The 88 minute long rock concert video Stop Making Sense is a path breaking work of the genre. It superbly combines the spontaneity and energy of a live concert with the thoughtful orchestration of a recorded event. The concert movie is both visually and aurally satisfactory. An operative keyword that defines the entire video is ‘presence’. The creative team tries to actualize lead singer David Byrne’s philosophy of music-making as an active and in-the-moment experience. Consequently, the performers are all seen ‘experiencing’ each and every song on stage, instead of passively ‘singing’ it to the audience. In this approach to music-making, there is strong communication and reciprocity with the audience. The latter seem to absorb the underlying philosophy and quickly graduate from being detached spectators to active participants. This phenomenon is observed in how, after an indifferent response during the first half hour, the audience quickly gets into the groove and dances away the tunes. Another notable feature of the movie is how close-up shots are eschewed and medium to long range ones preferred. The idea behind this technique is to allow the viewer to absorb the energy of the stage by way of being able to view the bodily gesticulations of performers. The effect of these shots is particularly telling when the lead singer, background harmonics, percussionist and guitarist all move in synchronized unison. Moreover, the video takes are deliberately kept long. This is a far cry from typical MTV coverage of live events which include quick sequencing of salient visuals. This technique allows the viewer to assimilate the intensity of the act without losing focus. Finally, the lyrics penned by Byrne and team are whacky, topical, insightful, with elements of counter-culture. The lyrics stimulate the intellect, just as the tunes they are tied into satisfy the exigencies of aural aesthetics. In sum, Stop Making Sense is a high class video presentation that remains a prime specimen of the concert-video genre.
Talking Heads – Stop Making Sense (1984). Video accessed from <http://www.veoh.com/watch/v24256699cDmXWE4y> on 7th October 2014.