Capstone Research Paper

Haseeb Ikram

Mrs. Stehlin

Comparative Literature Honors

2 April 2017

Eye + Ear: How Music Videos Can Bring The Best Euphoria

Section 1

Hopes, dreams, chance. A person chasing fate and following their heart to rise up to their idolized role models. For the up and coming musician, seeing the success of other artists is truly awe-inspiring as their hard work and dedication is shown through their music and various contents. How would individuals start to create their own music? How could they appeal to the senses of all people through their art? Many of these questions arise as humanity wonders, what makes a music video successful and attract the public?

For a lot of people, music is a part of their daily life. Most individuals tend to become fans of creative musicians for their style and a taste that is similar to their own. However, when they come back with a new music video and album, it raises hype and anticipation to the whole country. How do they ensure their new production will be successful and make viewers come back for more? Musicians we all know and love are prevalent in our daily lives, and their work being a success is based off of our society.

Section 2

Sounds around us shape our memories of events, and impact our lives. Music evokes an inexplicable feeling of intensity and desire. Music is such an important part of my life; it is what gets me through each day, each step; and brings the most joy into my world. Choosing to research the topic of music videos bringing the best sensations to the viewer will make me learn a lot about how such popular musicians get out of this world view counts and how they bring the public coming back to watch it again in order to have contentment in their lives.

So, how can a music video match the feeling the song gives off so that the viewer can fully experience the intentions of the artist? This is an interesting thought that really makes me eager to know because in my life span, I have seen a lot of music videos, and have found quite a lot with high views that were not comprehensible of how it was achieved. There are many reasons for this, but it triggered me to wonder how certain bands I like could improve their own videos as well.

In discovering this, I need to question secondary things as well, such as what similar musical melody techniques used in songs make the general public pleased with the song, and also what the complex formula is in pieces of artwork or film that make them activate the highest arousal and emotion. Thus, these two questions lead me to think how a person’s visual experience of watching something influences their auditory experience of hearing something. All of these questions will help me on my path in finding how to qualify a music video as “perfect.”

Section 3

There are so many factors that go into what makes a music video “worth watching.” The public has to consider the song itself, the listener, the country where it is released, the time period in which it is released, and so much more. The main experts in finding the answer to this are music video directors, the singers themselves, and oddly enough; neuroscientists.

Music video directors have hands-on experience with what to put in a music video and what not to put. They know what will make the audience want to come back to view it again. I got the amazing, phenomenal chance to interview Heejin Min, the creative director at SM Entertainment in Seoul, South Korea. She, alongside many directors in the USA, are leaders in this subject because they have the highest viewing videos on YouTube. Heejin Min has created the concepts for the album’s visual aspects for bands under SM like f(x), EXO, Red Velvet, and more, and are proven to clearly be successful as most videos she directs get about 100,000,000 views. Directors like her of successful artists are trained through their own experiences to know what’s visually appealing and what isn’t. Their study relates to my topic because through the society’s public, the video’s outcome only relies on the feedback and to see if others also conform to it, making the first video original and trendsetting. It will help me find what is successful in South Korea, but also how well it does here in the states.

The extended text by Oliver Sacks called Musicophilia was a mind opening read that helped readers realize the intense science behind our brain’s wires while enjoying music everyday. it is very important that the public acknowledges the people who have done extensive research in this topic like Sacks. He has studied the visual aspects that come in our mind when hearing music, and he also wrote about what happens when people listen to it. At first, doing this topic, I expected that I will have to do more research in media, but he was relevant to my topic more than anything else and helped me see that there is a reason why people always come back to watch a music video for a second time.

Singers themselves know how to have music videos match their vision for their album’s concept and also they help make it match their message for the song. In an article from People Magazine, they interviewed Beyonce and she talked about how she really was like on set for her music video “Lemonade.” She stated that it was simple: she was just eating good food and enjoying herself with Jay Z, as if just like it was an intimate day alone at home. In “Lemonade,” she was trying to also display strength and dignity for women by having amazing cancer survivors and other women be filmed for it. She, alongside many other musicians are able to help tell music video directors to film a certain vision the artist has for their album and thus giving an experience that matches the feeling the song gives off and matching the video.

Music videos first started to come about in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s through the channel of MTV, which helped almost enforce that musicians have music videos in order to better promote their new album/song, rather than just focusing on getting it on the radio. Most of the heavy research on music videos started around the same time. But these times have changed with technology, as the society in America is less focused on TV since everything is online, specifically YouTube. So this research has been more common in the west rather than anywhere else on the globe since America uses YouTube as such a huge outlet, and that is where the majority of popular artists release their new work. These three groups of experts are qualified in answering and finding more about how music videos are able to bring an amazing experience to the viewer and can change their life. The main source of findings for me is from music video directors, singers, and neuroscientists. They all are able to have hands-on experience with this, as it is super important to know the technicalities of music videos and the process of the artist’s’ mind as they create it, but also what goes on in our brains as we view these.

