What are Literary Music Videos?

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Title: What are Literary Music Videos?
Creator: Mary S. Van Deusen and Paul R. Kosinski
Date(s): 1990s
Medium: vidding
Fandom: multi
External Links: online here; Archive
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

What are Literary Music Videos? was written by Mary S. Van Deusen.

It is an article that describes her start in vidding, song choice, point of view, and the technological challenges of the day.

Also see Making Your Own Song Tapes and My Background in Making Song Videos.


  • What are Literary Music Videos?
  • Why We Make Them and Why We Watch Them
  • Point of View
  • Getting More Complicated
  • How Complex Can They Get?
  • What are You Looking for in a Song
  • Some of My Favorites

Visual Representation of Changes In Vidding Technology

From Mary's essay:

Vidding With VCRS
Vidding With IBM 1 inch Tape Deck Reels
Digital Vidding On Computers Today


A literary music video, like a short story, has a point to make or a story to tell. It does this by either interpreting the lyrics in the context of the video, or by using the music intensity to create a coherent video story. And just as a short story can have flashbacks and points of view and timeline, so can a literary music video.
I can't really explain why song videos are so obsessive to make AND to watch, but they are. I've finished 16 hour work days and gone home to edit for another 5 hours on my personal pieces. I now know that I can edit in my sleep and I can edit on pain killers. I might not be able to think clearly but, luckily, I seem to edit the way I drive -- on instinct.

From the first videos I've made, I've received letters and calls from people who talk about the compulsion they have to watch these videos. People will break tapes or wear them out just playing them over and over again. They laugh to them, they cry to them. They seem to use them to work through emotional traumas. And when the need is past, the videos become comfortable, familiar old friends that play in the background as they grade their papers or do their daily chores.

I don't understand the intensity of the reaction that comes from adding music to a psychological theme, but I do know the intensity is there. I would love to hear from anyone who had a better handle on just what the mechanisms are that lead to this obsession for all of us.

One of the common threads I do hear is that the videos are so familiar that people know the work so well, they don't need the videos any more -- the audio is enough because they can play the video in their heads. This leads to the oft-repeated anecdote about being in a grocery store, or elevator, or anywhere music is playing, and hearing some favorite music from a song video and laughing in pleasure to realize that the people around them are only hearing the song, while they are watching it. I remember being embarrassed once by someone's praise of the work and responding awkwardly that there was an error in one clip on the master I called Blakes Seven number 2. The next day the woman called back and correctly identified the several second clip on the one hour tape. I try now to be more careful in my responses.

Song videos seem to be a pathway. They make someone want to see the episodes from which the clips are cut - to find out just WHY some provocative action takes place or just to see more of a handsome face. They certainly cause a major upsurge in interest in particular musicians and albums. The most extreme story I remember of that was early on when someone asked for a copy of my songs. I agreed to send her a tape and she squealed in excitement, saying that the very moment that it came she was going to rush right out and buy a VCR.
The limits of the complexity of song videos is only your own imagination. Song videos lend themselves to building layers of meaning. At the top layer, there is physical action that matches the words. At the next layer, there's a deeper match across the psychology of the characters or the characteristics of the show. Down even farther, what is shown can be an exact match to what was actually happening in that episode. And at the bottom, you can put in word plays, such as using scenes from an episode that has the same name as a word in the lyrics.

I've made over 300 videos and, though I do love working in a small "box", even I find the occasional need to purposely complicate the work just to make it harder. I've made song videos where I've set the requirement on myself that I would only use clips in their chronological appearance over the series. I've done "balanced" videos where the first and last scenes were naturally the same. Symbolism is also fun to work with. In Melissa Manchester's "White Rose", I use the Enterprise to symbolize the rose.

Probably my favorite technique is to continuously change the meaning of some key word. For example, in Air Supply's "Making Love Out of Nothing At All", just what it means to "make love out of nothing" varies over the length of the song, as does the phrase, "Turn it off" over Phil Collin's "Long, Long Way To Go."