Emerald City Arts

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Visual Music


Good music evokes strong emotions, and at a time when we are bombarded with constant visual stimulation, these emotions are linked to visual images – even if only those that our minds conjure up. I find examples everywhere.

In film, soundtracks are obviously meant to accompany the subject matter, but some take on a leading role. Questlove references every genre that Blacks have created or influenced, from African drum beats to Classic Jazz to Hip Hop in The Black Power Mixtape’s score. It’s as if he’s written a character, a narrator, to take us through history, and this person lived through it all.


And Drive’s soundtrack, dominated by Cliff Martinez’s instrumentals, is a wonderfully jumbled homage to action, heist and 80’s romance movies with a dark element. Some scenes wait patiently for the song to end before the plot moves forward.


One of my favorite music videos, (an oldie of the interwebs) for Little Dragon’s Twice, was Johannes’ interpretation of the track as a fan…in the form of a short film trailer done with puppet theater.


Let’s not forget the live music experience though. Violinist Caitlin Moe and DJ Mia Moretti have revolutionized the idea of performance by creating scenes that we’ve seen before in other places. Not to mention that Caitlin allows her violin to possess her, and Mia rocks her turntables, which in turn hypnotizes their audience.


My point here is that while artists may be spending less on traditional music videos today than they did in 1990, the bar has been raised. Sure the production design of a video should reflect personal style, but it’s way beyond that now. Every minute, music is being written into a film, or a burgeoning filmmaker is making a rogue music video, (our friend Jon Salmon met MGMT after his video for Kids got more Youtube hits than theirs did) or a crowd member is recording a show on their iPhone. So my thought is that as soon as the notes and the lyrics are jotted down, an artist should be thinking about what visual image they meant to inspire, and then find a way to go and create that.