Visual + Sound + Text

A Jouney into Music Videos

OverviewBalletTheaterLive PerformanceArt


I began this project with the intentions of solely looking at the culumitive text that is formed when both the visual and sound portions of a music video are experienced together, when they form a text that neither can tell seperate of the other. In doing so, I ran across the trouble of distinguishing the different types of music videos. I had to ask myself, how could I read into music videos to find text when not all music videos want to be a full text? Some are simply fun or intentionally made to be without meaning beyond the song.

The song "Video Killed the Radio Star" by Buggles tries to place the blame of the culture of radio music's downfall on music videos, the act of being seen. But music wasn't always an anonymous process. Before things could be recorded and played back, they had to be performed. Often, this meant performing in front of a live audience because they would be unable to hear it outside of the performance, and that got me thinking about other kinds of performances

We didn't move from radio and eight tracks to music videos as a linear progression. Music videos draw more from four different types of performances beyond the medium of the song by itself. For this, I've narrowed it down to ballet (or interpretive dance), theater and musicals, live performance, and art. While some may blend two or more, there are still plenty that are direct media evolutions from these types of performances.


I use ballet as the name for this category due to the history and context of ballet's stories and music. While other forms of dances may tell stories, they are not intrisically linked to storytelling as ballet is.

For example, Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake is perhaps the most well known ballet. It incorperates complex and dynamic music along with the intensive choreography of the dancers to tell a story about a tragic love. In music videos, like Sia's "The Greatest", we see dance with the intention of telling a very specific story.


Theater and musicals use music to help tell their stories, though the extent differs as musicals are intrinsically linked with music at their core where a theater performance could go without music and not be entirely changed. Still, I use the term theater rather than musical because in music videos that are directly showing you the story they portray, not all the characters are lipsyncing to the music, acting rather than singing.

Live Performance

Live performance style music videos are a little more akin to the predecessor of the music track. These music videos will simply use a stylized performance that simulates a live performance to use as a music video. Often, this type is combined with the others as watching a band just stand and perform the song can become visually boring.


Artistic music videos can be summed up as "because I can." Things like the entirety of Ok Go's music videos are simply for the challenge of "can I do this?" Others include kinetic typography, visually pleasing but abstract animations, or try to turn the medium of music videos on its head, rejecting what it is or playing with expectations.

Music Tells Story

When I say that the music and video create a new text when combined, it can be hard to think about as we typically experience both at the same time, and whenever we do experience them seperately, the combined version can sometimes feel wrong. To end this introduction, I present this video, one that the text has changed completely by the change of the music.