Warning: this FPP may cause seizures.
March 8, 2008 11:06 PM   Subscribe

The new video, "Run", from R&B group Gnarls Barkley (best known for their ultra-popular and painfully ubitquitous 2006 hit song "Crazy") has been banned from MTV for failing the Harding Test, a set of criteria determining the likelihood of video material triggering seizures in people with photosensitive epilepsy (PSE), approximately 1 in 6000 people*. The video is now circulating online. [Watch at your own risk. May cause seizures.]

The HardingFPA Flash and Pattern Analyser, as it's properly known, is a UK-developed computer hardware and software system that analyses video frame-by-frame to ensure that it does not contain [pdf 68k] flickering, patterns, flashes, fast cuts, or other sequences that are known triggers of epileptic seizures. Check out a very unemotionally-narrated Flash screencap video demo of the Harding FPA.

Attentive MeFites will remember that a London 2012 Olympics logo promotion, which showed a "diver diving into a pool which had a multi-colour ripple effect", was re-edited after it was aired on television in 2007 and drew complaints after viewers suffered seizures.
[Previously]

But despite passing the Harding Test, a Dolce & Gabbana television ad received a complaint last summer to the UK's Advertising Standards Authority by an epileptic viewer. The pass/fail system has a number of variables; for example, a cleared clip may surpass standards on flashing amplitude and frequency, but cover a screen area of less than the allowed 25%.

Other recent complaints can be found on the "Ofcom" UK broadcast regulator's Web site.

An episode of Pokémon was banned worldwide in 1997 after its airing in Japan caused so-called "Pokémon Shock" in at least 600 people, mostly children. "News reports blamed a scene in the cartoon that featured an exploding "vaccine bomb" set off to destroy a computer virus, followed by five seconds of flashing red light in the eyes of "Pikachu," a rat-like creature that is the show's most popular character. Some other children were stricken later, when watching excerpts from the scene in TV news reports on the earlier victims."

"PSE compliance" is currently industry-enforced in the UK, with broadcasters, advertising agencies and games studios complying voluntarily, but should be coming to a broadcaster near you soon.

Elsewhere on the epilepsy front: previously on Metafilter, Hip-hop artist Sean Paul suspected to cause grand mal seizures in woman.
posted by loiseau (88 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite

 
Be gentle.
posted by loiseau at 11:07 PM on March 8, 2008


[awesome post]
posted by not_on_display at 11:12 PM on March 8, 2008 [21 favorites]


Awesome song, awesome video, awesome post.
posted by empath at 11:13 PM on March 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


The promotional artwork (VHS and DVD covers, etc.) for Meeting People Is Easy includes a warning that "This film contains stroboscopic effects that may adversely affect epilepsy sufferers."
posted by josephtate at 11:17 PM on March 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Am I weird for wanting to see what the ultimate seizure inducing video would be?
posted by empath at 11:18 PM on March 8, 2008


...flickering, patterns, flashes, fast cuts, or other sequences that are known triggers of epileptic seizures.

This explains the absence of fast cuts in every other music video.

But seriously, Gnarls Barkley is so ubiquitous I'm sure we'll see a seizure safe version very soon. Unless 80's nostalgia is an epilepsy trigger.
posted by PM at 11:20 PM on March 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


"News reports blamed a scene in the cartoon that featured an exploding "vaccine bomb" set off to destroy a computer virus

See? Vaccines are bad!
posted by dirigibleman at 11:25 PM on March 8, 2008


Com-

pre-

hen-

sive. Cheers.
posted by meech at 11:26 PM on March 8, 2008


I have no idea what "Gnarls Barkley" is, but I am fascinated that there is a "Harding Test" to determine this kind of stuff. I had no idea that there were enough videos/etc to warrant such a test.
posted by davidmsc at 11:27 PM on March 8, 2008


Huh? How could this possibly be seizure induc- ...

Oh. Wow.
posted by Venadium at 11:32 PM on March 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I thought MTV had banned all videos years ago.
posted by null terminated at 11:38 PM on March 8, 2008 [29 favorites]


This quote from the first linked article cracked me up:

“I don’t know exactly what’s going on, but we’re having issues,” Gnarls Barkley member Danger Mouse told Billboard.com.

