Toward an integration of musicological methods into fan video studies

Sebastian F. K. Svegaard

Birmingham City University, Birmingham, United Kingdom

[0.1] Abstract—Methods are emerging regarding the analysis of fan videos and vidding. In an expansion of existing analytical methods, I add musical analysis to the repertoire. Assessing music on a deeper, more conscious level takes into account the affective contributions of music in vids, as well as how elements of music contribute to the structuring and creation of vids—for example, in how mood and tone of voice influence the emotional impact of a vid, and in how both rhythm and instrumentation are used by vidders in their creative process. This analytical method opens up a new and fruitful understanding of the art of vidding, the vids themselves, and the vids' creators.

[0.2] Keywords—Audiovisual music; Fan vid; Method; Music; Music analysis; Musicology; Textual analysis; Vidding; Vids

Svegaard, Sebastian F. K. 2019. "Toward an Integration of Musicological Methods into Fan Video Studies." Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 30.

1. Introduction

[1.1] Vids are a relatively small area of studies within the field of fan studies, but they are also a growing one. As such, it is timely to take a look at the ways we study vids. I am particularly interested in looking at how fan studies has so far analyzed vids as texts, with the specific aim of extending such analyses by taking music into account. It is impossible to divorce music from the multimedia experience of watching a vid, especially given music's ability to affect an audience member's emotional response. Yet there is a gap (one I hope to begin to fill here) in the existing vid scholarship with regard to music—something other scholars have also been trying to address, notably Tisha Turk (2015) and Nina Treadwell (2018).

2. Vids

[2.1] Vids are short remix videos made by media fans. As Francesca Coppa (2008) has pointed out, vids present an argument and are a narrative art form distinct from commercial music videos and from other forms of remix video and fan-produced video content. Vids' boundaries are as blurry as any other genre divide, though it is possible to identify vids on the basis of generic conventions of aesthetics as well as creator position and intent. Drawing on the scholarship on fan vids, I here fuse existing analytical methods with methods drawn from research I have conducted on audiovisual music. The resulting method is a form of textual analysis that synthesizes tools from several different analytical modes. Of course, there is research into aspects of vids and vidding that do not rely on textual analysis, including work regarding vidding history, vid dissemination and reception, and sociological approaches to vidding culture. However, such topics are outside my scope here, where I focus strictly on an examination and expansion of textual analysis of vids.

[2.2] Textual analysis is itself a wide-ranging category that incorporates and uses a number of different approaches, and it is a common mode of analysis in fan studies. As Steve Bailey notes, textual analysis is an approach to fan works that is "particularly critical in providing a strong sense of the semiotic contours of the fan's symbolic world" (2005, 51). Further, Alan McKee (2007) argues that scholars must take fan works as seriously as we take any other text. Vids are fruitful to study at the textual level for several reasons. They are poststructural artworks; they literally deconstruct a text to examine, reconfigure, and analyze. The argument has even been made that vids contain elements of critique regardless of their actual narrative content (Lothian 2015). This deconstructive property, along with the fact that the vid can illustrate a fan's path through the text (Gray 2010), even directing the way the vidder herself reads and/or analyzes the text, makes textual analysis particularly productive as a method for vid analysis. If vids are understood as a form of analysis and/or directed reading, then applying textual analysis means using a method that is analogous to the way vids themselves work. We can thus read with the vid and the vidder, and try to follow the paths they signal to us (note 1).

[2.3] Especially in such a relatively small area of study as that of vids and vidding, it is not surprising that methods are still developing and emerging (Evans and Stasi 2014). While vids were mentioned at least as early as 1992 by both Camille Bacon-Smith and Henry Jenkins, a focus on vids as a research subject within fan studies may likely be dated to 2008, with the publication of Francesca Coppa's foundational work in the area. Despite the relatively short time that vids have been the focus of specific scholarship, some methodological commonalities and trends have emerged.

