the only music video i’ve ever edited

April 26, 2010

the following is an abridged version of my explanation for a video project i had for josh kun’s soundclash course

When my popular music and American culture class told us that we were to make a fan video with eleven other people, I envisioned chaos. But the resulting video (see below) was not only simple to produce, it also perfectly addressed many of the social and political issues we found embedded in our chosen song.

Titled after the audience hysteria that followed around classical pianist Liszt as he toured Europe, the lyrics to Phoenix’s “Lisztomania” are about empowerment through oppression. At first, we took the term “Lisztomania” literally and recorded footage of each one dancing as if Liszt himself were tickling the ivories. But because the Phoenix lyrics mention going “from a mess to the masses,” I suggested that we create a school-oriented narrative to accompany our dance footage.

Because we interpreted the song as being about breaking free from restrictions, I envisioned a narrative that peeks in on several group members (begrudgingly) studying or attending class, who then get up, leave it all behind and “think less but see it grow/like a riot” and start dancing on tables, jumping on chairs and run down the lobby stairs.

By envisioning our own frenzied state through the undeniably catchy beat, we put the term “Lisztomania” into our context as college students and used our bodies as a site of that performance of freedom. Because both the images of the two main characters as “down and lonely” and those of everyone else letting go of their on-campus posturing were filmed in the same building, the only difference is in the manner in which we used our bodies. Like the origins of hip-hop dancing–and more recently of the current jerking movement—our group members took over public space and disrupted the mundane daily happenings in the Annenberg building.

The end result achieved our goal of conveying this idea of breaking out of our policed bodies and the stop-motion technique turned out to be a happy visual accident. Decided upon because it was the only thing I realized I knew how to do in iMovie, the use of .25 second blasts of sequential images gives the final version of the video another dimension of unconventionality. The jittery images of Chuente’s jiu jitszu tackle fits in perfectly with the idea that our group members are rejecting the standard way of doing things. And in the end, my lack of video editing knowledge ended up adding another layer of chaos to the Lisztomania we attempted to portray.

Behold! Our fan video:

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