(Gnarls Barkley is Danger Mouse (Brian Burton), who asked Cee-Lo to collaborate with him on an album under the name "Gnarls Barkley", not a member of a group.)

This track is most excellent, looking forward to the new album. And the video didn't give me seizures.
posted by LooseFilter at 11:42 PM on March 8, 2008


Huh? How could this possibly be seizure induc- ...

I was wondering that too, but it turns out the seizure fun is like halfway through. But man, this really suffers at you tube compression levels.
posted by delmoi at 11:43 PM on March 8, 2008


I had a TV episode reject for delivery to the BBC once for failing that test - I made sure everyone at work watched the offending bit, no one had a seizure (but I still had to fix it and resubmit it).

Annoying thing is, it's practically impossible to test yourself during production or post-production - you just send it in, and if it fails it comes back for fixing.

A music video I'm working on at the moment contains a sequence that'll probably fail - but we don't have the test here in NZ, so I'm not really concerned.
posted by sycophant at 11:47 PM on March 8, 2008 [4 favorites]


I heard that if you try to take this video across the Canadian border they'll seizure laptop.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:48 PM on March 8, 2008 [5 favorites]


Love that guy's vocal. Great voice. Thanks for the post!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:52 PM on March 8, 2008


Seizure-riffic!

Once again the chickens who run television deny us the neurological events we crave, and momma internets comes thru.
It didn't suffer much from youtubian compression. I still felt the nip of brainshock, Ya don't think they planned this vid to fail (extravagantly) that test, do ya...?
posted by djrock3k at 11:52 PM on March 8, 2008


Needs more <blink>
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:07 AM on March 9, 2008


Great tune and vid. I don't think I had a seizure, but, mysteriously, I can feel my pupils pulsating and I can't make a fist anymore.
posted by wsg at 12:18 AM on March 9, 2008


I'm sort of confused at the whole "no possible seizure-causing content on television" thing. Couldn't they just play a warning beforehand? Perhaps epilepsy sufferers should consult a TV guide before turning it on? This whole thing is sort of like exterminating the peanut because some people are allergic.
posted by tehloki at 12:26 AM on March 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


Meh, it's not that baaabgyhujnv
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:28 AM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


What if the embedded youtube video itself was put inside blink tags?
posted by Rumple at 12:37 AM on March 9, 2008


Thank you for this. The spousal unit just got pissed at me for wanting to see the video...see, I'm one of those damned photosensitives that the Harding testers are trying to protect. I had seizures as a kid, but was fine for over 2 decades. An artist's conceptual website triggered a return a few years ago (does anyone remember this? I think it was a Korean artist...I seem to remember a criticism of Samsung in there somewhere, alternating black and white screens and text)...subsequently, I went to great lengths to avoid the Pokemon video.

Still, how could I resist such an intriguing and informative FPP? Fantastic linkage, loiseau.

I watched a stuttery compression-ruined version, at an angle, from across the room, so other than a little nausea-induction...in the words of Danger Mouse himself, I'm fine.
posted by squasha at 12:57 AM on March 9, 2008


Was it Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries?
posted by the jam at 1:02 AM on March 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


I'm sort of confused at the whole "no possible seizure-causing content on television" thing. Couldn't they just play a warning beforehand? Perhaps epilepsy sufferers should consult a TV guide before turning it on? This whole thing is sort of like exterminating the peanut because some people are allergic.

Even better would be an "S-Chip" like the V-Chip. If it's possible to block violence and sex, it seems like it ought to be possible to block seizure inducing visuals..
posted by delmoi at 1:06 AM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


What if the embedded youtube video itself was put inside blink tags?

And then... inside a scrolling marquee!
posted by Tzarius at 1:15 AM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm sort of confused at the whole "no possible seizure-causing content on television" thing. Couldn't they just play a warning beforehand? Perhaps epilepsy sufferers should consult a TV guide before turning it on? This whole thing is sort of like exterminating the peanut because some people are allergic.

