Sample of the multimodal transcription of the music video Representation of temporality and spatiality across semiotic modes As already suggested, in order to identify what kind of discursive meanings are assigned to time and space, both what is represented and how it is represented are taken into account at the level of each narrative strand and at the level of the whole video. We have adopted this approach as we consider that temporality and spatiality are embodied both in the participants and locations of the discourse, while their representation is manipulated at the level of all semiotic modes in order to create a sense of timeless continuity and global unity.
Temporality is embodied in these participants because the choice of human participants suggests time passing in terms of age: babies, children and adults appear in the four narrative strands suggesting historical and biological evolution. In the first part of the video, the human participants enact and question stories that simultaneously show how humanity has negatively interacted with and impacted on the environment, while in the second part, all destruction is reversed.
The temporal continuity of the parallel narrative strands implies an ongoing cry to align around a common concern for the future of the Earth. Similarly, if the choice of human participants suggests temporality, the choice of non- human participants, for example, elephants and whales, is more suggestive of spatiality in terms of the natural environment, such as the forest and sea. In general, space is more than setting as symbolic values are added in each narrative strand.
We have found several categories of discursive space according to its relation — or lack of relation — to human participants. The ways in which these multimodal manifestations of space are related to each other have specific discursive consequences, as will be argued later in this chapter. Continuity and unity across texts and images As already mentioned, time initially follows a visual chronological path in each of the narrative strands.
However, continuity at the level of the whole music video is visually maintained through the existence of similar actions and gestures in each strand. For example, actions and gestures of human participants such as walking, kneeling and clinging to trees appear in each narrative strand and are synchronized across strands. This repetition contributes to maintaining the idea of spatial unity throughout the music video even though the actions take place on four different continents.
Furthermore, the same actions are visually reversed in each strand in the second part of the video. Future becomes past, but this transformation has no negative connotations in this discourse because the progression of time causes destruction, while the regression in time suggests healing.
None of these questions receives an answer, increasing in this way the challenge each one makes, especially when synchronized with the above-mentioned repeated actions and gestures. Time is visually represented through several strategies: i fast motion represents time as passing at high speed and thus becoming uncontrollable; ii alternation of lighter and darker frames, also construing time as becoming unmanageable, combined with cutting on the move, suggesting that time unifies spaces; iii backwards action representing time as passing in reverse, and it seems only then that time becomes controllable and a sense of balance can be restored.
Additionally, the use of slow motion filming foregrounds actions through dilated moments conveying a sense of being located out-of-time; this effect is also achieved through the use of close ups, which confer temporal stability, while simultaneously plunging the participants into spatial isolation. In addition, the repetition of similar types of shots in all four narrative strands creates visual rhymes that reinforce the cyclical character of time at the level of the whole video and further assist in creating smooth transitions from one story, space and time to the next.
It is this cyclical representation of time that confers hope on the relations of mankind with the environment. As a result, the documentary-like footage can appear as contrived or staged, especially due to its being so expertly synchronized with and reinforced by the music - an interaction discussed later in this chapter. The low-angle images portray a form of global prayer through the similar actions and gestures of the participants. The synchronization of actions across narrative strands achieved through parallel montage suggests unity across space and time and reflects a certain view of the destruction of our world.
However, in the case of this video, the combination of parallel montage and continuity editing ensures a balance between the visual and the musical tracks. Thus, a sense of continuity and unity is maintained multimodally at the level of the whole video in order to connote critically the idea of global responsibility for the environment. First of all, this is achieved through the ways in which temporality and spatiality are embodied visually in participants. Then, the four narrative strands are characterized by multimodal similarities involving recurrent actions and rhetorical questions.
The main types of repetitions are given by the visual parallel montage, visual temporal manipulations, echoing of musical phrasings, similarities in space visualization and recurring words, as well as by repetition of phrases in the lyrics.
The next part of the article is dedicated to some of the repetitions related to music. Continuity and unity through music Continuity is also aurally realized and maintained at the level of the whole music video through several strategies. In this music video, the four distinct narrative strands unfold with a continuity based in the sameness of their tempos, metres and rhythms. This sameness in beat is reinforced by sameness in musical phrasings as these too are repeated a set number of times, both within and between narrative strands. The percussive tambourine has traditionally been described as having a hypnotic effect partly due to the range of simultaneous effects it can produce: it can be played by hand, stick, mounted or held, shaken or stroked Hamerman , pp.