Section 4

We all listen to music occasionally, and what our favorite artists create impact us frequently. There are so many music videos out there that get a ton of views, so how do they obtain these? If you’re someone who wants to work for musicians or are a rising musician yourself, you would want to know and understand how to get a broad audience and attract the public. The two terms I will frequently be discussing are sensations; the process by which our sensory receptors and nervous system receive and represent stimulus energies from our environment, and perception; the process of organizing and interpreting sensory information, enabling us to recognize meaningful objects and events. These two terms are what really impact our experience of viewing a music video.

There are many factors that impact someone’s overall experience in a setting, and music is one of them. In an article titled “Improving the Store Environment: Do Olfactory Cues Affect Evaluations and Behaviors?” it discusses how an individual’s experience of music has many factors to it and says that researchers have investigated several dimensions of the store environment, including music, color, clutter and cleanliness, lighting, crowding, and many others (Spangenberg, Crowley, and Henderson, 1). This quote makes people realize music is a component of how individuals feel when they enter a store or certain place, which can bring them positive vibes or bad vibes based of off that.

When people see music from different parts of the world, they can see that it is becoming very westernized. An article called “The Korean Wave: An Asian Reaction to Western-Dominated Globalization,” it discussed the music scene in South Korea, as it stated “In contemporary Korean cinemas, TV dramas and pop music, globalization is also evident. The stars follow the world trend in performance, presentation and fashion, and emulate their Western compatriots. English is often used as lyrics in songs. However, the big difference is that the performers have distinct Asian physical features, and the dramas reflect the traditional Asian values and ethos, which helps to make the Asian fans feel at home. The “Asian-ness” is no longer something weird or marginal, but takes center stage. Therefore there is a sense in which the Korean Wave is a reaction of the Asian people to the West-dominated globalization in popular culture. But what distinguishes the Korean Wave from other similar phenomena, such as Bollywood and Nollywood, is the juxtaposition of globalized and traditional Korean cultures” (Kim). Reading this source, readers found out that a lot of more advanced places all around the world usually conform their own music industry as similar to the West. It shows who’s representing the world, and everyone following.

When our society is dealing with turmoil, huge musicians tend to release music protesting what’s going on, or supporting it. Fabian Holt discusses this in his recent novel Genre in Popular Music and says “In recent decades, rock/pop has become a cultural mainstream and increasingly functions as a discourse for articulating public memory of peoples and nations at major official events…” (Holt, 1). The music that gets popular makes the society move along, almost as if the songs are creating movements within times of conflict.

Popular music videos in developed countries have been starting to be very similar in the fact that they are overly sexual, and other people are conforming to this trend as well, which makes it lack room for anything original or refreshing. Richard L. Baxter, Cynthia De Riemer, Ann Landini, Larry Leslie, and Michael W. Singletary all researched the content of music videos in their journal, Electronic Media and opened minds of readers to see a common trend in new music videos when they wrote “The music video, as shown on Music Television (MTV), is a contemporary hybrid of rock music and film imagery. This study analyzed a sample of 62 MTV music videos in 23 content categories. Of the content categories studied, frequent occurrences were found in visual abstraction, sex, dance, violence, and crime. MTV sexual and violent content is characterized by innuendo and suggestiveness, perhaps reflecting MTV’s: adolescent audience appeal” (Baxter, Riemer, Landini, Leslie, & Singletary). Most American music videos show the same discrepancies of horrible things, so when a musician makes one of a change for once, it is a refreshing occurrence.

Music videos were a revolutionary addition in the way to promote new music and albums for popular artists, but also for less well-known artists, gave them an opportunity to reach for stardom as well. According to Gareth Branwyn’s analysis of the new music video scene in America, “Like all media developments before it, musical television was promoted as a revolution in popular communication. MTV would bring us compelling sounds and visions, allowing pop artists to use a wider band-width to express themselves. It would be a youth-orientated channel, that expressed their lifestyles, ideas, and concerns in a language they could relate to” (Branwyn). Back then, before media outlets like MTV and YouTube to show music videos, it was promoted on television. Comparing this to now, and how everything is so different as technology is so advanced and most music videos are not promoted on TV but rather on YouTube since most youth these days only use their phones rather than watch TV.

