Dancing in the Distraction Factory: Music Television and by Andrew Goodwin

By Andrew Goodwin


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My purpose is to show how the conditions of production of music television are written into the text, and then to establish some possible reading formations that elaborate (in what I hope is a nonreductive fashion) the aesthetic and political implications of music television. This should be an unremarkable statement of intent. It is based upon a critique of formalistic semiotic analysis that has been stated on many oc- SILENCE! ACADEMICS AT WORK 21 casions and in a variety of scholarly contexts (for instance, Eagleton, 1983; Garnham, 1979b; Rodowick, 1988; Scholes, 1981; Volosinov, 19297 1986; Williams, 1977a).

But to what extent can music video be said to determine interpretations of pop? Consider this comment, from a Culture Club fan: "I picture George singing. And I think about the videos —the videos are in my mind as I listen to the songs" (quoted in Vermorel & Vermorel, 1985: 61). This probably captures very well one way in which video is used by pop fans. This fan imagines Boy George singing the song and has the video image in her or his mind. Neither observation requires that this visual discourse should dominate the music and lyrics.

In other words, we should not assume that the signs and conventions of live performance are an imitation of television (except in those cases where this is so); instead, it is necessary to investigate the relations among music, live performance, and video imagery. That concern will be an important underpinning of this book, where I will attempt to show the close relations between music and image, particularly in chapter 3. In another instance E. Ann Kaplan (1987) develops a different connection between postmodernism and the observations cited above when she writes: Most often the rock video world looks like noplace, or like a post-nuclear holocaust place—without boundaries, definition or recognizable location.

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