Analysis of MTV “Buzz Clip” reveals new associations

courtesy: MGN Online
courtesy: MGN Online(KNOE)
Published: Sep. 19, 2020 at 5:34 PM CDT
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LAWRENCE, Kan. (WIBW) - An analysis from the University of Kansas is revealing new associations between sound and vision.

The University of Kansas says in the heyday of music videos guitars were associated with men while drum sets were paired with women. It said these were among findings of a recent analysis of all of MTV’s “Buzz Clips” from the 1990s as reported on in a research paper published by Brad Osborne, associate professor of music. It said the article in the journal of Music & Science, “Content and Correlational Analysis of a Corpus of MTV-Promoted Music Videos Aired Between 1990 and 1999,” was written by Osborn and two former KU doctoral students in music education, Emily Glaser Rossin and Kevin Weingarten.

Osborn said the idea for te paper occurred after he gave a talk at a conference on using videos to teach music theory a few years ago.

“I’m such a child of the ’90s, and I realized that all the videos in my talk were ‘Buzz Clips’ I remembered as a kid,” Osborn said. “I thought: ‘How can I make a serious project out of this?’”

According to KU, Osborn and his students analyzed clips to mark down significant features jumping out at them such as black or leather clothing, an instrumental solo, an ocean or river setting and more. It said the researchers compiled a list of the references to a database and watched the videos again, noting other things happening in the video that were associated with the noted items. It said the correlations were compiled into a table of “Buzz Clip” tropes.

“Our analysis sets out to assess the kinds of people and cultural practices MTV promoted as buzzworthy in the 1990s,” the authors wrote. “We interpret a number of these relationships in terms of their relevance to a performer’s perceived ethnicity and gender, showing how certain audiovisual features regularly accompany white men (e.g., electric guitar) while others regularly accompany women and performers of color (e.g., drum machines).” This suggests to the viewer, the authors wrote, that “the electric guitar, the most identifiable signifier of rock music, is associated with white men. By contrast, the drum machine, an instrument that is virtually anathema to rock ‘authenticity’ in the ’90s, correlates strongly with musicians of color, keyboards and choreographed dancing regularly seen in hip-hop and R&B videos.”

KU said other relationships noted in the anausis include music videos with dream sequences that negatively correlated with videos containing police or military imagery which suggest that the topics were too ‘serious’ to be depicted through dreams. It said they correlate positively with videos containing well informed narrativesotires. It said the authors disect the relationships in various ways and diagrams, looking to extract meaning from the juxtapositions.

Osborn said in retrospect, “One big thing I learned was how important music videos were for fashion in the 1990s. If you watch them chronologically, you can see the fashions change.”

Osborn also noted the paucity of instremental solos and introductory passages in current popular songs and videos.

“It’s part of that notion of ‘don’t bore us, get to the chorus,’” Osborn said. “I watched the MTV Awards show a couple of nights ago, and what they call alternative rock is now all made with drum machines.”

“It is hard to overstate the sonic importance of the electric guitar and drum machines in determining rock and hip-hop genres (respectively)," the authors wrote. "While the latter has remained a dominant sound in the Billboard Hot 100 hits of today, the electric guitar has largely been replaced by synthesizers as a primary chording instrument. As such, it is possible that the sound of a (distorted) electric guitar playing (power) chords might signify a ‘throwback’ 90s sound.”

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