Have you heard of the McGurk Effect? I hadn’t either until I bumped into a Youtube video the other day. As the producer of HD-Audio products that also include HD-Video (we release our products on DVDs and Blu-ray discs), sometimes I enjoy watching the singers and other musicians while they’re performing. The gist of the video states that the visual influences that way we hear the audio. Watching the video, I was shocked that no matter what I did to focus on the “BA” sound when I looked at the “FA” mouth movements, my perception changed.
Does this happen when we’re watching a performance rather than just listening to one? Having never heard of the McGurk effect, I would have thought not. On the other hand, I’m not aware of any similar phenomenon with regards to instrumental performances. Striking a key on a piano or strumming a guitar doesn’t have the same level of articulation diversity as mouth movements. So perhaps this effect is restricted to vocals.
The larger question of whether music is more enjoyable when there is an accompanying video has yet to be decided…if it can be decided at all. The history of recorded music is just that…recorded music. Audio recording came before film and well before “talkies” and radio broadcasts predate television by 50 years or so. As a result, music listening independent of any visual component evolved into its own art and media type.
But it wasn’t always like that. Prior to recorded music and radio, if you wanted to enjoy music you only had a few choices. You could attend a professional recital or concert, listen to music performed at a public gathering (a pub or other celebration), play the music yourself or get a hold of a player piano. All of these listening experiences would have a visual component.
Then music struck out on its. Most recordings are made without cameras present. It requires months of studio time to assemble and produce the final music tracks of an album or single. There are live concert videos but they are produced for a different market and purpose.
AIX Records, my own label, records new tracks in a rather unusual method. We have all of the singers and musicians present in a live performance hall at the same time so we can capture video of the session at the same time as we record the audio. These are similar to live concerts except we don’t use a PA system or floor monitors…the entire focus in on the quality of the music. But the end result includes a video of the performance as well. If you prefer to listen without the video, simply turn off the display. There’s a special button for that on most remote controls.