Before MTV: An Evening with Music Video Pioneer Chuck Statler

Big Smash!, The West End Cultural Centre, Manitoba Music + Video Pool Media Arts Centre present:
Before MTV: An Evening with Music Video Pioneer Chuck Statler
Thursday May 20, 2010 at 8:00pm
West End Cultural Centre
586 Ellice Ave.
Tickets $12 advance / $15 door / $10 Video Pool + Manitoba Music members (with card)
Advance tix at WECC, Ticketmaster, Into the Music and Music Trader!

Featuring videos by Devo, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Tiny Tim, Pere Ubu, etc. plus live musical DEVO tribute by Pip Skid + Birdapres, Rouge’s Malady, Ton O’Love (aka Muscle of Love), Blunderspublik + The Wind-Ups!


From Uptown Magazine May 20, 2010:

The man who killed the radio star?
Arguably the godfather of the music video, Chuck Statler discusses his innovations in music filmmaking

According to pioneering filmmaker Chuck Statler, the essential music-video form goes back to the Jazz Age.

“Take a look at The Jazz Singer,” he says. “It’s a marriage of music and film.” After the Second World War, there was the Scopitone, a kind of jukebox presenting an often-stand-alone 16-mm film clip of performing musicians.

It was Statler’s own need for a creative outlet marrying music and images that, in the late 1970s, drove him to break new ground in media — albeit unintentionally.

“I wasn’t trying to be innovative,” he says modestly.

Yet Statler is credited by none other than the Museum of Modern Art in New York with essentially ushering in the age of the music video, especially through collaboration with new wave band Devo. He’ll be giving a talk about his work at the West End Cultural Centre on May 20; more information is available at Big Smash!.

“Because it was a concept band — and singular in its day because of that — Devo was influential in making my work more conceptual,” Statler says. “In the days before MTV, the so-called music ‘promotional clip’ was less conceptual anyway; after MTV, that changed.”

Statler says the music promo clips of the ’60s and ’70s were created for the same reason videos are today: marketing.

“In the main, it was a trans-Atlantic exchange: bands from the U.K. would use clips to break into the U.S. market, and American bands were trying to break into various European markets.

“It was just more cost-efficient to send clips back and forth rather than the bands themselves,” Statler says.

Interestingly, Statler’s break into music filmmaking began not with promo clips, but with a short film conceived for the same purpose.

“In the Beginning Was the End: The Truth About De-Evolution was made in 1976, and was meant as a marketing tool for Devo to sell themselves to a record company,” Statler says. “Yet we really intended it for more of a film-festival audience.”

When working with Elvis Costello, Statler says he mainly made “rockumentaries” — that is, he recorded performances using whatever backdrops he could find.

After working repeatedly with Devo, however, he was able to offer greater possibilities to the likes of City Boy in the early ’80s.

Statler very consciously began including cutaways and odd juxtapositions of imagery with performance footage. Influenced by the Surrealists, “it’s a style that goes back to Eisenstein,” he says. (It’s highly recognizable today in the likes of The Simpsons, and especially Family Guy.)

Admittedly, Statler hasn’t really followed the development of music videos over the years — although, from what he’s seen, he feels the form has “devolved.” Nonetheless, he thinks there are still some bold, inventive videos being made today; he names Chris Cunningham, who’s worked with Björk and Aphex Twin, as a favourite.

What’s missing, of course, is the existing opportunity to create something new — whether knowingly or not.

“It was more wide-open then,” Statler says of the music video’s heyday. “The form wasn’t well-established. And I think it was interesting for everyone involved.”

– Kenton Smith


~ by cineflyer on May 17, 2010.

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