Being in his presence, when he visited hospitals, the children would be miraculously healed. He not only did good, but taught others how to do the same. I found so many entertaining stuff in your blog, especially its discussion. More than a singer! We are on a pilgrimage which embraces the confluence of past, present and future. The story behind Earth Song is fascinating.
The sound properties and associations of the tambourine thus contribute to dream-like associations for the space and time in which the rest of this music video plays out. Following Van Leeuwen , p. As the musical phrasings reappear in a higher register, the images cut rapidly from fleeting glimpses of a dying elephant and fleeing zebras and giraffes to more lingering close-ups of a deeply concerned child and horrified woman.
This, alongside the editing techniques described earlier and the multi-layered soundtrack, increases the potentially dramatic effect of the complete music clip. The combined effect of a repetitive musical structure with parallel repetitions in the aural and visual modes is discursively multiplied by their synchronization, producing a potent representation and criticism of global tragedies. By three minutes into the music video, a full band is performing, with drums that include a crashing snare pulsation as well as a bass, emphasizing the theatricality of the music video as a whole.
The cumulative result of the unrelenting beat and recurring musical phrasings effectively results in a dreamlike atmosphere wherein even tragedies can be reversed. Alternating minor and major chord patterns, which initially lead from A flat minor, suggest a tendency towards disaster, while the momentary duration of each is also significant.
Tempo is, according to Tagg in Van Leeuwen, , p. Moreover, as these brief wave-like phrasings are recycled throughout the music video, their collective effect as short bursts of energy seems to signify disquiet and anxiety. Still, the conventional four-four time together with the two basic building blocks of tonal music, the minor and major chords Kamien, , p.
Meanwhile, the haunting melody assists in the discursive realization of a sense of continuity and also unity. Ultimately, a steady increase in volume and pitch range conveys a sense of urgency and fear that time is running out. Combined with its considerable range in pitch and volume, the final shift to a higher tone in a major key allows the music to evoke a sense of enduring continuity and spatial unity that the visual and verbal modes of Earth Song also communicate.
Vernallis , p. Despite the representations of these atrocities being separated visually and temporally, the accent of the music constantly connects man and animal with the fate of, but also the hope for, the planet.
The strong, sturdy beat of the music does not totally overpower its evocative melody or lyrics, but serves to underscore their energy and hence, the importance of what is being communicated. In other words, although repetition is characteristic of most popular music, it needs to be appreciated within the context of this music video as a whole. In short, the snowballing effect of the timed strike with the disturbing image results in a metaphorical enhancement of the message, namely our global responsibility of responding to environmental disasters appropriately now.
These very same characteristics of anthems are deployed in this music video for, however, a critically different purpose: to rally all peoples of the Earth, rather than individual nations, for the purpose of saving the planet.
The answer-call vocals and echoing of musical phrasings across the globe indicate a sense of community and solidarity, a collective perspective on destruction, a sense of reflection and recognition of the cyclical nature of time: at the end of the video, past becomes present while sounds once again soften in the eternal present of a natural space shared by a vast range of animals, plants and people.
The gradual crescendo and amplified pitch range leave the listener in no doubt the long wail is the climax for the four narrative strands, as it peaks more than half-way through the music video and marks a turning point. Winds change direction, felled trees rise, an elephant and a person come back to life; finally, the soft note of nature concludes the music video. The almost symmetrical arrangement of both the music and the images frames the four narrative strands. By focusing on how the multimodal construction of discursive time and space at the level of the four narrative strands contributes to a broader critical discourse at the level of the whole video, this analysis complements other explorations of the video, which consistently recognise its explicit condemnation of the destruction humanity has wrought upon the Earth Hunter, ; Stillwater ; Vernallis, The analysis has revealed that in Earth Song time is no longer represented as divisible, linear and irreversible, and space is no longer divisible and unrecognizable, but a shared view of nature is possible.
Visually unifying four continents through the same recurrent actions and gestures, the video focuses on the central message of its environmental discourse: the need for global involvement. The tone and tempo of the music drive both the lyrics and the images, allowing Earth Song to become a compassionate voice capable of revealing the magnitude and the urgency of environmental problems at the level of the whole planet.