It's a lot more like sneaking into an allergy sufferer's house and putting peanuts in a few random foods in their cupboard. Sure, they can carefully sift through everything before they eat it just as much as an epilepsy sufferer can obsessively check the TV listings and never dare to channel-hop, but you're just making things mildly dangerous and really inconvenient for no appreciable gain.
posted by terpsichoria at 1:39 AM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Cool! :D
posted by darkstar at 1:51 AM on March 9, 2008


has been banned from MTV for failing the Harding Test

or not. from Gnarls Barkley's web site:

02/28/08: /.../ Contrary to rumor, MTV and VH1 censors did not reject the video because of liability issues related to strobe effects and seizures. “Initially, there were fears the video was going to fail the Harding Test,” says a spokesperson for the band. “But, for the moment, indications lead us to believe the video passed.”

02/28/08: The new Gnarls Barkley video for "Run" is now up on MTV & VH1 in the US and the UK. Goto the Link: MTV Premiere

03/04/08: Make sure to check out Gnarls Barkley's video for "Run" on MTV's TRL this Thursday 3/6 at 3:30 pm...
posted by effbot at 1:57 AM on March 9, 2008


My God, that song was fantastic. I can already tell it will be stuck in my head all day.
posted by piratebowling at 3:03 AM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Your post is good and you should feel good.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:07 AM on March 9, 2008


This is the Gnarls Barkley song I have been waiting for my whole life. Seizures or no, I'm glad you linked it because I'd never have seen it even if it has been placed on MTV.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:22 AM on March 9, 2008


[Your first Post was Awesome]
posted by hadjiboy at 3:31 AM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Great video, great post!
posted by maryh at 3:53 AM on March 9, 2008


Fascinating post -- it's got a good beat; you can dance to it. I give it an 88, Dick!
posted by FelliniBlank at 3:11 AM on March 9, 2008


UGH. I spent an obscene amount of time researching this post and I'm pretty cheesed that the entire premise was false. I can't believe that with the amount of reading I did last night I still managed to do eff up. Many apologies!!
posted by loiseau at 3:53 AM on March 9, 2008


I'd stick with the tried and tested Single Link YouTube next time, loiseau. You can't go wrong with those.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:38 AM on March 9, 2008


Crazy fresh!
posted by Scoo at 4:49 AM on March 9, 2008


You mean it's not seizure inducing? Man, if this doesn't fail the Harding Test, what will?

The MTV link is much better quality than Youtube-- I love how the strobotransformation starts in Cee-Lo's sunglasses...

Also, I think it might be more like 1990 nostalgia, considering some of the lingo. Which makes the emcee even more of a loser for still sporting the Thriller jacket.

Also also, do you think they made that jacket black and white to foreshadow the later effects? There's a certain resemblance.

posted by underthehat at 5:00 AM on March 9, 2008


LooseFilter: that link directly contradicts what you just said.

"Prior to their collaboration, both had their own lengthy careers. Gnarls Barkley is a two person participating musical group." No citation, though.
posted by mkb at 5:20 AM on March 9, 2008


Still not as good as the blipverts in Max Headroom.
posted by meinvt at 5:33 AM on March 9, 2008


I feel like I should really hate Justin Timberlake but every time I see him acting goofy (SNL, the MC on this video) he cracks me up.
posted by Mick at 5:44 AM on March 9, 2008


Here in Japan, there were reports that the movie Babel had caused seizures in a few cases. They didn't specify which scene, but I knew immediately when it showed up: when the Japanese girl goes to the club, the dancefloor strobe lights and turn the entire movie screen into a big strobe light for about 30 full seconds (maybe longer). I had to look away, so I'm not sure what happened in that scene.
posted by zardoz at 6:21 AM on March 9, 2008


I was at lecture once where none other than James Turrell himself took credit for the Pokemon seizure thing. I can't find anything on the intertubes to corroborate his claim (not that I looked very hard) other than some mentions of making the claim.

"And a pirated clip from one of his works, Turrell says, was inserted into a Pokemon cartoon, setting off a rash of seizures and nausea that sent more than 700 people to the hospital in Japan in 1999. The clip had been compacted, removing the spaces that had been inserted precisely to prevent the possibility of inducing photosensitive epilepsy.

"It was really a big thing to go through that," Turrell says. "This was a 'War of the Worlds kind of broadcast.' ... You sit across the room [and see it] on TV. It's quite compelling, but it doesn't do much. However, Japan has this big [number of] HD TVs, and children sit [close to them] -- so the children and their grandparents were the ones made ill."


