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[personal profile] tishaturk
As mentioned in my last post, I've spent much of this spring reading about music and thinking about how what I'm reading might apply to vids. This post is some background about why I've been doing that.

As of right now, music is kind of the missing piece of research on vidding. Most of the academic work on vidding (including mine) has focused on the relationship between vids or vidders and TV shows or films. There are several reasons for this.

For one thing, most academics writing about vids are inclined to focus on the original text because that's the kind of background we have: literary studies, media studies. Seeing vids as a form of media criticism fits with what we've been trained to do. And, conveniently, it's also a way of justifying what we do when we're talking to colleagues who don't know anything about fandom: showing how fans are like academics makes fans much more interesting to academics.

But of course it's not just academics who focus on video rather than audio when talking about vids; it's fans, too: we talk about vidding particular shows or movies ("I'm vidding Sleepy Hollow for VVC Premieres"; "She makes the best Supernatural vids"). The very influential Mary Van Deusen referred to her creations as "literary song vids," as Henry Jenkins explains in Textual Poachers. The show is the thing we have something to say about.

And then there's a third thing: I think a fair amount of the work on vids in recent years has had a very pragmatic bent; we've been thinking about things like, for example, the DMCA hearings--which are about DVDs, not music.

Now, it's not like academics writing about vids don't mention that vids involve music. But we don't usually pay a lot of attention to vid songs, and when we do, it's typically to the lyrics rather than the music. In this way, vid scholars have been a lot like beginning vidders, who tend to focus on the visuals and the lyrics and take a while to start working with the music. (I facepalmed pretty hard when I realized that I was reproducing my own trajectory as a vidder, let me tell you.)

Vidders and vid fans know that song choice is important. But given how important we agree it is, there's actually been surprisingly little discussion of why it's important or how it works. In some ways, this reluctance to theorize is a community-building move, I think: the importance of song choice is one of the first principles of vidding fandom, and if you don't get it, you're not One Of Us.

But it's also true that music is just plain hard to talk about:
The very fact that theoreticians of classical filmic discourse, even those who write about the soundtrack, have slighted the specific uses of music in this cinema attests to the strength of music’s resistance to analysis. (Claudia Gorbman, Unheard Melodies: Narrative Film Music)
Music, more than any of the arts, is commonly thought to be somehow above and beyond rational analysis. (Andrew Goodwin, Dancing in the Distraction Factory: Music Television and Popular Culture)


But as I worked on the book, I just kept coming back to the importance of song choice, and I started trying to articulate why I think music is so important to vids. There are lots of answers, but the ones I'm currently working with are these:

1) Genre. No music, no vid.

2) Emotional effects. The music does most of the emotional heavy lifting in vids. (In this, vids are a lot like narrative film and TV, where music does a lot of the work of telling us what to feel about a scene.)

3) Structure. Vids are structured around music at both macro and micro levels. (In this, vids are the opposite of most narrative film and TV, where music is composed/chosen and edited to fit the visual narrative.)

4) Creative process. Song choice is important not just to the vid but to the vidder. For many of us, the song is what sparks a vid idea in the first place; in other cases, it's the thing that has to be found before the idea can get off the ground. It guides clipping, editing, and often the creation of effects. Think about it this way: pretty much any verb you can think of related to the creative processes of actually planning and making a vid (as opposed to technical stuff like exporting or uploading) is going to be related in some way to the song choice. And even where a given vidder is thinking more about the song's lyrics than its music, the whole point of songs is that the lyrics are welded to the music; they can never be completely disentangled.

So those are some of the key ideas and assumptions that I started out with when I began digging around in the fields of music and sound studies to see what I could find that might help me think through how I see music operating in vids themselves and in the way that vidders describe their creative processes.

Date: 2014-05-07 12:11 am (UTC)
ghost_lingering: bonobos (stability in the tramway)
From: [personal profile] ghost_lingering
2 & 3 on your list both have me nodding along going "yes, yes!". 1 and 4 aren't as immediately obvious to me, but I'm enjoying thinking about them. And I want to echo other commenters on non-song audio in vidding -- music isn't the only audio choice we can make. (Though I think it's the most popular because of point #2 and because who doesn't like listening to music?)

In some ways, this reluctance to theorize is a community-building move, I think: the importance of song choice is one of the first principles of vidding fandom, and if you don't get it, you're not One Of Us.

I think it's also that we just don't always agree on what makes a good song choice, because people don't always agree on what makes a good *song*. There are songs that I loathe that other people love and vice versa. How many times have I seen "wow, this vid was great, even though I don't like the song" or "gosh that's a terrible vid song it's so overused" -- a contradiction in terms if I ever heard one!

So when it comes to vidding we might agree on the broad strokes, on the things a song needs in order to be a good vid song, but when it comes to specific songs and artists there's disagreement and often judgement. When I started as a vidder I encountered tons of taste shaming, to the point where I was very deliberate about trying to avoid certain types of music, not because *I* thought it would be a bad choice but because I thought *other vidders* would say it was a bad choice and judge me for using it. I remember going through my iTunes to make sure that most of the music I listened to was "good" music, i.e. that it wouldn't get made fun of if I made a vid to it. So as much as "Good Song Choice" can be community *building* it can also delineate who belongs and who doesn't in some pretty gross ways. "She's not a real vidder because she uses such-and-such music; everyone knows vids to those songs are terrible." Meanwhile you can find thousands of vids to that song/artist on YouTube.

I do think that this has changed, especially because there are so many more vidders and more vids now than there were ten years ago and as a result there are many more perspectives and personal tastes and definitions of what makes a "good" song represented. Or, maybe I'm just not seeing it because I'm more selective in where I go in fannish spaces now. Still, it was a prevailing thought for a long long time when I picked music for vids, that I wanted to pick something that wouldn't get scorned and mocked.

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Tisha Turk

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