In the 1980’s I remember seeing my first music video, Men At Work’s “Who Can It Be Now?” I was fascinated by the medium and was amazed at the potential for a really amazing new art form just coming into existence. Sadly, music videos still do not come close to the kind of independent art form their initial introduction promised. The art form has stuck to a simple formulaic version that serves primarily to market a pop (or country, rap, etc.) song. While some of these can be incredibly powerful, a true visual/audio art form that marries beautiful music and sounds of many other kinds with stunning images is rarely seen, and often times only comes as a small passage in an otherwise scripted movie.
A major reason this format hasn’t really reached it’s full potential is the simple fact that it costs a lot of money to produce a music video. First you have to write the music, then record it (to a professional level), and then create and produce the video. Another reason: Does it have any value? You spend a lot of money, but unlike other investments, how does it pay off? If you paint, sculpt, take photographs, you can sell your work, or at least hope you can. And if you can’t, hopefully your financial investment wasn’t that significant anyway. And even if it doesn’t sell (or if you don’t care about selling), you do it because you’re an artist, you like doing it, and it doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg to produce it.
The concept of a music video, marrying music with visual imagery, brings me to the subject of a different, yet similar kind of art form: a Verse Video. By Verse Video, I mean marrying poetry, short prose (or, putting all these written formats into a single concept of “verse”) with accompanying video imagery. I’m sure this has been done many times before by many poets, writers and artists, but I haven’t seen the term used before, nor have I seen examples (though I’m sure they exist). I’ve been creating some of these Verse Videos recently from some Dr. Seuss-like, social commentary verse I wrote and realized how much fun it was putting it all together (and finally getting to use my dormant USC film school skills). And realizing I’ve just never seen stuff like this before. So, maybe I’m going out on a limb with the Verse Video concept, and if If I’m late to the game and someone beat me to it, well, fine.
What I think can be one of the more remarkable elements of Verse Video is the (small d) democratic nature of the art form. The cost of writing short verse is basically a non-factor. And, in today’s world of iPhones and iMovie, creating a decent video is just a matter of use and practice (and, of course, artistry – just because you can do it doesn’t mean it will be good). Of course it also requires creating the video, which is not difficult if you know how to use an iPhone for photo or video. Plus, there is a vast amount of free visuals available simply by searching Google.
Poets are always writing poetry, and, if they get the chance to read their verse to an audience, or conversely, make a recording. As a writer, you can’t determine if the reader will emphasize the same way as you intended, will have the same inflection, cadence or beat. So with Verse Video, the poet can speak words as she intended, then create imagery that will (hopefully) illuminate and enhance the ideas/concepts behind the words.
At this point, it’s worth mentioning that there will likely be plenty of writers who will say that adding visuals to the written word is blasphemy, as the words themselves are meant to inspire individual imagery within the mind of the reader. No doubt that is true. It’s why we write. But it doesn’t have to stop there. Creating Verse Videos is not heretical. It’s just another branch, another form, that an artist can choose to create, or not.
So, I guess the whole point of this is that maybe we’re on to something here. Maybe Verse Video can be an art form separate in itself, something interested viewers can see on YouTube, or whatever other medium might exist for the viewing. In any case, it’s something I’ve had fun doing recently and intend to continue doing.