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Message 42: Musicless Music Videos

In 1993, media critic Jody Berland asserted a fundamental fact of music videos, that “the 3-minute musical single” was the video’s unalterable foundation, “its one unconditional ingredient. A single can exist (technically, at least) without the video, but the reverse is not the case. 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” (25).

Only eight years old, Berland’s words are aging rapidly. Concurrent with the 5 June 2001 commercial release of Amnesiac, Radiohead released 16 Quicktime animated video shorts (see message 41 below) called “antivideos” in their previous incarnation. As if in direct response to Berland, the antivideos do exactly what videos cannot: make radical incisions and changes to the sound and structure of the songs they promote. In fact, of the most recent 16, only 3 have musical excerpts, and those are, oddly enough, from Kid A. The other 13, supposedly produced for Amnesiac, have no sound at all.

Berland, Jody. “Sound, Image and Social Space: Music Video and Media Reconstruction.” Sound and Vision: The Music Video Reader. Ed. Simon Frith, Andrew Goodwin and Lawrence Grossberg. London and New York: Routledge, 1993. 25-43.

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