[2.4] Among previously published vid research, several texts analyze vids on the basis of lyrics and image together, and most of these also mention music without going into detail about it. This lack likely reflects the backgrounds of the scholars performing the analysis. Present-day fan studies has contributors from many fields, though these fields' impact is not evenly distributed, with some fields better represented than others. Musicology, where I have my background, is one of the fan studies fields with a gap in the existing scholarship—one I hope to address here. Past analyses read image and lyrics together as they match up in the vids under discussion, a method that has yielded some rich and influential work. Lyrics can be understood as standing in for the music to a certain degree, as they are often an integral part of the music half of vids. However, more may be found in the music when we include the sound as well—something that becomes especially clear when we consider that there are vids that use music without lyrics. Such vids still communicate to their audiences, so music and images can be enough on their own for a vid to be successful as art and as communication. But it is time for the scholarly field of vidding to start looking more, and differently, at what music contributes to vids and to the process of vidding. As Turk notes, "Vids are not about music in the way commercial music videos are," but "the soundtrack to a vid is not simply background music; it is integral to vidders' creative process and central to vids' rhetorical and emotional effects on their audience" (2015, 164).

[2.5] Despite these similarities in method, the details in how the lyrics-and-images approach is used vary, not least because of the different research focuses. As Charlotte Stevens (2015) has pointed out, a small canon exists of vids that have been the subjects of academic research; some of these vids show up in multiple scholarly works. Yet the aims and details of this research differ even though the material may overlap. These previous studies have close readings of lyrics and images as a common factor. For instance, Louisa Ellen Stein (2010) deploys such a reading, describing parts of the two vids she is analyzing in terms of visual action matching the lyrics. From this, she interprets the vids and notes what she perceives they are accomplishing. Stein mentions that the music is a part of setting the mood for one of the vids she discusses, but she does not elaborate on how this specifically plays out in the vid. However, music greatly affects audience members' readings of an audiovisual text, as well as their affective response to and immersion in such a text.

[2.6] Another close reading is that of Alexis Lothian (2015), who discusses one vid at length while drawing on a few others, providing brief examples of lyrics-and-images moments to show vidders' response to concerns about copyright. Lothian remarks on the dance beat of the song—and that the vid premiered at Club Vivid, a dance night at Vividcon, a vidding convention—to illustrate her point. Lothian's method of focusing on one vid with a strong argument, then using vids with similar points to expand on her analysis, is useful for working with vids' messages or narrative content. Because these vids have a narrative mode in common, Lothian shows that we can look at similar and contrasting ways of creating and framing any kind of argument communicated in vids, and how it is relevant to compare several vids when doing so.

[2.7] Coppa (2009) uses a different method to explore the path taken by vidders through the tropes of popular culture as explored in the vid "A Fannish Taxonomy of Hotness" by the Clucking Belles (2005). Coppa's analysis rests on an overview of what the vid is and does, with a wealth of examples drawn from particular clips in the vid. This method of giving the outline of a vid in a reading that is still close to the text but not quite as detail oriented is also one that appears in the analyses mentioned above. Coppa (2011) uses the same method elsewhere, though with shorter analyses of a selection of critical vids. Both articles have in common that they show the unique and vital role of women and feminism in vidding. Coppa's concern therefore crosses into fandom history and the role of women in that history. Sarah Fiona Winters (2012) uses a similar method to explore what two vids, "Closer," created by T. Jonesy and Killa (2004,, and "On the Prowl," created by sisabet and sweetestdrain (2010,, say about fandom. She describes a particular way that these fans engage with and reflect on a text. Both articles still use lyrics-and-images-focused analytical tools, though they use them for a different purpose and by a different mode of reading than do Stein (2010) and Lothian (2015). The difference is mainly in the relative closeness of the reading versus expanding the view into wider vidding/fandom culture, practice, and history.

[2.8] This representative previous research makes it possible to draw a preliminary conclusion that textual analyses of vids have so far primarily focused on lyrics and images, with scholars using this method to address different aspects of vids, vidders, and vid readings, as well as analyzing varying corpus sizes. These articles do indeed mention music in some capacity, albeit in passing, and recognize music's importance, but they do not further delve into the role of music. The strength of these close readings is their attention to detail, which can show a vid's excellence or a vidder's craft, and the way in which the elements of a vid come together to form a whole, which is more or different than the sum of its parts.

[2.9] To go beyond the lyrics-and-images focus of previous scholarship, we must expand our methods to include the nature of the music itself—that is, we need a musicological focus. An analysis of bironic's fan vid "The Greatest" (2018) provides a practical example (note 2). This multisource vid explores and celebrates characters of color in horror, science fiction, and fantasy over approximately the last decade of film and TV. With more than a hundred sources, the vid could easily have been confusing to view, but it is structured along thematically similar clips. Further, the clips are also structured so that the themes they examine correspond to the affective impact of the music.

