The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

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Making music without a mask

This is, no question, my favorite new genre: the production-as-performance video. This is Pomplamoose’s Single Ladies cover, which is probably the paragon of the form so far:

Characteristics of the pro/per video:

☑ Normal duds, normal environment. No spandex, no fog machine.

☑ Gear. Lots of it.

☑ Subdivision of the video frame: overlapping tracks visualized as overlapping views.

☑ Performance! This isn’t just a hidden camera in the studio. It’s natural, it’s unpretentious—but it’s still a performance.

(In some ways, this newer Pomplamoose video is an even better example of the pro/per form, but the music is not as perfectly ear-tickling, so stick with Single Ladies.)

What I love about the approach is that it’s showing us a complicated, virtuoso performance, but making it really clear and accessible at the same time. It’s entertaining, but it’s also an exercise in demystification—which of course is exactly the opposite objective of every music video, ever. Their purpose has been to mystify, to masquerade, to mythologize in real-time.

Even live performance videos mystify in their own way: “Jeez, how did they get so good?” What I appreciate about the pro/per, at least in Pomplamoose’s hands, is that it acknowledges: Yes, to make music, you need a lot of tools, and you need a lot of tries. And I really like (maybe even need) the notion that things can be assembled. They can be built from parts, improved piece-by-piece. You don’t have to do it right the first time through. That’s what Pomplamoose seems to be saying, and showing.

I know I’ve seen some other videos in this genre, but I can’t dig any of them up… and, ha ha, searching for “production as performance” on YouTube doesn’t get you anywhere. Can you think of any?


Best parts of this video: the by turns angry and confused “deer-in-headlights” look on the singer’s face, and also that she’s wearing a Batman t-shirt. Not-quite-flat-affect + iconic comic book logo=gold.

I love this genre (which Pomplamoose calls Video Songs) too. When I found the Single Ladies cover a couple weeks ago on some other web site, I spent the rest of the afternoon watching every video they posted. Great stuff. They seem to have a lot of fun putting these together. It actually makes me kind of jealous.

Really? I found the flat affect sort of irritating. It made it hard to watch the video, honestly–took me about three sittings. She’s very pretty, but there’s something about the flat affect that seems almost disingenuously naive, an overly self-conscious presentation of innocence. It basically summed up what I would think of as a pitfall of this genre–a preciousness that doesn’t quite respect the viewer. The guy’s expressive face and physical engagement with his instruments was just about the only thing that would pull me back into the video just when I couldn’t take it any more.

I did like the Batman t-shirt, and the backwards throwing of things.

Holy mackarel of coincidence!
Not only am I a recent avid reader of the Snark, I also JUST posted my own pro/per cover of Tina Turner’s “Simply The Best”.

Feedback me to your heart’s desire…

Some that leap to mind: Kutiman’s Thru-You, Adrian Holovaty’s gypsy jazz and Chris Dodgen harmonizing with himself.

I was going to suggest Thru-You too, but you’re much faster.

Thru-You is definitely an example of this. It is different because the production in that case was stitching together other people’s productions, but it odes the layering in the same way we see here.

This is an awesome example – the first I happened upon – written for the Blame Drew’s Cancer benefit:

Greg says…

The theremin cover of Gnarl’s Barkley’s “Crazy” is a good example of this :

I see the heavy influence of Lasse Gjertsen’s brilliant “Amateur” in the editing and isolation of a single instrument or sound:

That video is almost three years old now, and it still blows me away every time I watch it. And the song itself is tops too.

Apparently you can’t embed the clip so here’s the link:

Rory says…

A little different idea, but I think it technically fits the category:

Acapella Thriller

Hargrimm says…

Wouldn’t Lasse Gjertsen be the pinnacle of this form? His videos Amateur and Hyperactive are made entirely by cutting together clips of himself making beatbox noises (Hyperactive) or playing individual notes on the piano/hitting a drum (Amateur).

I prefer Amateur of the two:

YES! I was trying to remember Lasse Gjertsen’s name. I don’t know if he’s the pinnacle, but he’s definitely a pioneer. Thanks for remembering/sharing.

How about this split-screen video of lots of Mike Oldfields performing an arrangement of the William Tell Overture?

Don’t forget Dosh. Every show is like a song-building demo.

Julia Nunes does a great pro-per video of her fantastic cover of “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child, played on ukelele with multi-tracked vocals.

The particular Theresa Andersson video of “Na Na Na” is what you’re taking about except she does everything live in actual performance.

Thanks for blogging about this by the way. I’m very interested in Pomplamoose’s music. Their stuff really is fun to watch and I got to interview them last month and they really are delightful people.

Joe says…

It’s an interesting youtube video, but they just don’t sound very good. I can’t imagine buying the songs and listening to them.

The snarkmatrix awaits you

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