Update: Lots more on Lotte Reiniger, the director of Prince Achmed, here and here, thanks to Britta. You must click those links, scroll down and look at the stills. They just sent me spinning into a beauty-induced fugue state; I think I saved every single one into my Dropbox.
Ah. I have to admit: these old TV news clips from the fall of the Berlin Wall made me feel nostalgic. Not for the event, which I can’t really remember. Mostly for the music, I think. The anthems of the nightly news. We’ll never see the world this way again—never through such a narrow tube. That’s for the better… but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the way these broadcasts felt, the way they sounded.
☑ 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?
This goes in the direction of my dream busker: somebody set up with an amp, a laptop and Ableton Live, sampling and remixing the sounds of a street-corner in real-time. Totally melodic and musical; it wouldn’t be an abstract experiment. You’d just hear familiar honks and wails in the mix. And obviously—per this video—she’d have a mic stand for speaking and singing, too.
1. Start this Delrious time-lapse video of clouds in San Francisco, then immediately pause it to let it buffer and lower the volume to mute. (Nothing against His Boy Elroy, who provides the original score. I actually used that music in a movie of my own once.)
2. Press play on this song from Jason Kanakis and His Coalition of the Unwilling.
3. Start the Delrious video. Full-screen it, if you swing that way.
Two great tastes that taste great together. Delrious discovered via Towleroad and Kanakis via Aurgasm.