Video 1. "The Greatest," multisource fan vid created by bironic for resolute (2018). One of the subtitle tracks lists each source as it plays.

[2.10] The vid's song, Sia's "The Greatest" (2016), has a melancholic note to it as well as moments of defiance, but it rises throughout to become triumphant before it fades out. bironic uses this to construct a vid that feels narratively whole: the visuals progress from fighting, to resistance, to love and kindness, and to triumphing over even death, before showing that happiness is possible in the end. bironic uses the different elements of the song to different effect—note, for example, the way bironic uses the soft B section, which focuses on the lyrics "don't give up," versus the way the vidder uses the (increasingly) powerful chorus with its central line, "I'm the greatest." The B section sounds soft, sad, and melancholic, in symmetry with the lyrics, and bironic uses this to illustrate sorrow and loss, but also to illustrate how people can come together to overcome them. These are scenes of reaching out to one another, crying together, comforting one another, even holding a dead or dying loved one. The tone of the music in these pieces lends itself well to this. It is soft, contemplative, and melancholy—moods mirrored by the characters' moods. In contrast, the chorus, which revolves around the words "the greatest," shows the many ways characters show greatness. The chorus adds power by following softer, melancholy sections and by contrasting with the subdued, then powerful, vocals, along with a shift from a minor to a major chord as the transition happens, strengthening the shift from a feeling of longing to one of triumph. This, along with a rise in dynamics as well as in the amount of instrumentation used, creates an overall rising effect, implying strength and power while still maintaining the note of longing.

[2.11] The final chorus, which leads into the repeated "the greatest" that makes up the outro of the song, is especially strong. The effect of this final chorus is enhanced by its following a musically subdued rap, then kicking in with the full orchestration of the piece—something the vid echoes with a shot of Quake (Chloe Bennet) from Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013–) breaking out of her rock chrysalis as the chorus explodes after the subdued B section preceding it. It opens with a montage of triumph that rides on the rush of the music as the chorus begins. The combined effect is powerful in the way that a well-performed march can be a call to battle. Yet here we are called to celebrate—and also to fight for more of what we are seeing in the vid: characters of color triumphing.

[2.12] Although an impressive collection of characters and texts is included in the vid, it also illustrates the continuing disparity in casting in Western media in general by drawing attention to the many minor and one-off characters who are included. The vid also accomplishes this in part through music. By leading us to empathize with the characters, to feel their grief and joy, to be thrilled when we see scenes of triumph and overcoming obstacles, we celebrate them all, minor characters as well as leads, which also leads us to crave more of them—in turn revealing another message from the vid: that more characters of color are needed in popular culture. The vid affectively guides us via the use of music along with the images, and therein lies its power.

3. Audiovisual music

[3.1] This analysis of "The Greatest" is based on work done on audiovisual music, to which I now turn. Turk's (2015) work on integrating the understanding and analysis of music further into the study of vids is groundbreaking because it provides precedence for how to accomplish an expansion of vid analysis that more fully accounts for the role of music. Turk explains the centrality of song choice to vidders as part of the vidding process, referring to it as "generative" (2015, 165). She shows the importance of song to vidding choices, including editing and mood setting, and she shows how vidders are aware of and utilize musical structure and terminology. Finally, Turk demonstrates that it is not only visuals that are transformed in the vid's remix but also music (note 3). The music takes on new meaning by being set to images that were previously unassociated with it. Turk's point about the transformation of the music feeds into her larger point, one crucially important to vidders, fan advocates, and legal scholars: the need for and appropriateness of copyright exemption for vidders. In the United States, such exemption hinges on the notion of transformation. The legal advocacy work done by the Organization for Transformative Works ( is based on the premise that vids are visually transformative. But what about the auditory side? Because vidders usually use music without significantly altering it—as opposed to the obvious cutting and remixing of visuals—the fact that music is transformed by being part of a Gesamtkunstwerk is a vital point in arguing for fair use regarding vids. (The legal aspect of vids, vidding, and music is outside my scope and expertise here.)

