Music Video

3 First Complex Combinations of Film and Music

Thanks to the Chronophonograph by the French engineer and film pioneer Léon Gaumont, by late 1902 it was possible to create rather complex combinations of image and sound, which approached the lip-synching technique used to produce video clips today. The phonoscène for the song Anna, qu’est-ce tu t’attends; ou, Vas-y, ma poule (1907), produced by Gaumont and directed by Alice Guy (1873–1968), should thus be considered a direct forerunner to the music video. The action described in the song lyrics (an impatient husband demanding that a woman hurry up with her domestic chores) is interpreted in scenes in which the absurd consequences of male nervousness and hectic rushing are brought home. Long before the first full-length musical film, The Jazz Singer by Alan Crosland (US 1927), which established the genre of the cinematic musical, the complex possibilities of intertwining an action, music, and sung text had already been explored. Combining music with dance interludes as a truly film-specific staging was developed in musical films such as Footlight Parade (US 1933, dir. Lloyd Bacon). In sequences like By a Waterfall, Busby Berkeley choreographed the movements of the dances into abstract or floral arrangements that recall Oskar Fischinger’s Studies. The formal idiom developed in that series of abstract films was influential on the esthetic of the music video as was the exact synchronization to the rhythms of the music. Moreover, Fischinger often used popular hits as the music. In his Study 2 (DE 1930), set to the song Vaya Veronica, the final credits included a reference to the recording and its availability in stores, which prefigured the commercial function of the music video. The music video likewise would serve as a place for technical and esthetic experimentation for things that would later be used successfully in feature films.