Jazz aficionados are known to say that the key to the music is the notes that aren’t played. Apparently, this same principal can be applied to music videos.
Watching a music video is an audio-visual experience, but the visuals are at the tyranny of the audio. Sometimes there’s action onscreen that has nothing to do with the tasty guitar licks we in the audience are hearing, and yet that is all we hear because music videos are a showcase, first and foremost, of the music. Finally, however, somebody has given us a taste of what these music videos might sound like if all that pesky music weren’t around. Over the last week, web viewers have been rapt at the sight, and sound, of Prodigy’s classic ’90s video for “Firestarter.” While viewers of the Musicless Music Video saw the same edgy black and white footage, this time, Keith Flint’s menacing glares and gyrations were accompanied by weird noises–a series of shuffles, pops, and groans–and selected a cappella lyrics. The effect is hilarious and unsettling and has earned the video over half a million views on YouTube.
“I had the initial idea back in 1996, when I re-edited the audio layer of a movie-trailer just for fun,” says Mario Wienerroither, creator of Music-Less Music Videos. “Two years ago, on a day I had nothing else to do, I accidentally saw Queen’s ‘I Want to Break Free’ on mute while I was on the phone. That was the vital spark.”
The Vienna-based music producer and sound designer usually spends his days making music for commercials, television, movies, and computer games. After conceiving his latest idea, though, he spent that particular day scrubbing the music away, instead of adding it. Thus was born Music-Less Music Videos, a series that revels in the noises that might naturally be occurring in videos, which we’ve been denied all along while music has had it’s reign. Physical activity now has an echo–oftentimes an unexpected one. When the bassist turns his head abruptly, we can now hear what seems to have caused him to do so.
Not one to wait around for inspiration, Wienerroither takes a pro-active approach to choosing videos to re-work, with memory exercises. “I go into the silent studio, close my eyes and think about the old MTV days–when I’d see a video from one of my beloved bands for the first time,” the producer says. “I was completely thrilled by The Prodigy’s ‘Firestarter’ video, for example. I thought if I make a music-less music video out of it, I can repeat the original effect I felt when I stared totally intrigued at Keith Flint jumping around in the underground.”
Wienerroither records everything by himself. He goes out into the world with a Tascam recorder and experiments with found sounds to find which ones work best in each scene. This process explains why some of the noises in the video, be they scuffling or squeaking, sound like noises in the room with you, wherever you choose to watch. “That’s the most critical point besides the video-selection,” Wienerroither says, “because one inappropriate sound can ruin everything.”
After experimenting with his recorded sounds the producer spends a lot of time brainstorming, drafting, editing and mixing, adding effects, deleting again, editing again until a strong draft is complete. Crucially, though, he waits a day and then listens again with fresh ears before finishing. For his efforts, Wienerroither is starting to earn an Internet following.
Compare his versions of the videos to the originals in the slides above to hear all the sounds you didn’t even know you’ve been missing all this time.