[3.2] For the purpose of exploring methodology, the main point to be taken from Turk (2015) is that there is much to be gained for vid studies by looking toward musicology for added methods to include in our analytical toolbox. As Turk points out, although music is almost always mentioned in vid research, we can expand further into music analysis and gain much from it. Vidders are aware of the functions of music, and they use music in their creative process (Turk 2015). Indeed, in my experience, vidders speak of finding their song first, with it being the spark or idea—the generative aspect. Likewise, vidders agree that they cannot start work on a vid until they decide on a song. The song is vital for editing where beat and instrumentation are important, but it is vital also for the kind of emotional engagement that vidders wish to communicate. I turn now to a (necessarily brief) look at existing scholarship into audiovisual music, especially music that plays a part in furthering a narrative for an audience. The narrative and affective properties of audiovisual music have been studied more within film music scholarship than in related areas such as art video or music video studies, which might on the surface appear to be more applicable to vidding than film. (It seems that the musical gap in vid studies is also present in these areas.) I therefore draw on the methods of film music scholarship in what follows.

[3.3] Within musicology and film/television studies, diverging views exist on exactly how the audience experiences an audiovisual soundtrack, and what the roles of images and music are in relation to one another and as a whole. Claudia Gorbman (1987) argues that music in film works because it is heard (as opposed to seen)—or rather, not quite heard—and notes that since Plato, music has been considered to have a more direct access to our emotions than any other art form. Her claim rests on a psychoanalytical approach as well as the idea that hearing is less immediate, or lazier, than sight, and thus easily slips into the background and into our subconscious. Kathryn Kalinak (1992) agrees, although without using the same theoretical framework. Instead, she bases her arguments in the history of acoustics and classic film music. Another key point is that music and image in a film have "mutual implication" in terms of narrative power, and that any music applied to film will "do something" (Gorbman 1987, 15). Kalinak (1992) also points to an affective link between what is seen and what is heard—an influence that goes both ways. She also speaks of a projection from the aural realm onto the visual field, and of the associative power of music to make us recall visual input—all of which Turk (2015) applies to vids. This mutual implication shows us that music influences how we read the images in a vid, and vice versa: we cannot fully understand one without the other. (This mutual implication further backs the case for vids' being transformative for their music source.)

[3.4] These two points are crucial to an understanding of what music does or contributes in vids. Mutuality is crucial to the reading of any vid. That music definitely does something is why song choice is vital to both the creation and reception of a vid. It may be viewed as something of a paradox that film music is sometimes referred to as unheard (indeed, Gorbman's 1987 book is titled Unheard Melodies) or considered to be music that is supposed to be unremarkable. Although I disagree in general with the assumption that audiovisual music is unheard or unremarkable, I paradoxically use this theory as a foundation when I want to listen more, and to listen with more intent, especially when considering music in vids, which is so vital to the vidding process and which is definitely intended to be heard, to the point that instrumental details and single words take on vital roles. If fan studies academics hear but do not consciously listen to what the music contributes, then are we truly hearing it?

[3.5] Vids have the power to make the audience react emotionally, and music must be part of how and why this happens. Yet discussing music and what it does is difficult. What we can do, however, is express our emotional responses, which often link, directly or indirectly, to music. Comments and feedback on fan vids do not always make such links explicit, but commenters pointing out moments that were satisfying, or where sound and image synched up particularly well, are common, as are comments on how a vid makes someone feel—about the vid, the canon, the characters, or the wider subject matter. This ability to engage the audience emotionally is the central reason why we need to think more about music; music has strong affective properties, and that which is not consciously heard is still (subconsciously) influential. The methods used to study film music are therefore relevant to the study of fan vids because film music is explicitly meant to influence the audience's emotions and affective responses. Further, film music is created to further a narrative, which relates to the narrative and argumentative nature of vids (Coppa 2008). As fan works, vids are affective; they are created to share fan responses and feelings with other fans.

[3.6] Musical analysis can take many forms; it can study written music on its own, or it can address performance practice or study the sound. Some of these focus on what music does and how it is used (including emotional effects); others are more interested in the formal construction of music. The former can be said to be focused on the performative and affective aspects of music, whereas the latter is more concerned with music as an entity in and of itself, rather like the study of grammar or textual form. Both could be applied to vids, but my approach uses the former, more ethnographically informed mode of analysis. (If using the latter, it would isolate the music from the vid, thus defeating vids' very purpose—and mine with this article.) I also use this approach because the affective aspects of music are analyzed here, and fandom is, as Stein (2015) notes, a "feels" culture, where emotional responses and the sharing of them are central. Vids are intended to communicate emotions as part of their narrative.

