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A MODERN SPECTATOR'S IDEOLOGY

Music therapy is one of the best recreational activities on the planet. While immersed in the music, one imagines a new world in which the song's hero or heroine is that person or a person of their choice, and he or she is orchestrating and choreographing the music. When I hear a new song, I have a satisfying experience fantasizing about my own cast and location, which is then destroyed when I see the music video for that song on television or the internet, as it does not live up to my fantasized version of that song. Similar thing happens when a book adaptation movie does not justify the book reader’s imagination and visualization of the book.

The thesis of Marsha Kinder about music video exposing “spectator relations” and how TV viewers relate to ideology and “dream” is an eye-opening piece of work with which I could relate to personally. Kinder’s argument of visuals dominating audio and music video being recollected by the viewer, instead of song itself serves as conditioning through which music videos and commercial television will encroach on the “medium of dreams” (Kinder) can be supported through various philosopher’s theories and has been proved true in most sense. The spectators today are getting molded and conditioned by music videos and commercials without being aware of it.

The above claim is supported in the documentary by Slavoj Zizek in which John Nada the protagonist found a sunglass through he could see the propaganda and publicity behind the commercial billboards and the inherent ugly side of the human nature. These billboards though their attractive cover conveys just one thing, i.e., to “OBEY” (Zizek), shows how we are being conditioned to get attracted to the products which these billboards are advertising for, without questioning or using one’s own reasoning and intellect.

The Allagory of Cave’s reference illustrates how we are becoming ignorant of the world just like the people present in the cave who only saw the shadows of their reflection and accepted it as reality and never coming outside the cave and encountering the sun and water through which are the ultimate reality of life and the source of their shadows (Mary M. Litch). Similarly, when the philosopher who went out of the cave and encountered the reality, he tried to get back to the cave to encourage people to face the reality but is met with hostility, is depicted in Slavoj’s video when John Nada fights with his friend John to wear the sunglasses in order to witness the reality. This shows us how facing of reality and truth is a difficult and painful process which one avoids at all costs.

The art today in the form of music videos have become a shallow reproduction of the principle art i.e. the music. As Paul Valery pointed out:

“Just as water, gas, and electricity are brought into our houses from far off to satisfy our needs in response to a minimal effort, so we shall be supplied with visual or auditory images, which will appear and disappear at a simple movement of the hand, hardly more than a sign” (Benjamin)

Our dreams and fantasizing while listening to music are disappearing with music videos in a matter of minutes with a minimal effort required on our part.

The thesis of Kinder is further supported by Stuart Hall’s definition of popular culture with his first meaning of the term “popular” in “popular culture” as one of wide circulation and commerciality. Subscribers of this view often tie popular culture with manipulative consumerism and regard it as falsification and even degradation of authentic working class cultural content and tradition. Stuart Hall only partially accepts this view for on the one hand it views working class members as easily manipulated passive consumers while on the other hand seeking an "authentic" or "original" working class culture which does not really exist. (Hall)

Benjamin introduces the concept of the “aura,” which he defines as the “here and now of the artwork—its unique existence in a particular place.” (Benjamin) To know Leonardo or Rembrandt, one must be in a room with their paintings. (Benjamin) Chartres exists only at Chartres. In the age of reproduction, however, aura decays. (Benjamin) When copies compete with originals, and when new works are produced with technology in mind, the old values of “creativity and genius, eternal value and mystery” fall away. Far from lamenting this development, Benjamin hails it: “For the first time in world history, technological reproducibility emancipates the work of art from its parasitic subservience to ritual.” (Ross). Benjamin’s “aura” has become redundant in today’s world of internet and is impossible for any art to stand for the “aura” defined by Benjamin. Kinder’s thesis stands opposed to Benjamin’s “aura” as Kinder talks about the aura created by ourselves whilst listening to music, whereas Benjamin talks about the “aura” created by the music itself.

The successful stint of MTV, VH1, CMT, BET, etc also negates Kinder’s thesis of distortion and manipulation of dreams because of music videos and commercials. Saul Australitz in his book has talked about how he saw music video as a fascinating oddity, capable of packing great wit, emotion, and insight into its brief span, a compelling marker of cultural history, the video emerged onto television screens nationwide and shone gloriously for a brief moment before disappearing into the remembrance of television past. (Austerlitz)

Nonetheless, I would like to conclude by saying that on most points I agree with Kinder’s thesis of music videos spoiling the experience of listening to music and serving as an intruder in our dreams but the major lacunae in Kinder’s thesis remains that cinematography and direction is also considered as a form of art which makes music videos stand on the same footing as music, hence we cannot generalize a genuine music video as manipulative. In this technologically advanced world we have to protect ourselves from becoming conditioned through manipulative commercials in order to face the reality in our fast becoming virtual reality world.

Bibliography

Austerlitz, Saul. Money for Nothing: A History of the Music Video from The Beatles to the White Stripes. New York: Bllomsbury Academic, 2008.

Benjamin, Walter. "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction." (n.d.).

Hall, Stuart. "Notes on Deconstructing "The Popular"." (n.d.).

Kinder, Marsha. "Music Video and the Spectator: Television, Ideology and Dream." University of Califorina Press, Vol. 38, No.1 (984): 2-15.

Mary M. Litch, and Amy Karosfsy. Plato's Allagory of Cave. New York, 2015.

Ross, Alex. "The Naysayers." 15 Sep 2014. The New Yorker. 18 5 2017 .

Zizek, Slavoj. "The Pervert's guide to Ideology- What is Ideology?" .

August 09, 2021
Category:

HealthMusic

Subcategory:

Mental Health

Subject area:

Music TherapySong

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