Are you a Vidder?

16 Mar

Sung Yeon and I were on the way to Evanston a few weeks ago when we caught this NPR story in the car about an artform which has been bolstered by tools of the internet.  Vidding, as its called,  is the process of creating music videos that mash together existing film or television footage in order to tell a story.   We’ve seen vidding in various forms, but our untrained eyes don’t always recognize it.  Think of movie previews, commercials or the outakes jumbled together as the credits roll on your favorite TV show.  But since the advent of the internet and various digital editing tools, vidding has proliferated to the masses.  Today “vidders” are omnipresent on sites like YouTube.  Check out this vid by Lim ,which captures some of my favorite Sci-Fi characters:

Us – lim
 
As a storytelling art, vidding tells us much about how we craft meaning from events past and unfolding, real or imagined.  Vidding casts old stories in a new light.  It condenses a narrative that may take hours to watch and thoughtfully unravel.  In return, you receive a some new creation, which serves as a commentary on its source(s).  The commentary is multifaceted.  For instance you can see a vidder commentary on their creative sources with their choice of music, or in the images chosen to splice together and how they are arranged.  Vidding never claims to tell the whole story or the same story as its source(s).  In fact vidders aren’t even interested in doing so.  Rather their purpose centers around interpreting their own life circumstances and the emotions around them, as reflected by elements of the stories gathered from a mosaic of music and images. 

Of course, with something so personal and subjective, vidding may seem exhaustingly relative.   But I sense there are unspoken rules to the game.   There is both good and bad vidding.  The very purpose of vidding seems to preserve a chord of relationship, no matter how thin, between sources of music and imagery, and the vidders commentary on them.   The quality of vidding wanes when the music and images are incongruous.  If the artist can’t make melancholy music relate to humorous scenes from a movie, then the footage and music aren’t really saying the same thing.  For the story to make sense, the two forms have to be in sync.  They need a common theme or rhythm. 

Incidentally, while listening to this segment about vidding,  Sung Yeon and I were talking about the discussion in one of her classes about the “rough edges” of the Christian Bible.  You know, all those stories you want to run away from and disown when someone reads them.  Think of such infamous ones as Joshua’s genocide in Canaan, Abraham’s near child-killing, Paul’s “slaves be obedient to your masters” line.  If you’ve grown up largely outside the Christian faith, like me, you get uncomfortable with stories that not only go against modern sensibilities, but against every humane instinct inside of you.

Anyway,  I got to wondering.  Can vidding help us craft a response to the rough edges of Scripture with integrity for our faith and dignity for our humanity?  Can it explain how we, as inheritors of a rich repository of faith histories, legends, traditions, and cultures, come to understand our heritage in order to reconcile it to our circumstances?  I look at the care and detail displayed in this artform and think of what rightly guided biblical interpretation can do when it uses artful mediums to gathers up even the rough edges of a our faith story into something that is, if not harmonious, is contiguous with the aims of faith.   Vidding for me is another form of remixing, and those of us who ask, “What is this Scripture saying to me or to us today?” are remixing.  I guess we are all vidders now.

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5 Responses to “Are you a Vidder?”

  1. Rich Pak March 16, 2009 at 4:15 am #

    I see that Ta-Nehisi is on your blog roll. He’s my favorite blogger right now.

  2. Elsie March 16, 2009 at 2:08 pm #

    Not leaving a thoughtful response, but wanted to say I missed the piece on NPR about vidding. I did, however, watch the example you put the link for and that is, in a word, amazing.

  3. rbarenblat March 16, 2009 at 9:55 pm #

    Found my way here via a pointer from a friend, and wanted to say that this is a lovely post. I’m especially intrigued by the connections you draw between interpretation of scripture and remixing; I touched on some similar themes in a post called On Transformative Works a while back.

    By the way, the NPR piece on vidding can be streamed here at NPR.org.

  4. thepotluckpair March 18, 2009 at 12:40 am #

    Rich,

    I enjoy his writing style. Few can switch back and forth between politics, nerd culture, and 90’s hiphop. Both him and I share similar family/cultural backgrounds, but our political interpretation of that heritage definitely contrasts in some respects. He’s got a good autobiography out. It’s worth a read.

    Elsie,

    Its a really neat video, I can’t imagine how long it took to put that together. Evidently in the early days of vidding people would do the work on VCRs and send the tapes in the mail to one another. Talk about labor intensive. I’ll post some more as I found them.

    rbarenblat,

    Thanks for your comment. Storytelling and Scripture are topics I’ll be dealing with regularly, so check us out again and bring your insights!

    -Joe

  5. rpak March 18, 2009 at 1:40 am #

    Joe,

    Yeah, I’ve been meaning to pick up his autobiography. I’d like to see how the contrasts come out in your blog. I’ve added you to my blogroll. Yes, I’ve started a blog too. (rpak.wordpress.com).

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