I like Turrell's work a great deal, but he's also a total blowhard, who knows. This has just always been a favorite probably false factoid of mine.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 6:35 AM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


arrrgh...yes, the jam, I can already feel the flashbacks when I look at the Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries frontpage. And, zardoz, I totally had to look away in that Babel scene. Occasional strobe usage in the Nagoya nightclubs used to send me diving for the restroom or outside for fresh air.
posted by squasha at 6:54 AM on March 9, 2008


Wow, fabulous. I too wondered what the problem was, at first. I love Gnarls Barkley.
posted by arcticwoman at 7:06 AM on March 9, 2008


Announcement before a stand-up gig by Simon Munnery: "The audience is advised that this show contains epileptics. Please refrain from strobing."

Great post. Great song, too.
posted by flashboy at 7:16 AM on March 9, 2008


Love the Gnarls, and so glad that this follow up sounds great. I was afraid they'd be a one shot deal, given the structure of the group.

I did have the compression issues, but, yeah, I guess it should have been Harding Tested.

loiseau - Good post, very informative.
posted by rainbaby at 7:19 AM on March 9, 2008


Can I use The Harding Test as a band name/album title or will I get sued?
posted by well_balanced at 7:25 AM on March 9, 2008


Right. Like Coke and Pepsi aren't right now using the same technology and trying to embed their brand logos so your brain latches on to that while flailing away having a seizure. Brilliant marketing!
posted by 45moore45 at 7:40 AM on March 9, 2008


The company I work for produces several animated children's television series. We recently ran afoul of the Harding Test recently and had to re-do a few bits of animation in order for it to pass Quality Assurance.

I thought the co-worker telling me this was joking, but when I read the report from the QA company for myself I was struck by the precise nature of the report - something like X flashes less than Y time apart, with Z difference in the light and dark areas at timecode T.
posted by Fat Elvis at 7:54 AM on March 9, 2008


The Harding Commission tests these things?

Are you now, or have you ever been, an epileptic? Perhaps Gnarls Barkley shot JFK.
posted by GuyZero at 8:01 AM on March 9, 2008


This would be a useful technique to use in TV ads for Dilantin or Depakote.
posted by Tube at 8:02 AM on March 9, 2008


The new video, "Run", from R&B group Gnarls Barkley (best known for their ultra-popular and painfully ubitquitous 2006 hit song "Crazy ") has been banned from MTV because it is a music video and not a terrible reality show.
posted by 1 at 8:55 AM on March 9, 2008


Let me know when they get a music video that passes the Turing Test.
posted by oaf at 9:12 AM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Interesting post!

I liked the song; the singer has a really fine voice; the video was dull until they got to the epileptigenic section, which I loved (modulo the tiny YouTube screen). I'm surprised no one mentioned the Simpson's "Battling Seizure Robots" but you can't find any clips of it. :-(

But as a hopeful musician, I was bummed out. A fine song, good musical value; but this could have been a hit 20 years ago, heck, 40 years ago. If you study this sort of thing, you can see some production elements that are characteristic of the last ten years or so, but that's very minor. I want proof that music is still vibrant and new...

Now, it sounds to me as if there are actually live musicians on that track. The drum part seems to be real at the very least, and it adds (to me) a lot of excitement. Well, why don't you see anyone playing an instrument (except vague stabs at playing a piano) in the video? I don't think it's a wrong decision on the producers' part, I hasten to add...

Unfortunately, I feel it's that people no longer associate the production of music with playing instruments. I think that people don't see anything inconsistent about hearing a big band full of human musicians on the sound track, but only seeing a singer and one person with some knobs.

I've always been struck by something similar by the few hip-hop shows I've endured; there almost never seem to be any actual musicians playing, nor any sort of "show", perhaps a few people in military uniform marching around.

The excitement of seeing someone play music live can be really strong. An individual can make a decision and instantly see thousands of people react to it.

What depresses me is that I know a lot of young people who've never actually seen a highly-talented musician play live, nor do they know what they're missing.

Again, nothing against the cut or the video. Just sadness at loss.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:34 AM on March 9, 2008


“Initially, there were fears the video was going to fail the Harding Test,” says a spokesperson for the band. “But, for the moment, indications lead us to believe the video passed.”

