The Self-Splintering Evolution of Web Music Videos
Video Essay
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by Albert Figurt

An introduction to "Self-Splintering Music Videos" by Albert Figurt.

// t h e  b a s i c s \\

The contemporary mediascape is dominated by a restless, highly decentralized and diversified video production; considering YouTube as the primary video sharing platform, it's interesting to notice that - after a good decade of expansion and content innovation - many of its native celebrities are either musicians or performers, while most of the top-ranking (memetic, viral or simply billion-views-plus) items in the whole catalogue are purely audio-visual or somehow music-related clips --> read: trans-cultural hits, language-free choreographed fads, mash-ups or remixes, live concerts, etc.

In parallel, due to the fruitful match of multi-tasking & multi-instrumentalism, a peculiar approach to music video conception and realization is slowly emerging as the new trend among self-sufficient skilled professionals: at the intersection of live set and videotutorial, backstage and documentary, videoart and installation, piece of bravura and vernacular creativity, quite scattered and diversified experiments like Jacob Collier's reharmonized R'n'B covers,1 Jack Conte's psychedelic loops,2 Giulio Carmassi's smooth-jazz ballads,3 Sina's one-girl-band progressive suites,4 Louis Cole's vaporwave micro-sonnets,5 Diego Stocco's handcrafted chordophones' compositions6 or Davie504's quirky bass bets7 clearly share a similar impulse towards a fragmented yet simultaneous polyphony of the body image(s) & sound(s), as well as an implied desire for media multiplicity and expanded artisticity in the prosumer, user-generated-content arena.

I suggest to provisionally label such insightful audio-visual puzzles as "Self-Splintering Music Videos", and to possibly scrutinize or (re)interpret them as a metaphorical representation of [corporeal?] daily routine, solitude/solipsism, artistic production, competition and talent in our heavily accelerated [post?]digital domain. These and other elaborate sonic sculptures, indeed, are not only a pretty challenging subgenre within the online audio-visual galaxy, but also a refreshing gimmick to transmit both the musical message and its generative process.

Here, as opposed to what happens in ordinary, money-driven and glamorous music videos, pure expertise or creative cleverness are way more important than narrative or glittery features - thus the bare functionality of the performative musical body [in real-time] finally overcomes the pop iconography of the fictionalized spectacular body [in playback].

Technically speaking,
musicianship meets do-it-yourself video practice,
multi-track recording becomes multi-screen performance
and standardized videoclips become split-screen egotrips.

With a sharp swerve from the usual MTV framework or web-based derivative takes, today's  independent musicians-turned-videomakers (or viceversa)  seem way more interested in showing how unconditioned art is created, sampled & stratified in their hyper-wired garages rather than [dis]playing or [re]enacting formulaic earworms in fancy scenarios; the work-in-progress, hard-core musical moment appears to be more important than its discursive or commercial counterpart, so moving images don't simply complement or suffocate some pre-existing score (with the only imperative of better selling it out), but are employed precisely to unveil or celebrate its fascinating intricacies and compositional labor.

The result is some cleverly funny online video-dialect, a stimulating new media crossover and/or multi-layered template, a permanent rehearsal [bed]room saga8 - sort of homely yet sonorous ( ! ) re:sponse to the deluge of mute selfies or adrenaline-fueled GoPro stunts.

w h o | h o w

Although I'm mostly working as a free lance VideoArtist & New Media (Independent) Scholar, my primary background is in music --> originally trained as a classical pianist, I later moved to bass and finally landed on drums. That's the way I look at moving images: they have to be rhythmical (like a visual beat) and they should provide bodily, emotional and meta-verbal stimula (like a set of harmonically organized viewpoints). I constantly try to achieve these results by strongly focusing on the interplay between aural and visual design - thus inevitably producing hybrid or undeclared music videos.9 At the same time, my expertise and curiosity about online culture(s) is both academic and practical; constantly oscillating between doing and thinking, I finally developed (and I'm busy testing) a "creativiTheory escamo[n]tage" - some transversal panorama where video-artistic sketches potentially encourage iconographic reflection,10 performative lectures mingle with video essayism11 and purely musical projects can humorously address underneath notions of self-replication and electronic sampling.12

This is the spirit I've been investigating the above-mentioned VideoSongs with: equipped with some resonant videomaker & multi-instrumentalist sensibility + keeping a critical eye on the jazzy, improvised taste of user generated content & practices - not forgetting the amazing (and partially unpredictable) technological, perceptual and political consequences of such a massive, emerging collective multimedia unconscious.

B-SIDE[note]S:

In recent years, very intrigued by the increasing number of autonomous musicians opting for the one-man-band formula (employed for home recording sessions, but also for the associated video dissemination), I've been organizing several talks and seminars, aimed at both practitioners and non-experts, in order to test my socio-anthropological reasonings - while collecting immediate reactions to such a revelatory, almost metaphysical brand new visual regime. As a member of Amsterdam's INC VideoVortex research group, I was also contributing a collective volume of essays with a detailed recap article on my latest findings - a text I decided to complement with some kaleidoscopic self-assembled freeze-frame-collages, just to give the occasional reader a quick structural feel of what the topic is about (or, better: what it "looks like").13

ANNOTATIONS ADD ANNOTATION
  1. https://bit.ly/35fQRwb

  2. https://bit.ly/38x7w0e

  3. https://bit.ly/3llbaOr

  4. https://youtu.be/rby2T2pRlUM

  5. https://youtu.be/a6LhO7YsayY

  6. https://youtu.be/2MNb118Yp60

  7. https://youtu.be/ulxoIly3jt4

  8. Of course, at this very moment, greatly - and sadly - emphasized by the pandemic restrictions.

  9. see https://vimeo.com/128353494 or https://vimeo.com/137396046

  10. https://vimeo.com/18662693

  11. https://vimeo.com/360936270

  12. https://vimeo.com/414372772

  13. https://networkcultures.org/blog/publication/video-vortex-reader-iii-inside-the-youtube-decade

Albert Figurt
is an Italian videoartisan, multi-instrumentalist and independent researcher / he excretes in the environment words, notes, images, crossmedia happenings and fuzzy thoughts / a member of Amsterdam's INC VideoVortex community since 2009, he’s happily obsessed with the socio-anthropological & perceptual side æffects of online video / in the past years he’s been organizing Guerrilla Film-making and UGCadavre Exquis workshops, lecturing on Screencast Narratives and teaching American exchange students about Non-Linear Storytelling, Expanded Video Editing and Digital Cultures. See: networkcultures.org/desktopia, independent.academia.edu/albertfigurt and
http://www.vimeo.com/albertfigurt
Unruly Media: YouTube, Music Video, and the New Digital Cinema
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by Carol Vernallis