However, the discrepancy between the documentary archival shots and documentary-like footage that reveal the problems, together with the impossible solution of time reversion, weakens the intended message by implicitly suggesting a lack of viable solutions. In the light of the present findings, future research could focus on comparing various versions of popular music videos and the social context in which they have been produced, so as to explore their various representations of urgent contemporary issues.
With reference to Earth Song, these versions could include the original, as well as a later version that uses still images, but displays the lyrics of the song clearly across the screen, omitting the authentic footage shot across four different geographical locations or any images of Michael Jackson. Comparing the impact of various realizations may highlight the contribution of each semiotic choice in constructing meaning, as well as the combined overall effect of each in the context of popular culture.
References Bordwell, D. Film Art. An Introduction. New York: McGraw-Hill. Brereton, P. Bristol: Intellect. Corbett, J. Communicating nature. How we create and understand environmental messages.
Washington: Island Press. Cox, R.
Editorial Reviews. Review. "M Poetica provides fresh, invigorating counter- narratives to M Poetica: Michael Jackson's Art of Connection and Defiance, Second Edition - Kindle edition by Willa Stillwater. Download it once and read it on your Kindle device, PC, phones or tablets. Use features like bookmarks, note taking. Editorial Reviews. Review. "M Poetica provides fresh, invigorating counter- narratives to M Poetica: Michael Jackson's Art of Connection and Defiance Kindle Edition. by edition of M Poetica. A second edition is now available that includes information and images that weren't available when this edition was published.
Environmental Communication and the public sphere. Thousand Oaks, Ca. Doyle, J. Acclimatizing nuclear? Climate change, nuclear power and the reframing of risk in the UK news media. The International Communication Gazette, 73 , Gow, J. Music video as communication: Popular formulas and emerging genres.
Journal of Popular Culture, 26 2 , Grant, A. Michael Jackson: Making History. London: Omnibus Press. Hamelman, S. Studies in Popular Culture, 33 2 , Hansen, A. Visually branding the environment: climate change as a marketing opportunity. Discourse Studies, 10 6 , — August 10, Michael Jackson HIStory. Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on June 22, Music: An Appreciation, 6th Edn.
Konigsberg, I. The Complete Film Dictionary. London: Bloomsbury. Kress, G. Multimodal Discourse. The modes and media of contemporary communication. London: Routledge. Multimodal Literacy. New York: Peter Lang. Lester, L. International Journal of Communication, 3, Visual Semiosis in Film.
Multimodal Discourse Analysis. Systemic Functional Perspectives, London: Continuum. Faye has stated that he tried to hide the affliction from her for a time. However, that was an exercise in futility and, as we know, the treatment he chose was to even his skin tone I truely believe that we as a culture have barely scraped the surface of his artistic genius and I hope publishers will one day realize that there is a real hunger for books such as yours. It is difficult to put into words how Dr. Stillwater's analysis and discussion of Mr.
Jackson's art has affected me. She brings light to a whole different plane of understanding him and the genius in his life work. I highly recommend 'M Poetica' to anyone with an interest and desire to learn more about perhaps the most important artist of the last century. As such, he has been examined from every angle known to man, very few of which had anything to do with who he really was Enough has been written about him to fill the Library of Congress ten times over.
Sifting through the outright lies, insane innuendo, unverified rumor, unapologetic laziness of our media representatives and unauthorized biographies is, in itself, a full-time job. Any serious study of Michael Jackson has to begin and end with his artistry, because he was It has to place him within the racial, cultural, political, national and religious contexts of his times; and it has to show those same contexts as he changed them.
Because change them he did. It also has to examine our society's reactions to Michael Jackson and how they changed over time as he progressively gained autonomy over a forty-year career in the sometimes jaundiced public eye. Stillwater has done masterfully. Stillwater has picked through all the garbage and gotten to the heart and soul of Mr. Jackson with the same kind of compassion for which he, himself, was famous. Within the pages of M Poetica: Michael Jackson's Art of Connection and Defiance one meets the ultimate prankster only to find that the joke was always on us, Michael Jackson's audience.
