Where Did the Music Video Come from?
Although the first music video ever broadcasted was 'Video
Killed the Radio Star' played by MTV in 1981, some consider the
music video to be much older than that year. It seems that the
film Alexander Nevsky, directed by Sergei Eisenstein in 1938 had
some extended images of battles which had been choreographed by
Sergei Prokofiev. These new scenes were so innovative that they
have lately been considered to be the first music video.
Apparently, the music video is even much older than these
innovative scenes. The 1911 Alexander Scriabin's symphony -
Prometheus: Poem of Fire was written for orchestra and 'light
organ'. Oskar Fischinger's animated movies were considered to be
other ancestors of the music video as they were called 'visual
music' and they were equipped with orchestral scores.
Max Fleischer's short cartoons were also considered to be
attempts of a music video. He created a new type of cartoons,
the sing-along cartoons which he called Screen Songs. These
short cartoons were inviting the public to sing along to famous
songs at that time. Few years later, in the 1930s, these
cartoons were changed; they displayed the musicians singing
their hit songs in front of the camera in a live-action show.
Walt Disney also contributed to the music video evolution
through his 'Silly Symphonies' which were based on musical
pieces. The Warner Brothers cartoons were also created around
songs. But the most popular videos were the live music concerts,
performing popular singers, videos which were displayed in
Bessie Smith's dramatized performance of a song was another
attempt to make a music video. This performance consisted in a
short film named Saint Louis Blues. It was very popular and it
had been played in theatres for more than 3 years. She wasn't
the only musician that appeared in short musical materials. Many
musicians liked the idea and started shooting their own
materials. Music historian Donald Clarke considers that Louis
Jordan's strange feature film Lookout is the official ancestor
of the music video.
In conclusion, it seems that the first music video issue is
still a controversial subject. The important thing that needs to
be noted is that the music video is by far much older than the
television which made it famous: MTV.