[3.7] As noted above, previous scholarship on vids has focused on the lyrics-and-images moments of the texts being analyzed. I add to this a third element: music. On a formal level, most of the film music scholarship I use to construct my method focuses on sound, aided by some sheet music study as a form of written documentation of the sounds; the scholarship rarely delves into studying written music as a primary focus. As such, this music analysis is interested in what music does when heard and what it contributes in an audiovisual context. It is less interested in the formal aspects, such as tonality or melodic structure, outside the affective influences stemming from these. For example, the scholarship in film music includes work dedicated to the meaning of particular types of music or instrumentation, such as the military inflections of a march, the heroics of horns, and the soft intensity of strings (Gorbman 1987; Kalinak 1992). However, I am more interested in considering music as a narrative and affective force in vids. Examples of this form of analysis applied to film can be found in, among others, the work of Claudia Gorbman (1987, 2006), Anahid Kassabian (2001, 2013), and Ronald Rodman (2006).

[3.8] Of these film music scholars, Kassabian (2013) is of particular interest because she is specifically interested in the affective aspect of music—not only within an audiovisual source but also in how we, as human beings living in an age where music is ever present, relate to music, including reflections on music as an identity marker. Music is often used by people within Western culture (a transcultural approach is beyond my remit here) to relate to one another, as evidenced by music preference being common on dating profiles, or as icebreakers and topics of small talk. Not much research currently exists that goes into why or how vidders select the music for their vids, although Turk (2015) touches on this, noting that vidders choose songs on the basis of personal taste and suitability for their project. Indeed, as Turk and Johnson (2012) show, reading vids within a particular fandom is based on a communal knowledge and understanding of text. The shared skill of vid watching includes reading and understanding the clips, with watchers noting the clips' original context, the lyrics, the music, and the new narrative being constructed, all at the same time. It is a specialized and demanding mode of reading, a literal "blink and you'll miss something." Of course, as they construct their own narrative or story, sometimes vids will use clips to signify something outside their original context—for example, repurposing a clip to illustrate something that never happened in the canonical text. Academic readings of vids are largely analogous to this fannish approach, meaning that vid scholars are directly building on fan practice and knowledge.

[3.9] There are particularly strong parallels between the use of preexisting music in film (a praxis sometimes colloquially, and datedly, termed a "needle drop"), especially popular music, that provides the soundtrack to the majority of vids and the use of music in vids (Duffett 2014). While the previously mentioned scholarship has primarily dealt with compositions created for a specific film, film music scholarship also exists on the use of preexisting music in film, some of which is collected in Phil Powrie and Robynn Stilwell's aptly named edited volume, Changing Tunes: The Use of Pre-existing Music in Film (2006). Its chapters explore this theme in various ways, especially Ronald Rodman's exploration of popular songs as leitmotifs and Vanessa Knights's work on the queerness of mismatched gender between the voice in a song and the perceived gender of the performer. Rodman likens the relationship with specific songs in certain films to the use of leitmotifs (originally popularized by Wagner in his operas), such as those used by John Williams. However, Rodman also notes that the ways popular songs signify a character are different than other forms of scoring. Style and associations with the songs play into the audience's perception of a character. His example is Vincent Vega (John Travolta) from Pulp Fiction (1994). He also shows how this can be true with an entire film, as per Iggy Pop and (especially) "Lust for Life" in Trainspotting (1996), a film that also uses different music styles for each of its characters in order to tell us something more about them. The way songs are linked to public perception of a character or film in Rodman's work has an analogy in vid watching, where repeated viewings of a vid can lead audiences (as per my own experience) to associate a song with a character or text.

[3.10] The key to vid analysis's being a simultaneous reading of both image and sound leads me directly to another key scholar. Michel Chion (1994) is interested in the ways music directly interacts with images. He claims that there is no soundtrack and film but rather that both must be considered as a whole. The same is true for vids: consider the moments when the audience member (and the vidder) feels that a particular match of image, sound, and lyrics is particularly well created. Chion uses the term "synchresis" to refer to the vertical coreading of sound and image (and, for fan vids, I would argue, lyrics) as they happen together. Chion poetically refers to it as "the forging of an immediate and necessary relationship between something one sees and something one hears" (1994, 5).

