17 February, 2009

Visual Stimulation (a.k.a. Why I Use YouTube)

If you go to my Valentine's Day post, and read the attached comment, then I think you will understand the impetus for this post. I want to focus in on the question "are visuals just spectacle?" for a couple of reasons. 1) I utilize visuals regularly in my blog; and 2) I think they are an important part of the aural experience, and one that is often overlooked when discussing music. As a side note, I am a little blown away by the fact that one of my friends so readily tapped into the collective unconscious yesterday by asking the excellent question: what do you see when you listen to music? He got me thinking again about the close connections of the senses and the roles which visuals do play in the musical experiences of the individual.

I use YouTube for a number of reasons. The most practical reason is that I do not have a lot of money at my disposal and I choose to refrain from downloading illegally. YouTube then, is often my musical sharing tool of choice. I spend a great deal of time choosing videos that are of high quality and that are also visually stimulating in some new and interesting way. Performance and music videos fascinate me, and I find them appealing as a sort of microscope into the minds of other people who are attempting to decipher or convey an aural experience in a new way. Strong words, melodies, or rhythms can enter your mind softly and situate themselves in comfortable positions until you choose to engage them on some type of conscious level. A good song falls within the standards of good poetry, but has layers of meaning that are conveyed instrumentally as well as lyrically. Adding a visual layer to a song can introduce a new level of meaning, which can be equally as subtle as the lyrics or the fleeting violins in the introduction, but are also penetrating and striking in a completely original way. Instrumentals, lyrics, and pictures combined in the best of possible ways, can create a three-dimensional experience. I already find music tactile and multidimensional, so adding a layer of visuals generally only enhances this quality, although it is true that those YouTube montage videos can severely detract from the enjoyability of a song.

What do I see when I listen to music? This question caught me off guard because generally I find myself caught up in the act of listening to a song, and I do not take the time to think as much about visual stimulation. I realized after a little thinking that I often see the lyrics imprinted upon my mind, as if I am reading a musical book. At the same time, my mind also strongly registers percussion and rhythm in kinds of visual waves, which contribute strongly to that sense of musical tactility that I mentioned before. I am entranced by repetition and rhythm schematics and at the same time caught by the underlying meaning of songs. The more I look at what constitutes the majority of my favorite music, the more I realize that I am attracted to a certain aural type. There is a reason why Jimi Hendrix's Axis: Bold As Love is my favorite album, and it has nothing to do with my current surroundings and everything to do with my inner workings.

1 comment:

PnB said...

i wish every blogger was as responsive as you.

yeah, definitely another dimension of meaning and play with meanings is available, if we take it in the post-structuralist vein, but i think you're able to immerse yourself in the aural to a point where the visuals aren't a distraction- unlike me.

point about seeing music was interesting that i'd though about but never discussed. i had a hard time reading To The Lighthouse coz i had problems visualizing continuities in the novel. i guess once in the realm of metaphors 'seeing' also has to take on more abstract dimensions than just visualizing in the mind's eye. i've always seen chords a geometrical shapes, distortion and fuzz as brown smudges and static coloured tears, beats form moors and canyons- the whole thing comes together like a cubist painting, and ultimately there's a mess in my head. you can imagine what happens me after Sister Ray.