My thanks to Dr. Stillwater for an intelligent, well-thought-out, articulate analysis of one of the most under-rated human beings society has ever ignored. I hope that she will continue her analysis with others of his short films and songs in the future. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. The absolute best part of this book is Stillwater's insightful reading and interpretation of MJ's music films.
Her analysis skillfully decodes the imagery and choreography of the films, revealing how they are loaded with multiple layers of meaning and signifiers and considering their deeper performative and transformative effects. Often, viewers are so struck by the sheer brilliance, energy, beauty and sensuality of MJ's dance and singing that they fail to see beyond the magic, and so miss the underlying messages that MJ sought to convey through his work.
Stillwater's analysis gives us vital keys to understanding the full vision and power of Michael Jackson's musical film legacy and its intervention into hard-to-tackle issues like race, misogyny, environment and violence. One criticism I have of Stillwater's reading is that she did not contextualize the songs enough. At one point, she even admits that she wants to "draw a bright line between the artist's public performance and their private life and say we have no right to know anything beyond what happens on stage," but goes on to acknowledge that "knowing an artist's personal experiences lead to a much deeper understanding and appreciation of their work.
I would say that this applies to all of MJ's songs, and some of the autobiographical contexts of these songs have been documented elsewhere. Stillwater's reading would be deeper and more authoritative if she took into account such pertinent facts that relate to MJ's personal life and the genesis of the songs, instead of just providing a textual decoding, however brilliant.
This criticism also applies to the over-simplistic way in which she sometimes used data. At one point for e. Stillwater writes from a double position as an academic she has a Ph. The abrupt changes from an academic reading of the films to an autobiographical voice, which happens several times throughout the book, create awkward transitions in the text. As a fan, she devotes a long chapter to considering the accusations and court cases, but I found this long defense quite unnecessary as this has been done better elsewhere. She also devotes a long chapter to considering the question of MJ's supposed face surgeries, in an attempt to prove that he did not surgically alter his features as drastically as claimed by the media.
I think she succeeds, but took too much space in which to do it. The defense reads like a detour, one not adequately tied to the consideration of MJ's artistic vision and interventions, which the title suggested was the main theme of this book. Stillwater strongly advances the thesis that MJ deliberately and coherently set out to present a changed appearance a grotesque face supposedly altered by surgery in order to provoke a larger discourse on race, difference and perception.
She claims that this was MJ's project after , in an "eccentric oddities" phase of his life that stretched till his untimely death, as a response to hostile media representation and public perception. She uses lyrics in "Ghosts" to make the case that MJ was deliberately fueling media obsession with his eccentricities and that he fanned those fantastic stories himself, all with a larger socially conscious goal in mind. I find this thesis untenable. Based on a few lyrics, Stillwater attributes to MJ a coherent and incredible intentionality that supposedly underwrote all his actions throughout more than a decade.
But such grand intentionality is not supported by other evidence. Indeed, the wacko and freakish representation of MJ started soon after , long before Ghosts was released. Inside the Career of Michael Jackson. Read reviews that mention michael jackson stillwater analysis artist culture entertainer willa. Willa Stillwater has an incredibly practical yet insightful point of view regarding the complex subject of Michael Jackson the artist, the ground-breaker, the humanitarian, the symbol of all that has gone terribly wrong with celebrity culture and tabloid journalism in this country.
The telling aspect is that she was not able to get publishers interested in a positive book about Jackson and needed to self-publish in order to be heard. Many others have also done this, but her book is exceptional: As a friend once said, Jackson looked at life from a planetary point of view, and thus set his aspirations higher than any entertainer in history, to really make a difference through his gifts.
This book does a lot to show how his efforts were marginalized because he was simply a totally different sort of human being, a product of his time but also way ahead of his time. He challenged people and inspired them on so many levels. The author will surprise you, just as Jackson did for an incredible 40 year career with record-breaking music sales that spanned six decades and are still charting. This book is well worth the read, especially to those who simply accepted the tabloid version of an important artist and really missed the point of his work.
This books is interesting, academic, yet humanizing approach to Michael Jackson's persona, appearance, music and art. I've read Willa and Joie's Dancing with the Elephant blog since it's inception and it helps me to better understand from where she is coming. The visual documentation of the lack of changes in his appearance were well done.
The more I learn about his physical afflictions with vitiligo and lupus, the more I admire his strength.