video becomes a commentary on the artistic process itself:

"Bohemian Rhapsody" by The Muppets
The Muppets made some interesting changes to the original song in order to make it appropriate for the family audience.  Note that there are no references in this version to death or murder, and yet the the overall tone feels very similar to the original.  Except that with Muppets, it's hard not to laugh.

"Across the Universe"

The Beatles' Original: A Call for Peace and Understanding
Against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, the Beatles wanted to convey the sense that everyone could be "together," that serenity and nature were far more important forces than strife.  At least, that's the kind of conclusion we might draw from the music video made using clips from their trip to the Maharishi in India:

The reality of this song is far more complex.  For a hint at the role of personal disagreements in the creation of this song, see
Note how differently this video is set up from "Bohemian Rhapsody."  Almost no visual attention is given to the singing or instrumentation - instead we see people talking, meditating, and appreciating the world.

Consider the effect this has on our emotions.  Do we hear the music the same way?

Fiona Apple Cover for Pleasantville: Mayhem, Destruction, and Serenity
The Beatles' message of "peace" now gives way to rampage.  The movie Pleasantville follows two modern-day teenagers who are suddenly transported into the black-and-white world of a 1950's TV show.  In her cover video, Fiona Apple walks as detached and serene creature as a quaint movie-set diner is thoroughly ravaged.

Note how Apple's behavior in the video mimic's some of the behaviors seen in the original Beatles video.  Her demeanor and movements are relaxed and at peace - at the end, we see her sitting cross-legged in the same way that we see the Beatles sitting cross-legged.  What effect does this have?

An Interstellar Take on "Across the Universe"
What song about the universe could be complete without images from NASA?

For a better view on the "cosmic" significance of the Beatles, read about how NASA Beamed "Across the Universe" Into Space.
Which of the three videos feels more "right" in terms of the song?  Can any of these videos be called "wrong"?  Can you think of situations where you would show one of the videos as opposed to the other two?


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