"... Or Other Visual Media"
by Marc Weidenbaum — Disquiet.com
February 10, 2011 – 00:00
A tantalizing clause dangles at the end of the name of three of the lesser categories of Grammy Awards. The clause tantalizes because these particular awards—and, by extension, the Awards—have never delivered on its promise.
Here’s the name of one of those categories: "Best Score Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media." The clause, "or Other Visual Media," contains an acknowledgement that movies and television are subsets of a broader realm—one we might term "visual media."
Perhaps the awkward construction is intentional, keeping the phrase just past the periphery of the reader’s patience. For key among the media stuffed under the rug that is "or Other Visual Media" is an unspeakable behemoth that long ago surpassed sales of music (Grammy’s reason for being).
Patience eventually wears thin. A decade has passed since the clause "or Other Visual Media" was appended to the soundtrack category’s name. In that time, exactly one non-movie (HBO’s Angels in America mini-series) has been nominated for the award. If television got one mention in a decade, there’s no reason for surprise that not a single "or Other Visual Media" has ever received a nod.
The unspeakable media, of course, is video games. Of this year’s 109 Grammy categories, not one names video games. Nonetheless, 2010 will be remembered as the first year a game received a nomination, in the category "Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s)." The song is "Baba Yetu," choir-packed world-music composed by Christopher Tin for the game Civilization IV. It’s pretty saccharine. Perhaps a spoonful of artificial sweetener was necessary to help Grammy get the medicine down.
I include the "Official Music Video" here with no intention that you actually watch it. The video poorly represents Civilization IV. It doesn’t evidence how music in games is fluid, dynamic, integral. The video serves as a totem of the Grammys’ shortsighted focus on "singles" and "albums," exposing how its governing body prioritizes "recording" as fixed artifact, versus recording as process or recording as system. The "Official Music Video" is a faded postcard mailed back to Flatland by its Video Game World ambassador, hinting at the pleasures to be had.
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