Popular Music and Video Clips

“Popular Music is an ensemble of many different music genres which have in common that they are mass produced for and shared and consumed by a huge audience” (freely translated from German, cf. Wicke/Ziegenrücker 2007). The composition of this ensemble is in constant change, which is why there is no fixed catalogue of characteristics of popular music. The scientific analysis of Popular Music still presents a challenge. It has traditionally been the subject of various disciplines. This caused the emerging of opposing approaches and a split in the musicological and cultural research areas. The discrepancy of existing approaches manifests itself in an abundance of terms and concepts of which sound, performance and gender are just some. Because of this research practice, it seems necessary to reorganize the theory and methodology of popular music and to develop analytical approaches that allow adequate access to the social reality of popular music. This applies to substantive issues such as sound configurations, media types, and (inter-)personal incarnation forms, as well as to processes of collective identity formation. Popular music can thus be equally read as hybrid formula in which elements from different cultures are realized; analyzing popular music is thus always a contextual analysis (see Wicke 2003).

(Music) video clips are an individual media genre that has found its place as a subject in social, cultural, media and communication studies. While video clips are rather short, they are also extremely versatile in their content, structure and aesthetics, which is why they can be used for commercials, music videos and web clips. Music videos (in particular) disappeared from TV and moved to video platforms like YouTube or Vimeo, while at the same time the number of video clips posted on social networking sites like Facebook increased. Therefore, the analytical focus is not only on the content and the aesthetic design of these different audiovisual short forms, but also on the distribution methods and the interactive reception possibilities (commenting, liking, sharing). Popular music plays a significant role in short audiovisual formats and thus has to be analyzed correspondingly. In music videos the visual events are added to an existing piece of music, which leads to specific questions regarding issues such as synesthesia, intermediality, intertextuality, and possible interpretation surpluses that may arise from the interplay of image, lyrics, and sound.

The web application trAVis was developed within the research project “Image-Text-Sound-Analyses of Music Videos”, led by Prof. Dr. Klaus Neumann-Braun. trAVis provides a freely editable workspace, where all image-, text- and sound-events can be transcribed and analysed individually.

trAVis is accessible for free at:


Dr. Daniel Klug
E-mail: Daniel.Klug@unibas.ch

PD Dr. Christofer Jost
Center for Popular Culture and Music Freiburg (ZPKM)