Considering that all forms of epilepsy involve the brain, I'm pretty sure most MTV viewers would've had a natural immunity to the video anyway.
Great first post, loiseau!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:41 AM on March 9, 2008


I wish Gnarles Barkly would get offa my lawn. I never got the Crazy hype, and this song does nothing for me either. Even after i came out of my seizure.
posted by Gungho at 9:51 AM on March 9, 2008


lupus_yonderboy:
If you get the chance, see Gnarls Barkley live. You'll likely be so entranced by the tennis players or doctors and nurses or astronauts or hippies or greasers or Star Wars characters onstage FLIPPING OUT that you'll barely notice the instruments many of them are playing.
posted by generalist at 10:27 AM on March 9, 2008


Gnarls Barkley from the 2006 MTV Movie awards, complete with wookie on drums
posted by khaibit at 10:47 AM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Good on you loiseau linking to Exclaim [right informative]. I really liked Gnarls' 'St. Elsewhere' CD.
This song is pretty 60's-ish. Mytch Ryder, Sly kind of feeling to it, hell, with a touch of Outcast, speeded up a tad. I enjoyed it. Great voice.

I didn't know of the Harding Test, but even if mtv were to warn viewers, lo the ones tuning in afterwards, missing the warning, the darn thing would have to be on screen at all times.

Interestingly enough, they have no such warnings in dance clubs, [check out the lighting line up]. I can imagine what strobe lights might do, not to mention the lasers.

I don't have seizures, but watch those horizontal blinds in dentist and doctor's offices. The ones that you adjust the angle and amount of light coming in. Once at a doctors having a discussion at her desk, with the blinds behind her, which were partially closed and the sun shining through them; my head movement and the doctor moving really made me queasy. I asked couldn't we open those blinds completely.

As for video's and quick cuts, aren't most images only held for 2-3 seconds tops.
Yes, that UTube was so chunky and pixelated...


lupus—yonder..., it's a video and not a live performance, really. Too much money is spent on production [lost on UTube, that's only a part of the marketing reach - a teaser], you can't have missed lines, whatever, then restart the dancers. no way. I don't know why you think "a lot of young people who've never actually seen a highly-talented musician play live" though.
What generalist mentions, too true.
Those that love music go out and see live shows. Talent notwithstanding. It also depends on the venue where they're playing. Some large hockey rink Arena shows just don't cut it for me, frankly.
posted by alicesshoe at 11:03 AM on March 9, 2008


lupus_yonderboy, live performance isn't dead. It's just that music videos are something completely different.

Check this out—Tom Waits singing "Chocolate Jesus" on Letterman.

It's great, but it's not a "music video." Music videos today are basically ads for the music. In Japan, they even call them "PVs," for "promotional video."
posted by sonic meat machine at 11:09 AM on March 9, 2008


Who cares about the musician? It's the music that's important.
posted by empath at 11:22 AM on March 9, 2008


lupus_yonderboy, as to the live music thing, I'd say get in line--I still lament that there are so few people under 50 in concert halls. You mention: I want proof that music is still vibrant and new... My advice is, don't look to popular music for that so much: popular music is by definition heavily oriented toward the marketplace, intended to make money first, anything else--like also being interesting music--is a bonus. If you want proof that music is still vibrant and new, you know where to look (we've had great conversations on this before, I think), but the popular sphere is rarely the place. (I always think of, e.g., the Beatles being the exception that proves the rule.)

mkb: I was remembering an interview with Cee-Lo from a couple of years ago where he said that DM came to him with this idea, and would he be interested in participating--not to slight Cee-Lo's terrific contributions, but I think DM is clearly driving the bus, creatively speaking. Also, I find it odd to refer to a duo as a group.
posted by LooseFilter at 11:37 AM on March 9, 2008


HOLY FUCKING POST.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:52 AM on March 9, 2008


Back in the 60s and 70s, there were several experimental filmmakers who made "flicker films" that used rapid cutting to create stroboscopic effects.

Here's a couple of them on YouTube (NSFE=Not Suitable For Epileptics):

Peter Kubelka, Arnulf Rainer
Paul Sharits, N:O:T:H:I:N:G
Paul Sharits, T,O,U,C,H,I,N,G
Guy Sherwin, Cycles #3

There's also an excerpt from Steina & Woody Vasulka's Noisefields that also aims for a stroboscopic effect. I can't find Tony Conrad's The Flicker, but that film included a disclaimer warning that it might induce epilepsy when it was first screened in 1965.
posted by jonp72 at 11:54 AM on March 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


What depresses me is that I know a lot of young people who've never actually seen a highly-talented musician play live, nor do they know what they're missing.

