Rob Paravonian’s “Pachabel Rant”

-Grant Reed

In this stand up comedy sketch, Rob Paravonian draws a connection between many famous songs from a variety of artists and genres. While on the surface it is quite a hilarious he makes, it seems to have a deeper meaning than that. Despite being funny, he seems to be questioning the originality of many famous musical artists whom we praise very highly. Musical artists such as The Beatles, Aerosmith, Blues Traveler, Avril Lavigne, Vitamin C, Coven, Deep Purple, Matchbox Twenty, Twisted Sister, U2, Natalie Imbruglia, Bob Marley, and even the theme song from Laverne and Shirley all appear to be linked back to the same origins. While we would never call these artists thieves just because their music sounds similar, it makes one wonder whether it is even possible to create a completely unique piece of artwork in any medium. This same question was raised in Banksy’s  Exit Through The Gift Shop. Banksy’s documentary was an attempt to show that while the general public saw Mr. Brainwash’s work as unique, hip art, there was really no originality in it all. Just as Rob Paravonian shows that some of our favorite musical artists, while not intending to diss them, may not quite be the musical geniuses we believed them to be.

3 Music Videos By Modest Mouse

Modest Mouse – Missed the Boat, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank

Besides being a great song, what makes this video so interesting is, if you read what it says in the beginning of the video, a large portion of the video is actually fan created. The only portions of the music video that are not fan created are the ones featuring Modest Mouse itself, for obvious reasons. The fact that they allow their fans to articulate how the song is to be visualized toys with how the song itself should be understood. It changes the dynamic of the spectator to one of a more active role, much like the Abramovic installment in the MoMA (the performance one, not the naked one) forced a more direct involvement with the art. The whole purpose of the music video shifts from an explanation to an interpretation, not on the part of the viewer, but rather on the part of Modest Mouse, as they got the opportunity to see how their fans respond visually to their music, through the same medium that they ask their fans to understand visually. Also, it’s a crazy cool video! I mean, it’s got something for everyone, rooftop parties, mad scientists, robots, balloons with out-of-context messages, and even a Fisher-Price ViewMaster! Come on!

Modest Mouse – Dashboard, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank

What comes to mind when watching this video is (1) “What?!” and (2) Isaac Brock (the storyteller) looks totally awesome with a white beard. Out of the 3 Modest Mouse music videos I’ve posted, this is probably the most normal, which says a lot about how they envision their music. In this particular music video, the story of the super big fish at the music-equipment-island with music-people (?) compliments the story of the song at a more basic level, on the grounds that the song’s story seems to match the emphatic attitude of the visual story. It’s a pretty cool pairing of music and video and it’s a concept that escapes most artist’s music video direction, as they tend to prefer the slow-motion eyebrow raise and pools shaped like Ferraris aesthetic. I think it’s an incredibly well done music video, and a story of a fisherman getting a prosthetic microphone for a hand while the winner of the 2009 Wilford Brimley look-alike contest laughs heartily in disbelief is awesome in and of itself.

Modest Mouse – King Rat, No One’s First and You’re Next

What’s probably coolest about this video is that it was actually directed by Heath Ledger. At this point, I would be wondering what’s with Modest Mouse’s strange obsession with fishing. To be fair, Heath Ledger directed it to raise awareness for the constant whaling that was going on off the coasts of Australia. But still, i guess they’re just fans of fishing. Obviously, the most noticeable part of the video is the role reversal between people and whales. It’s almost unbearable to watch at times, so kudos to Heath Ledger because this certainly raises awareness. Again, like Dashboard, the emphatic attitude and melody of the song line up nicely with video itself, making the message all that easier to receive. It’s interesting, though, that Ledger chose a music video to raise awareness, especially one that wasn’t released to MTV of VH1 (do they still play music videos?). The videos relentless approach to depicting the whaling (human-ing?) process in its full form is what I think makes it so successful at relaying the necessity of awareness. The song, in this case, is then stripped of a visual aid to help illustrate the song visually and is supplanted with a cautionary message, which, in turn, takes on the role of illustration. The end result of using a song as a vessel for policy is quite impressionable, and I think it’s pretty successful. I know I’m not going to go whaling any time soon. Also, it leaves a pretty pervasive thought in my mind that the sun is awfully creepy and whales are jerks.

-Ben Etkin

Wilhelm Scream

The Wilhelm scream is a well known inside joke in the film industry. It is believed to have been recorded by actor/singer Sheb Wooley., who is well known for his song, “Flying Purple People Eater.” The scream originated in the 1951 movie, Distant Drums. Soldiers are wading through waist high water when one of them gets pulled under by an alligator. As he is falling, he screams the famous scream, and then proceeds to be eaten by several alligators. The next use of this scream was where it received its name. In Charge at Feather River, the scream is used three times, at least once in conjunction with a character named “Wilhelm.” It was here that sound designer Ben Burtt discovered the scream and decided to use it in the first Star Wars movie, Episode IV, A New Hope. He went on to name it after Wilhelm and use it in many of his other projects, including all of the Indiana Jones movies. As a result, many other sound designers picked up on it and decided to use it in their own projects, and so it became an inside joke of the sound industry. It has since gone on to appear in so many major motion pictures that it has become a bit of a sound cliche- well known to both those in and out of the film industry.

