Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Selling with Vivaldi

(If you have time to watch only one of these videos, definitely watch the last one, Beer Vivaldi.)

In the museum-like world of classical music one of the most revered and oft-displayed masterworks is a set of violin concertos, The Four Seasons of Antonio Vivaldi.  These pieces easily evoke meteorological images in the minds of listeners who, after all, have come to believe that music is really just like a movie - but without anything to watch.

But these pieces are among the very few which have a life as part of contemporary pop culture.  They aren't as well known as the Ode to Joy or the Ride of the Valkyries.  One doesn't have to look too hard to hear them in unexpected places - for example, as a soundtrack to a television commercial.

This short advertisement, running currently on television, shows a fearless stunt every-man jumping out of his luxury car onto an auto carrier, in hopes of acquiring an even better luxury car. The exciting derring-do music is the end of the first movment of Vivaldi's Winter. Perfect images for baroque music, don't you think?


Lest you think Vivaldi can only be used to sell automobiles, here's an ad for Hewlett Packard computers. The music is from Vivaldi's Summer and the guy waving his hands, creating fantastical images in mid-air, is none other than Joshua Bell, a violinist most famous perhaps for his performances in the Washington Metro. If he really could make visuals like these, live on stage just by waving his hands, Bell could probably become a really big star.


Lest you think that Vivaldi can only be used to sell autos and computers, here's another ad, with the very same Joshua Bell performing the same movement from the same Vivaldi concerto. The only difference is that in this one he is selling perfume, not that you can tell until the very end.  Listen for the horrible cut in the music, just before the voice over.


Lest you think that Vivaldi's Four Seasons can only be used to sell high cost, high tech or high prestige items, here's an example of it being used for a different type of product. We see a scruffy college student amidst piles of forbidding obscure tomes, apparently translating an oriental language. In his notebook he writes "The divine truth one must find lies within." This idea provokes him first to deep thought and then to begin a quest through the stacks of the library. What he finds is ... a package of noodles. (Actually it finds him.) The remainder of the saga involves fancy kitchen prep work - the kind performed nightly by inscrutable Japanese chefs at your local Benihaha.

If you're paying attention, however, this commercial should make you want to buy an Audi. Yes, this noodling music comes from the same Vivaldi movement so perfect for jumping out of your car on a busy freeway.


These four uses of Vivaldi are all pretty standard capitalist realism - art in the service of profit. Our last example is much more interesting, vastly more creative, much more focused on Vivaldi's music - it's another performance of the same Winter movement which we've heard twice already. Alas, it is also much more forgiving of over consumption - in this case the item being promoted is beer. The image we see is a creative inebriate, an otherwise anonymous person called Pianobloke who must be a big fan of beer, creating pitches on a wide selection of beer in bottles, cans and glasses - the last of which he performs like a glass harmonica. These recorded snippets are assembled into Vivaldi using fancy video editing.

This video is chock full of visual imagery. There's no way to catch everything the first time.  Go to YouTube and watch in high definition if you can.  Notice that the first note is performed on a bottle of Duff, the beer of the Simpsons. After the music finishes each bottle of beer gets a cameo shot. Then our hero passes out. Congratulations, Pianobloke, a job well done.  If you can turn out something like that I guess you weren't really that drunk. Why would you want us to think you were?


Other Mixed Meters pieces discussing classical music in advertising:
Advertising with Disney Hall  "It would be a much better world if you were reminded of classical music each time you saw the bank's stagecoach, rather than being reminded of a bank each time you saw the concert stage."

In Which David Is Confused by The Second Coming  "Does this, I wonder, sell shoes or religion?"

Who is Weiden & Kennedy Anyway  "A dark story of crushing defeat as the home team loses by one point in the last second because an opponent is wearing better shoes. Life is like that, huh?"



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1 comment:

Archivist/Cultural Liaison said...

Even the most unassuming piece of music today has to degenerate into the psychosis of manic normality. [Some of his La Stravaganza i like which would be also to hear some time. I mean he isn't like Sky Saxon and the Seeds that only wrote, one ok maybe two good hits]