IASPM day 4: Viral videos and synchronization. Anahid Kassabian #iaspm2013

Viral videos and synchronization. Anahid Kassabian (University of Liverpool, UK) #iaspm2013


Historically, synchronisation has been understood as a guarantor of realism in film. However, the recent explosion of editing software has meant that very clever amateur video makers have been able to turn that on its head. Using synchronisation as a way to create humour in multiple new genres of very short videos, they focus on incongruencies between and among words, visuals, and oral material. Using this material, I will argue that synchronised audio and visual tracks are acquiring a new kind of meaning.

[JB note – Anahid mentions many specific videos in this presentation but I may have misheard some, so not all are cited exhaustively below because I fear I may mis-spell them. Excuse me while I kiss this guy – I’m off to Sarnies’ Bay.]

Anahid opens with a brief discussion of video ‘curiosities’ as she calls them, beginning with ‘light music’ and ‘visual music’, describing these as ‘experiments in producing synaesthesia for those of us who do not have it’. She introduces another ‘curiosity’ category whereby iPhones [other smartphones are available] are placed inside a guitar so only the vibrating strings can be viewed. Another cited example is a frame by frame recording of “Flight of the Bumble Bee” [a colleague at Bath Spa, Chris Blanden, has recently done one of these with Rondo Alla Turca – see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CiYCmtXp8mg].

She asks some questions about why synchronisation videos would choose certain editing/film conventions, citing an example of a redundant conductor in a digitally edited video. The ubiquity of ‘cover songs’ is noted, whereby performers re-appropriate very famous works (for example, using plastic pipes as a percussion instrument in one particularly viral video).

Anahid moves onto her main point, which relates to the non-fragmented matching of soundtrack construction – where the images and music must literally synchronise. She cites many ‘mashups’ that rely on synchronisation [e.g. George Bush’s Imagine]. She discusses MJ’s Smooth Criminal synched to an unrelated dance, a Moroccan sync involving Shrek’s Donkey, and several others. Next she discusses ‘Numa Numa guy’ and ‘Numa Numa song’.

The paper categorises two types of ‘misheard lyrics’ syncs – same language, and bilingual. The latter is known as ‘buffalaxing’ – http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/buffalaxing. These videos, Anahid asserts, are all about randomness and repetition, and she notes that their role is partly to challenge the authority of the original.

The next two categories are ‘literalism’, an example being the video description of Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse Of the Heart, and Autotuning based ideas (e.g. ‘Autotuning the News’). [JB note – In the UK there was politician Nick Clegg’s ‘I’m Sorry’ which made the national news in 2012; I imagine there were political equivalents worldwide].

There were attempts through some of these ‘aggregators’ to collect together content relating to the original (guitar tab, lyrics sheets etc) and some partial attempts to remunerate the owners of the IP (by the creators of the mashups posting iTunes links and similar). Anahid concludes that all this experimentation represents a healthy and mainstream mass-participation culture, and welcomes the way that these synchronisations challenge many types of extant authorial authority. She states that she does intend any technological determinism, but celebrates the strength of the human tendency to poke fun and (in infer) to build cultures and communities around related amateur synchronisation practices.

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