While studying sound editing, the Wilhelm scream immediately jumped to mind. It is a diegetic, external sound, which is post synchronized and dubbed to fit many different clips in many different movies. I think this youtube video is very interesting because it shows how a single sound clip can be put into all different types of scenes or genres without the audience noticing anything. I have seen many of the movies featured in this clip, but had no idea that the Wilhelm scream existed or that sound designers frequently reuse sounds from the archives until I saw this video.

Another interesting aspect of the clip and the use of the scream that makes it comical are the similarities between the character “screaming.” In almost every use, the individual is falling or getting hit by some explosion. The movies and scenes are different and range from Beauty and the Beast to Star Wars, but there is a consistency in how the scream is used. The way these clips are edited and put together in a montage exemplify the continuity and make the repeated use of the scream seem silly.

Smashing Pumpkins

Smashing Pumpkins

Iconic 90’s Rock: Music Video Analyses

This music video draws us into a bright and colorful world of five teenagers as they wander throughout California without direction, though certainly not without a sense of youthful adventure.

The lyrics “and we don’t even care… as restless as we are” seem to sum up the general mood of the piece: carefree and bursting with energy as the kids play and drive around almost aimlessly. The mise en scène of the entire video is equally bright in mood, as the vivid blue sky and colorful clothing matching the overall tone that is conveyed throughout the whole piece. The camera seems to have a fish-eye effect, which only adds to the surreal and almost fantastic feel to the entire video. Our attention is directed in a 360 degree sweep of the interior of the car in the beginning of the driving sequence; making for an almost panoramic shot of the five kids as they wander through their lives. Similar to the next video for “Perfect,” the video opens from a sort of point of view tracking shot that follows the kids as they roll around in a large tire. The car sequence first struck me as an example of a “time-image,” as the characters don’t seem to have any sort of clear-cut adversary or purpose in their action–they are simply driven by the passing moments which carry them in an uncertain direction. The choice of using grunge-rock in the concert sequence next serves as a means of connecting this apparent mischievousness (in various pranks like turning the shower onto a couple in a bathtub and throwing toilet paper on a house, or in abandoning adult self-consciousness and jumping in someone else’s pool) to a musical genre that people of this time would already have preconceived notions and ideas about. Billy Corgan, the lead vocalist, narrates the story through lyric as he sits in the car for the duration of the video, apparently along for the ride.

This piece chronologically carries these characters throughout the events of one day, and while there are concrete events that take place and obstacles that serve as conflict, the tone of careless euphoria is never lost in this video, completely unlike that of “Perfect.”

The video for “Perfect” brings both the Pumpkins and our characters into adulthood; the story, music, and general mood of this piece in reference to the first is altogether grown up–dark, subdued, and seemingly resigned to the apparent loss of childhood innocence and carelessness that so marked “1979.”

This video uses graphic matching multiple times to move the action to different locations, connecting multiple characters and stories to one universally connected plot. This song appeared on a relatively new album, “Adore,” whilst “1979” was from the mainstream success, “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,” the latter being one of the most commonly referenced albums as forming the alternative rock genre of the 1990s. The characters in this music video are acted by four of the same five who took part in the video “1979” (the fifth was in jail), which gives us an excellent point of reference. Not only is the entire mood of the video much blander and darker than that of “1979,” but the title even contrasts the goings on in the story. James Iha, the guitarist of the group, plays the same character of the store clerk as he did in the prior video, and the parted-hair boy, now an adult, shoplifts from the store just as he did in his childhood (how darling!).

The first sequence of this video makes use of shallow focus and computer graphics to follow the ball as it makes its way from the machine to the character at the batting cage; a sort of POV tracking-shot that carries our focus towards the first human character in the story. My favorite graphic match of the video is from the mother handing the bottle to her newborn baby that cuts to the beer bottle–an interesting take that may be telling of the directors’ (there were 2) opinion on alcohol. This graphic matching technique is used several more times, together with the “bump” effect, in images of button pushing, post-it notes to pregnancy tests, and the cassette tape playing music to illegally recording it at a SP gig. The mise en scène of the latter sequence serving as an avante garde contrast to the drab black Billy wears in his narrative frame singing in “real time.” The musicians on stage wear blue eyeliner, sunglasses, and other over-the-top glam-rock uniform which suit the 90s underground rock setting quite nicely. This scene also differs greatly from the bright punk-rock house party concert from the “1979” video, and when viewed from this point of reference is both darker and more controlled; much like the album it was released on, which departed from the “fantasy” imagery of Mellon Collie.

Another interesting point–the scaffolding Billy stands on throughout the music video was real, as was the danger that surrounded standing on a moving, unstable object elevated hundreds of feet in the air!