[3.11] To turn to my exemplar text, this forging perfectly encapsulates bironic's matching moments of rising, stretching wings, and exploding out of bonds to a rising musical moment in "The Greatest." Such a relationship can also be applied to moments where the image and the lyrics show the same thing, thereby expressing a literalism. In "The Greatest," such instances are clearly seen in the rapped section of the vid, where literal matches appear. The words "pay dues" aptly illustrate a clip of Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) from the film Black Panther (2018) as he cries at the memory of his father's death—a scene where paying your dues to your ancestors is in play in several levels of the plot. But the clip alludes to more than this text; it could also be seen as drawing on Jordan's past appearances in the TV serial The Wire (2002–8) and the film Creed (2015), where his characters have similar responsibilities to pay their dues and live up to paternal names and expectations. This clip therefore functions as both literal and symbolic literalism at once. Such matches make up much of how vids are created and read.

4. Audiovisual analysis

[4.1] What remains to be explored here is what this analytical approach actually does, and how it differs from and adds to existing methods. This may be illustrated by some exemplary moments that will show the importance of music in vid analysis.

[4.2] On the level of editing, vidders use rhythm as an editing tool (Coppa 2008; Turk 2015). However, instrumentation is used as well. Vidders will match visual movement to a riff, or they will make an effect or impactful moment match an auditory effect, such as the crash of a drum. This may extend to matching one instrument to another, often similar, instrument being played on screen (note 4), or even, though rarely, implying that drawn-out vocals are sung not by the song's vocalist but by someone in the vid. Shorter vocal matches may also occur, but these are harder to spot because of the quick pace of vid editing. Although these examples may not add to a deep understanding of the meaning or narrative of a vid, they are testament to the skill, technical knowledge, and creativity of the vidder, as well as to the level of detail that goes into the production of vids—not just the details in the visual editing but also the care that goes into the use of music. They may also serve as part of setting the mood for a vid, as such effects can be used humorously or seriously. There is a world of difference between signaling a character's proficiency with a musical instrument and lip-synching an "aaaaah" to someone who might in fact have been screaming or laughing in the clip's original context. Although such effects are rare in vidding, they are a particularly visually strong use of music and therefore worth emphasizing.

[4.3] As I note above, the mood or tone of a song profoundly influences the production and reception of a vid. Turk (2015), for example, shows how vidders consider the particular fit of a song to their vid idea. When watching a vid, mood and tone are important in understanding its narrative. For some vids, this may be more significant than for others. In vids such as "Women's Work," by Luminosity and sisabet (2007,, the anger performed in the song, especially in the voice of singer Courtney Love (singing "Violet," 1994, as a member of the group Hole), is important: this vid is not a celebration of the moments of violence toward women presented in the vid but rather a critique of it, as well as a reflection of the anger felt by many fans toward such treatment of female characters. Likewise, it is hard to imagine a deeply felt shipping vid that does not use a song with a fitting emotional impact. In character study vids, the song acts as a window into the emotional inner life of the character, and the mood is as important to take into consideration as the lyrics. Is this a person who feels profound sadness, or is it someone who is essentially an optimist? The music will guide that understanding. Are we in the territory of melancholy singer-songwriters or upbeat dance music? This is not (just) about genre, though genre factors into it, but about tone of voice, style of singing, key, instrumentation, beat, production, orchestra size, presence of backing vocals—in other words, every detail of a piece of music. What I am here referring to as mood may also influence vidding down to small moments; dynamics and instrumentation also influence vidding production, and this is reflected in mood as well. When a song swells (when the dynamics increase), it is natural for the vid to rise in intensity too, and when it becomes quieter, the vid follows. The affective relationship between vid and audience here becomes particularly poignant. Songs that increase in intensity toward a climax, such as a power ballad or a hard rock anthem, do so in a similar manner, but with a different emotional impact: listening to Whitney Houston is not the same experience as listening to Rage against the Machine, even if the songs these two artists are known for rise in intensity in analogous ways. Even two recordings of the same orchestral piece can have different emotional impacts—not to mention what happens with cover versions of songs.