Even the simplest noises and sounds people hear in a song can remind them of moments in their lifetime, which can be a good or bad thing. If the technique used in the song triggers a traumatic experience they have faced, it could make them not want to listen to the song, and if they hear it and get reminded of an enjoyable moment, they would naturally return to listen again. In Wilson Kaiser’s article “Music and Visual Imagery in Frank Conroy’s BODY AND SOUL,” he writes “This pattern of the diminishment of sound and the intensification of the visual elements of the narrative accompanies Claude’s developmental insights throughout Body and Soul. Visual description often marks a trauma, but each time Claude’s musical sense returns with the added insight he has gained from his overwhelmingly imagistic experience” (Kaiser, 107). This quote mentions how the main character in the novel discussed is going through a traumatic experience and how the sounds around him will always remind him of the moment, which can conclude that the music video has to be an enjoyable experience for the listener to continue enjoying the song to have positive memories associated with it.

Artists are super talented in their field, the public can see such intricate pieces done in the the most simplest ways through these amazing people. In his book, Musicophilia, Oliver Sacks mentioned that Beethoven was deaf but after he became deaf, he made more amazing pieces of art, and after writing music, he knew the formation of music to still make pieces (Sacks). He knew music inside and out and knew how it is set up which makes me have more questions as to how long it took him to acquire this skill.

Music is found in almost every human civilization, and it is the one most thing we all have in common with each other. Aniruddh Patel made readers realize something significant special. In his book Music, Language, and The Brain, he says that language and songs define us as human. They appear in almost every culture, regardless of the society’s developmental phase (Patel). it is amazing that no matter what, or where we are in the world, people can all remember that humanity is all connected as one and music can bring us together.

There seems to be an underlying similarity in music videos, that makes people attracted to them naturally. Our eyes are naturally attracted to exciting things, and Experiencing Music Video: Aesthetics and Cultural Context, a book about filming, discussing that music videos work similar to films and other narratives in how they emphasize story or abstracting colors and movement (Vernallis). So in general music videos most people have seen also resemble this pattern as in they either have a story or dance and very nice colorful aesthetics.

Music has so many applications to it: composing, dance, and more. But all of the aspects to music is the emotion that the audience will receive from it. In the book Handbook of Music and Emotion: Theory, Research, Applications, Patrik N. Juslin and John Sloboda disclose “This volume presents an integrative review of the relationship between music and emotions. The first section reflects the various interdisciplinary perspectives, taking on board views from philosophy, psychology, musicology, biology, anthropology, and sociology. The second section addresses the role of our emotions in the composition of music, the ways that emotions can be communicated via musical structure, and the use of music to express emotions within the cinema. The third section looks at the emotions of the performer–how they communicate emotion, how their emotional state affects their performance. The final section looks at the ways in which our emotions are guided and influenced while listening to music, whether actively or passively” (Juslin and Sloboda). it is amazing how a simple tune in someone’s ear can trigger so much emotional balance to their entire body and leave them in chills.

Throughout the heavy research, the main controversies found were sexism and over sexualization in recent music videos, or intense drug use. This has become an issue because so many popular artists are no longer creating G-rated videos, which impacts the society itself and risks younger adolescents viewing them without permission. Plagiarism is also a huge issue between artists of more popular name versus less popular artists, as they are seen to be stealing or claiming work as their own, when really it isn’t.

All this research does not end here, the public still needs to dig deeper to find out how an individual’s visual experience of watching something influences their auditory experience of hearing something and how the eye and ear work together to create the “perfect” viewing experience. These are questions with no direct answer, since they would have to require an actual experiment to conclude. However, putting the pieces together about the eyes and ears during music listening can help people realize the answers.

Section 5

Through this experience, I can conclude that there are many, many factors playing into the role of a music video giving a viewer a pleasant experience. However, everyone can see that through my research and findings, the song has to sound pleasing to the public on a personal level and have techniques within its production that will leave people breathless. Political and cultural times also make certain songs rise to the top as well, showing the society’s stance on certain issues within their world. I believe that everyone has a shot at making their content successful, and trying to be more focused on what the public wants and the way it is progressing, can make it become more popular and attractive to viewers.

My opinion on this has changed quite a bit. I usually find pleasing experiences in music videos that are original and different than the norm, and what’s expected of musicians. However, through my findings, to please a large quantity of people, artists have to conform to a certain amount of checkpoints. I thought that being different would guarantee a success, but it is more based on public friendly content. Also, the most surprising fact was that there hasn’t been a research thoroughly conducted about people viewing music videos and what occurs in their brain as watching it. I was shocked and disappointed to have found none.

To come to a conclusion, individuals need to realize that each person’s music taste is different, for our mind, thoughts, experiences all have impacts on what sounds good to us and brings our brain comfort while absorbing sounds through our wonderful sense of hearing. Music videos all have different aesthetics to it, for they are all works of art no matter how odd they can get, or how controversial. If I could continue researching this this, I would definitely try to find more about the neurological and psychological aspects about music and helping people. Researchers really need to explore this further since there is a lack of attention on it. It would benefit a lot of new up and coming rising artists to grow and blossom in ways music has never done before.



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