MTV launched in 1981 with a video for the Buggles song “Video Killed The Radio Star,” and the medium of music has never been the same.
Most music that is. Music at the edges and in the niches that line mass, popular culture has been little affected by music videos. Opera and experimental Western art music have been working with visual mediums since the 1920s, so MTV was no revolution for them. And though there are the occasional jazz promotional videos, jazz is not well-suited for short form visuals. It is an abstract and non-narrative musical genre, a tricky vehicle for concise sequential storytelling. Yes, jazz can be used to tell stories and for dramatic purposes, but that’s a layer of artifice over the roots.
But the visual is all we have during this pandemic, that’s how we’re getting “live” music. This column has already looked at the streaming situation, performances that can be experienced in real time or via archives, which fits into the bell curve standard of some good on one end, some bad at the other, with a bulge of indifference in the middle.
There is jazz in the middle of the two poles of live performance and music video, a substantial catalogue of filmic jazz, old and new, that you, the viewer who is kept by circumstances from the live experience, can enjoy from your own home. Most of these are immediately available.
Vocalist Sara Serpa has a new album, Recognition, out on Biophilia records. She has made