Press Pause: Critically Contextualizing Music Video in Visual Culture and Art Education

By Taylor, Pamela G. | Studies in Art Education, Spring 2007 | Go to article overview

Press Pause: Critically Contextualizing Music Video in Visual Culture and Art Education


Taylor, Pamela G., Studies in Art Education


Music video is one of the most influential visual culture forms to hit youth culture since the advent of television. Although provocative, the value of studying such visual culture as the music video in art education is much more than providing mere spectacle or motivational tactic. As many teenagers know, music videos portray meaning. They provoke, sell, promote, and tell stories through densely textured images and sound. They are exciting, dramatic forms of art that are in their own right an excellent source of learning as well as a provocative link to more traditional artistic forms. Like any form of art and educational experience, music video, as well as other visual culture studies, requires meaningful contextual research and analysis as well as alternative approaches to what we think about, teach, and learn in art education. In a quest for a critical, comprehensive, and contextual approach to music video analysis and interpretation, this article examines and correlates theories of critical pedagogy, visual culture art education, and music video. Commensurately, it explores Radiohead's music video entitled Go to Sleep (Radiohead, 2002) and shares descriptions of specific art classroom practice utilizing music videos.

One of the most influential visual culture forms to hit youth culture since television is the music video. Music videos appear daily on computer, television, cell phone, and iPod screens in homes, health clubs, restaurants, shopping malls, and the palms of our hands. From the children's character Barney to pop music star Madonna, and from television to the Internet, music videos are an integral part of our visual landscape and are worthy of study in art education. In a quest for a critical, comprehensive, and contextual approach to music video analysis and interpretation, in this article, I will examine and correlate theories of critical pedagogy, visual culture art education, and music video; explore Radiohead's music video entitled Go to Sleep (Radiohead, 2002); and share descriptions of specific art classroom practice with music videos.

Music, Video, and Art Education

Although formally created in 1981 with the advent of MTV (Music Television) and their first showing of the Buggies' Video Killed the Radio Star,1 the idea of integrating visual images and music has long been a part of art and education. Abstract artist Arthur Dove's 1927 Rhapsody in Blue collage and painting captured Gershwin's 1924 melancholia with bold yet vapid shapes amidst a swirl of cascading lines. Disney's 1935 Fantasia featured animated elephant ballerinas twirling to such classics as Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor and Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite. Art teachers play classical music for their students to draw and paint to during their study of such musically inspired works of art as Kandinsky's 1913 Composition paintings.

Contemporary music video is a digital medium used to create and sell artists while both inventing and disrupting the world it represents. Known for cutting-edge visual effects as well as occasional flippant and trite stereotypes, music videos are designed to hold up to repeated viewings. As in any media form, some music videos are more successful and/or more aesthetic2 and meaningful than others. Music videos may be performance-driven, gothic, animated, computerized, moody dreamscapes, classic portraiture, futuristic extravaganzas, and up-closeand-personal home movies (Reiss & Feineman, 2000). There are many music video channels on cable and satellite television from which viewers become keenly aware of the video performances of their favorite music stars. There are programs that rate, describe, satirize as well as promote specific music video artists. Granted, some would say that music videos are becoming obsolete in the popular culture mainstream (Jim Herbert,3 personal communication March 10, 2004) because music video television programming on such stations as MTV, VH-I, and CMT (Country Music Television) appears to feature more talk, reality shows, and movies than music videos.

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