Dissertation Index

Author: Ferrandino, Matthew

Title: A Narratology of Music Video

Institution: University of Kansas

Begun: August 2016

Completed: March 2021


Given the availability of music videos past and present and the move away from album-oriented-rock to singles and visual albums—e.g., Beyoncé’s Beyoncé (2013) and Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer (2018)—popular music is continuously being presented as a multimedia product. Although the pairing of popular music and visuals dates back to the 1930s, the music video as an artistic arrangement of visuals and music begins in the 1980s. In this project I consider music videos as a syntext, a synthesis of visual, lyrical, and musical texts, and consider each on the common ground of narrative. By applying Mieke Bal’s notion of narratology, the study of the degree to which a text is able to communicate a narrative, we are able to more effectively compare and contrast each of these component texts, resulting in a more nuanced understanding of the syntext as a whole. While not all videos present a clear story (some are primarily performance videos), I distinguish between four types of narrative music videos: explicit, in which the visual story is the same as the lyrical story; extra, where the visual story is unrelated to the theme or story in the lyrics; complementary, in which the lyrics do not tell a story but the visual story plots lyrical themes; and conflicting, where the visual narrative contradicts the lyrics. I conclude this project with a consideration of music videos as part of a larger historical narrative. In particular I consider David Bowie’s promotional and music videos from 1969–2016 in order to show the technological, stylistic, artistic, and aesthetic changes in music videos over the last fifty years.

Keywords: popular music, music video, narrative, form, harmony, analysis


Chapter 1. Narrative Approach to Music Video
Chapter 2. Explicit Narratives
Chapter 3. Extra Narratives
Chapter 4. Complementary Narratives
Chapter 5. Conflicting Narratives
Chapter 6. At the Center of it All: A Meta-Narrative of David Bowie's Audio-Visual Mythology



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