Yeah, I used to feel that way, too, but electronic music is just another medium, another approach. There are still plenty of people playing "real" instruments, but I hope that doesn't continue to be an issue for you, whether they do or not. The music is much more interesting when you stop trying to figure out how authentic it is.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:13 PM on March 9, 2008


pity... awesome song and AWESOME video. rorschach blots to a music video called crazy... good stuff.
posted by Doorstop at 12:19 PM on March 9, 2008


Actually, it wasn't the video effects that made me barf, but the cameo appearance of Justin Timberlake.
posted by Down10 at 1:33 PM on March 9, 2008


for the record, Justin Timberlake is doing a Michael Holman impression a la Graffiti Rock from the mid 80s. Here´s a clip. Michael Holman appears around 1:20

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0oHiAtNIsgA
posted by LouieLoco at 1:38 PM on March 9, 2008


Again, this is nothing against Gnarls Barkley! This is my first real encounter with them, and I liked it. I fully understand that most music visuals haven't actually been performances in any sense of the word for over fifty years.

The point is that many music visuals like this video depict an idealized performance and what was strange was that the music I was hearing obviously had live musicians, and yet the video it was attached to did not; it's nearly always the other way around (you see someone pretending to play drums or synth on a part that's obviously being done by a sequencer). I think this is basically because people are much less used to seeing other people play music.


Who cares about the musician? It's the music that's important.

Then why go to a live concert at all? I feel that if you'd ever attended a truly fantastic live show, you would never ask. It's a little like explaining colour to a blind man but let me try.

Let's take the difference between a live drummer and a drum machine - I think this is the hardest case to justify for me.

Now, I love drum machines. I have one that I practically live with; I love the Orb, I love Kraftwerk and so many others; there are states that a drum machine will induce in me which I love. Check my playlist.

BUT there is a huge, huge difference between being in a room with a live drummer and listening to a drum machine, even one that someone is seriously tweaking live (even if that someone is me!)

(And let's forget about "being in a room with David Bowie at his peak" vs "listening to a recording of Bowie at his peak". If the idea of being in a room with David Bowie singing doesn't give you a thrill, well, I'm sorry for you.)


The point is, and here we get into "trying to explain colour", that the drummer is actually willing the notes to happen, he's making them happen right now. He is using his body to force the real world to produce these precise sounds at the exact moment that make up the drums for "We Will Rock You" or "Drumming" or "Take Five" or "Kashmir".

Some of this is memory (and sometimes you say, "He was just going through the motions") but in some sense he has to mean it with each note. He must actively play.

This is incredibly exciting in a way that a drum machine can never be.


electronic music is just another medium, another approach.

Nothing to do with electronic vs. not - I'm a live electronic musician myself. I see more electronic music than anything else.

But again, that sense of "having to continuously make the music happen with your body and your will" is almost completely missing from electronic music (well - I play an electronic wind instrument and that is very physical, I do actually have to push each note out myself).

If The Orb died on stage, someone else would actually have to turn the music off...

I've gone through whole concerts of live music riveted by the musicians, my attention on them for almost every moment, and I've compared notes with my friends ("Did you see when he threw the guitar away the second time?" "And the security guard caught it on the first bounce and everyone clapped!" :-D (from an Iggy Pop show) or more commonly, musical details.)

And I've gone to electronic music concerts and been apparently absorbed in the music at all times - but rarely in the performers - Kraftwerk being a big exception here (much to my surprise, they had actual musical tasks to do, which they did in a concerted fashion, and they had a very specific "plot line" or at least "curve" to their show). I also do find that it's much more likely that I'll be jerked out of a reverie at the end of a song and realize I've not been paying attention to the music; either thinking about dancing itself, if it's upbeat, or something else altogether if it's more abstract. I'm not necessarily dissatisfied with that but it's just not the same as a riveting live concert where one musician will actually have a conversation with thousands of people at once.

Now, certainly DJs speak deeply to others, I don't deny that; but they speak in the voices of others; it's like the difference between projecting movie clips and acting yourself. Past a certain point a turntable becomes an instrument in its own right, of course; but the vast majority of DJs aren't like that, they are curators, some brilliant even, but they aren't playing music: the continuous effort of their will at each instant is not required to keep the music going.