[4.4] The problem with analyzing music is that it is hard to quantify a mood or an emotional impact; we do not all experience a song the same way—although some basics will almost always be at the very least similar. For example, a romantic ballad may be joyful or melancholy to listeners based on their life experiences or current mood, but listeners will not be likely to understand the song as communicating anger. This links back to what Gorbman (1987), writing within the context of Western art music, explores regarding the universality of some musical experiences. But differing readings of a text are hardly unheard of; certainly we are generally unused to considering music in this way, although we do it with literature and film all the time. Conflicting interpretations of other forms of art coexist within both the academy and the wider world, not necessarily easily or harmoniously, but we recognize that multiple readings are possibly, perhaps even simultaneously, valid. This must be true for music as well. When considering a vid, which can (and perhaps should) be understood as a Gesamtkunstwerk, it is not remarkable that interpretations may differ among the audience, and that the impact of the music can be part of this. In other words, although such differing interpretations should be taken into consideration, they do not invalidate the importance of music to understanding vids.

[4.5] Before finishing this brief rundown of how music analysis can add to vid analysis, I want to mention voice specifically. This topic deserves more exploration than I have been able to afford it so far because it is how the lyrics, one of the three parts of a vid, are communicated. Voice is a particularly interesting aspect of music, and in vidding, it plays a unique role. As Turk (2015) notes, the "I" in a song becomes the de facto "I" of the character in focus in a vid, and as Turk also points out, some vidders will choose a cover of a song to match the gender of the voice of their protagonist. This demonstrates the importance of point of view in a vid song as well as the importance of congruence in the portrayal of characters. However, sometimes the genders of the song's "I" and the vid's "I" do not match. Vanessa Knights (2006) explores what happens when song gender and performer gender do not match, and while she focuses on lip-syncing and sing-alongs in film, there are parallels to be made to vids. Knights refers to the effect of this as the song's being "transexuated," although I think a better term for the effect might be cross-voicing, as this is more a case of gender play (or trouble) and not about a shift in the performer's gender identity. What does it mean if Iron Man expresses his inner life through the voice of Regina Spector? Is this significantly different from when his voice is that of Steve Tyler? What does it mean if I know of more vids where he has a female voice than I know of vids where Captain America does? Gender is something that vidders take care to match between singer and character, so it begs a closer look when they do not do so. Which types of characters are cross-voiced, and how? Are there are any patterns pointing toward different masculinities and femininities being explored in the vids in question, while taking into account voices that defy gender stereotypes, such as countertenors, and voices that belong to transgender or nonbinary artists? This topic deserves more analysis than I can provide here.

5. Conclusion

[5.1] Adding music to critical examinations of vids opens up a whole new dimension of analysis; it includes a vital aspect of vids and vidding that has been too little dealt with. Adding musicological methods adds another tool to the toolbox of fan studies scholars. Vid viewers all read differently, but discounting music would effectively be ignoring half of the vid. It is therefore doubly important to address the music and its characteristics apart from lyrics. It is past time for scholars of vids to make the subconscious conscious and the unheard heard.

6. Notes

1. bironic has kindly provided consent to the vid's being included in the wider research project of which this article is a part. Luminosity and sisabet's "Women's Work" has a blanket permission for study—something I ascertained as part of a previous publication (Svegaard 2019). I would like to thank all three vidders for their generosity—and their amazing vids.

2. Several vid scholars are also vidders themselves, and have spoken and written about this as part of their academic work. For example, Louisa Ellen Stein spoke about her vidding as part of her keynote address at the Fan Studies Network conference in 2017 at the University of Huddersfield, United Kingdom. I myself am working on my first vid. This scholar-creative overlap is not uncommon in fan studies as whole, where many scholars find themselves in both academic and fan groups at once (thus the term "acafan"), but it is worth mentioning here to acknowledge that vidding practice and research can go hand in hand.

3. Camille Bacon-Smith notices this as well, pointing out that "the artist deconstructs the text of both source products—video and audio—and reconstructs not only their forms but in many cases their messages" (1992, 176), when vids were referred to as songtapes, reflecting their medium at the time: VHS tapes. Copyright issues were far different at the time before online file sharing was widespread, so Bacon-Smith does not go into this part of the debate.

4. For whatever reason, I have seen this most often with violins, perhaps because of the pleasing visuals of a bow stroking strings, which illustrates the sound better than, for example, a piano key being struck.

7. References

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