Twelve Tones

Vi Hart does a pretty magical thing with her latest. A half-hour mathemusical journey through Stravinsky’s “The Owl And The Pussy Cat”, copyright law, and how 12 tone compositions can create some pretty killer geometric art. 

And because I think about things like this, now some thoughts on how this relates to YouTube videos in general: I have a lot of ideas and reactions rolling around in my head about this video, because it’s so out there compared to what is being done on the ‘Tubes. It’s sparked many conversations among my science writer and video friends. It’s not perfect, and it’s not for everyone. But it’s definitely good, and definitely out of the ordinary.

Here’s the bottom line for me: It’s so important that people push the envelope for what’s “expected” when it comes to YouTube videos. Just because 3-minute webcam, jump-cut vlogs have been the staple format of online video  for half a decade (for both necessity and stylistic reasons) doesn’t mean that everyone should make their videos like that. Just because Henry Reich draws stuff doesn’t mean everyone should draw stuff. Just because Michael Stevens monologues doesn’t mean everyone should monologue. There is no “right” way to make a video. Just like in radio, you shouldn’t set out to make the next Radiolab, you should set out to make the next thing that you think could be as important as Radiolab.

If more people break the molds, then maybe someone will say “Oh, I can totally do that, because I have an idea, and I could make it work.” That means not being afraid to make videos beyond 5 minutes long. That means not being afraid to tell stories instead of just delivering information. That means not being afraid to do anything, really, and just seeing what works, and what doesn’t work, and not feeling bad about any part of this process.

Vi’s video is one of those experiments. More important than anything I just learned about math and music theory, I can’t wait to see what people do next after watching this.