Again, I love this DJ music, electronic music (contact me offlist for my ripping live Amon Tobin bootleg I made with my own two, er, channels) but there is a real difference here.


Let me define a new word (you heard it here first): played music, defined (roughly) as "music that requires a continuous effort of their will at each instant to keep going."

Live music is played to a lesser or greater extent. Clearly a DJ is playing some percentage of his time; you'd probably figure it out in a minute or two if he vanished; but if Keith Moon died in a Who concert, you'd know it in literally milliseconds.

You could define an orchestra, a rock band or a jazz band as 100% played music. Completely pre-recorded music (with no decisions along the way) would be close to 0% played ("he just pressed play and then left"). My music is typically about 50% played.

No value judgement is implied. However, some mental states are more easily attained at specific levels levels of playedness (high or low).

(Listening to The Orb's Toxygene (Live Vegas Mix) with the heavy car traffic across the stereo field as I write this...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:26 PM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I just watched it. Don't have any seizures yet, but I can honestly say watching that uncreative video on YouTube's pisspoor quality video, I'm now put off my nachos.
posted by ZachsMind at 2:39 PM on March 9, 2008


If you want proof that music is still vibrant and new, you know where to look (we've had great conversations on this before, I think), but the popular sphere is rarely the place. (I always think of, e.g., the Beatles being the exception that proves the rule.)

Wait, I don't think I agree at all!

I mean, let's take Bach. During his lifestyle, he was popular as a hotshot performer, it was only several generations later that people really started to appreciate his compositions. Twenty years later, people would have said that he was the popular performer who had sons who were more serious composers, like CPE.

All sorts of "serious" composers like Beethoven, Mozart and Wagner were more or less popular in their day; Mozart wasn't actually considered to be "serious" till after he died.

I'd lose all the works of Charles Ives rather than lose one Ella song from the Gershwin songbook. I think Simon and Garfunkel were at their height comparable to Schubert. I'd certain keep the Butthole Surfers over Scarlatti. :-D
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:44 PM on March 9, 2008


Back to flicker effects....

The Butthole Surfers actually had a concert shut down in Amsterdam because there was some local ordinance against "mind control machines" that prevents "abusive" use of flicker effects (over and above having to warn people at the door, which is a given). This is from the liner notes of their "Double Live Bootleg", it's a clipping from a KLM in-flight mag, that goes on to say something like, "Flashing lights, screaming guitar and frightening films, a must to check out the next time they're in Amsterdam." (I couldn't find these quotes online, but the disk is here, a must for live music fans.)

I couldn't find a good flickery video from them, best result is here's one (the music starts at 2:40) which is generally interesting as it's very early and they haven't developed most of the schtick or perfected the sound yet, but you can see the tremendous force of the live show. Having a huge, crazy but determined guy bellowing warning statements at you through a megaphone or firing off a shotgun a few feet away has a visceral impact that I just cannot convey to you; the fact that it's musically very clever is something you only realize a lot later.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:59 PM on March 9, 2008


All sorts of "serious" composers like Beethoven, Mozart and Wagner were more or less popular in their day

Well, not more or less popular, rather quite consistently extremely popular. But European musical culture is orthogonal to American musical culture in many ways, primarily in that popular music grew and flourished in the U.S. well prior to any art or concert music tradition, which is profoundly different from Europe; so it is only of limited usefulness to look there for comparison. Further, art music in Europe traditionally referenced vernacular musics in many ways, and so was much more directly of its culture; given the late development of an art/concert music tradition in the U.S., it only began to flourish when that musical tradition became largely profoundly self-referential (i.e., serialism), and thus in large part lacks many of the connections to more vernacular musics that were present in European music. (Ives and Gershwin being interesting outliers.)

When you talk about "popular music" in Europe in the late 19th century, for instance, a large part of that is music of Wagner, Verdi, etc. But when one talks about popular music in the United States of the same time period, that would be Stephen Foster songs or ragtime or park bands playing marches and medleys of popular tunes, etc. Big difference.

