If music is an engaging art form, music videos might even be a step up. Last year, I decided to integrate science and visual art by having my 3rd graders create Rube Goldberg-type machines. We experimented with how to combine the illusion of movement in art work and the actual movement of kinetic art with different types of energy and energy transfer. To introduce the idea of the Rube Goldberg machine, I found a music videos created by the musical group OK Go.
Let me say, it was a brilliant tool. The entire music videos follow an elaborate series of ingeniously created energy transfers. Not only is it immensely engaging, but viewing the behind-the-scenes videos is just as awe-inspiring. They took a huge warehouse space and an army of scientists and engineers, 6 months to work with the band and synchronize this machine with the song. Truly astounding. I think I could have shown that video every class period and the students would not have tired of it!
Music Videos That Inspire Integration
But that music video by OK Go is not the only one with educational value. I remember seeing the four members of this band year’s ago perform a meticulously choreographed number entirely on several treadmills. I was blown away at that time with their ingenuity but I had no idea that would be just the tip of the iceberg. Over the years, they have continued to push the envelope and engage in collaborations with many different innovative minds in creating novel and often intricate music videos.
I had so much fun researching this article about OK Go and their amazing creations. One notable discovery is that most of their videos (especially the ones featured here with the exception of Primary Colors) are filmed in one continuous shot so all these moving parts have to work perfectly in order to have a complete take! I have provided links to some behind-the-scenes videos but if you go on YouTube there are more. OK Go also has a website with really interesting features about their music videos. They are clearly interested in technology and finding ways to use technology to have their fans interact with the work of the band.
May these music videos inspire you and your students to go forth, create and integrate!
Song Name: I Won’t Let You Down – 2014
This video was inspired by Busby Berkeley, a film director and choreographer who was known for choreographing interesting geometrical formations that are reminiscent of a kaleidoscope. The filming is done directly and overhead so the viewer sees both side views and aerial views.
Song Name: The Writings on the Wall – 2014
Behind the Scenes Link: The website allows you to see each optional illusion one at a time. You can view the video segment, get more information about that segment of the video and then watch a behind the scenes video on how it was created.
Viewing the filming of the video from the film crew’s point of view: Amazing to watch the teamwork, the hustle, the precision, the planning. Wow!
The art director talks about previsualization and shows the planning what went into the illusions.
Integration Possibilities: Optical Illusions, Connecting to brainstorming, storyboards, or any other strategy used for planning.
Song Name: Upside Down and Inside Out – 2014.
Stereogum explains the video this way: Shot in a plane repeatedly nose-diving towards the ground in Russia, the new video for “Upside Down & Inside Out” takes the song’s “gravity’s just a habit that you’re really sure you can’t break” line as a direct challenge, with the band members and two flight attendants (who happen to be trained aerial acrobats) gleefully somersaulting around in zero gravity.
Song Name: Primary Colors – 2012.
Integration Possibilities: Primary Colors, Stop Motion Video Technique.
This video was made for Sesame Street and explains how the three primary colors combine to make other colors like orange, purple and green. The use of stop-motion makes it fun and later in the song there is space for the students to call out what color is made when different colors combine.
Song Name: Needing/Getting – 2010.
I remember being so pleased with myself when I created “guitars” with some of my students out of rubber bands and tissue boxes and was able to find bands that would sound the appropriate pitches to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” This video is a tad more sophisticated! OK Go had the M.I.T. Media Lab involved as well as other consultants to help them to create the accompaniment for the singers. The band members sang the song in crash helmets with microphones attached inside the car as the lead singer (who had stunt car driving lessons) drove a Chevrolet along a musical track that contained both real instruments (guitars and pianos) and found or created instruments (like basses made from plastic tubs). The car had microphones attached to the outside as well as several strikers off the sides and top to play the various instruments. Watching the behind the scenes video you see the lead singer striking everyday objects to try to find the right sound for the percussion.
Song Name: All Is Not Lost – 2010.
This video was made in collaboration with a modern dance company, Pilobolus. In the behind-the-scenes video, the dancers talk about the process of collaboration. One dancer talks about using the “math” side of her brain in coordinating the various plexiglass squares on which they danced. The video was filmed under the plexiglass so the viewer gets an under the floor view of the piece choreographed with that perspective in mind.
Song Name: This Too Shall Pass – 2009.
Behind the Scenes Link:
The band worked with Syyn Labs whose president, Adam Sadowsky, explains the organization as a collection of artists, engineers and scientists who develop “interactive installations and artworks that engage the public in a variety of ways.”
Integration Possibilities: Energy transfer.
Song Name: Here it Goes Again – 2005.
Behind the Scenes Link: This is NOT a behind-the-scenes link but a link to a talent show at Granby High School somewhere in the United States where 4 boys recreated the video live on stage. They did a PHENOMENAL job and they proved it was possible to do in one take!
Integration Possibilities: I’m not sure about integration possibilities but I feel pretty certain that if you showed both the original video and the high school kids recreation of the video, you would inspire at least one student to create something amazing!
Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.