Every American under 40 grew up in a world where music and video images were inextricably linked. So it stands to reason that Carnegie Mellon's high-tech, media-savvy College of Fine Arts would eventually offer a class specifically about music videos.
Associate art professor Susie Silver says students are surprised to learn how early the form originated: movie-musical choreographer Busby Berkeley; World War II jukebox films; Nam June Paik and Kenneth Anger in the '60s; even Abba's "pop promos" in the 1970s. Although the familiar TV format began in 1975 when Queen filmed a video for "Bohemian Rhapsody" to avoid miming the song on Top of the Pops, the golden age emerged with MTV in 1981.
In addition to music-video production, Silver's course encourages analysis and critique. "We talk about where lines of high art and low culture exist [and] deal with race, class and sexuality -- what's really being represented, and what is it trying to get to you to desire?"
In their first assignment, the ten students repurposed found sounds and images to develop a cohesive rhythm. The second task involved off-campus musicians.
Caitlin Boyle, Tara Helfer and Nick Delrose collaborated with local indie band Harangue on its song, "Wisteria," rotoscoping the group's green-screen antics with images of flowers and buildings for an animated effect hearkening back to A-ha's "Take On Me." Jen Inman's abstract composition accompanies a live recording by electronic experimentalists Margaret Cox and Michael Johnsen, while Ben Welmond, Matt Sandler and Lara Mann figuratively inserted rapper E-Nyse (a CMU sophomore from Brooklyn) into a cage with various animals (none of which were harmed).
"The hamster wasn't very cooperative, though -- he wouldn't stay still for more than a second," recalls Welmond.
The third assignment, which the students are currently completing, is open-ended -- Boyle is working again with Harangue's Matt McDermott, while her partners storyboard a video for New York 8-bit band Anamanaguchi, which performed at CMU on March 23. The results will be revealed in a free screening at 7 p.m. Fri., May 7, at Brillobox. (Silver says under-21s are allowed in the club until 9 p.m.)
Silver intends to provide the course annually, and hopes it'll help solve the self-imposed isolationism CMU kids seem to have. "I've had students tell me they've never been further than Craig Street!" she says. "I want them to negotiate their creative process with other people, and see how that works, because they'll have to do more and more of that in their lives after school."
For more information, visit www.cmumusicvideo.wordpress.com.