So, when talking about popular music in the United States, it's important to consider that for most of its history it has been oriented toward the marketplace, from sheet music to radio to albums onwards, which is unique in Western musical culture. The marketplace, with regard to art and entertainment, only very rarely rewards innovation, as people flock in largest numbers (read: revenue) to what is familiar. This is why I say it is mostly frustrating to look toward the popular sphere for true originality and innovation, and that there are other, much richer, places right now today to look if that's what you're after.

I'd lose all the works of Charles Ives rather than lose one Ella song from the Gershwin songbook

Holy shit, you need to listen to Ives more closely then, if you really mean what you wrote there. Ives is one of our (America's) greatest musical treasures, and his music is beyond amazing. As is the music of Gershwin; there need not be a false dilemma of valuing one over the other.
posted by LooseFilter at 3:29 PM on March 9, 2008


I feel that if you'd ever attended a truly fantastic live show, you would never ask. It's a little like explaining colour to a blind man but let me try.

Well I've seen some good ones - Smashing Pumpkins, Prince, NIN, Marilyn Manson, Radiohead, Placebo, Green Day, Sigur Ros, etc, etc, etc..

Radiohead is a good example... their music is now so far removed from anything natural that the live performance isn't even a representation of what's on the album. It's a much different sound and different experience. And the band is so inward looking that there isn't much interaction with the audience during the show anyway. Still-- an amazing fucking show because they just build these amazing towers of sound and have an incredible light show, and the crowd is so into it.

Plus, some of my favorite nights of music have been entirely DJ and light show driven, sometimes with the DJ being barely visible to the crowd, or even on another floor of the club.

The music is what matters, not how it's made, IMO. The only real instrument at a rock show is the loud speaker. There are lots of ways to play it, and not all of them involve analog inputs.
posted by empath at 3:38 PM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


(not that any of that is on topic, sorry all)
posted by LooseFilter at 3:39 PM on March 9, 2008


I mean, let's take Bach. During his lifestyle, he was popular as a hotshot performer, it was only several generations later that people really started to appreciate his compositions. Twenty years later, people would have said that he was the popular performer who had sons who were more serious composers, like CPE.

PDQ is the man, though.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:42 PM on March 9, 2008


Loved the vocal!
posted by Wolof at 6:37 PM on March 9, 2008


terpsichordia: Actually, it's a lot like putting a bunch of peanuts in a vacuum-sealed box on top of the television, with a big caution tape barrier around it.
posted by tehloki at 7:45 PM on March 9, 2008


(As long as we've both made the commitment to visit silly analogy lane)
posted by tehloki at 7:46 PM on March 9, 2008


Those kind of strobe effects are often pretty unpleasant for migraine sufferers too, who are presumably far more numerous than the photosensitive seizure group. I had to cover my eyes for the strobing disco scene from Babel which wasn't much of an inconvenience really, but it's nice to be forewarned about these things. Not like the time I walked out of a presentation by Tony Comstock when he was in Australia a couple of years ago- I hadn't realized a showing of Flicker was part of it. They gave me a refund.
posted by Coaticass at 8:33 PM on March 9, 2008


D'oh! Conrad, not Comstock, dammit.
posted by Coaticass at 8:37 PM on March 9, 2008


I would like to add that those Paul Sharits films are awesome, and clearly the product of a demented mind.
posted by empath at 10:43 PM on March 9, 2008


Nice post.

That Pokemon episode in Japan was eventually debunked as mass psychogenic illness, by the way, but that never made the headlines.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:01 PM on March 9, 2008


Havent watched the video yet but I did just watch the season finale of Breaking Bad and noticed a new Gnarls song in the end scene.
Also, I never knew that DangerMouse was behind the project. Interesting. A producer friend told me he builds all his beats from techno samples, which is rather revolutionary for hip hop production.
posted by mannequito at 11:59 PM on March 9, 2008


empath writes "The music is what matters, not how it's made, IMO. The only real instrument at a rock show is the loud speaker. There are lots of ways to play it, and not all of them involve analog inputs."

Yeah, that's a great way to put it. Once I realized that, it opened the door to a lot of music I had ignored before.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:05 AM on March 10, 2008


This song has completely monopolized my playlist from the moment I saw this thread.
I feel like a total moron for having avoided listening to these guys in the past solely because of their retarded name. I need to work on my cover-based book-judging.
posted by nightchrome at 3:30 AM on March 12, 2008


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