Radiohead’s “Videotape” as an example of orbital music and inspiration for orbital dance

Musician WARRENMUSIC created a wonderful analysis of Radiohead’s Videotape (1). As a musician, after meticulous analysis, he noticed that there was something magical with the song. He calls this syncopation. Wikipedia describes syncopation as follows:

In music, syncopation involves a variety of rhythms which are in some way unexpected which make part or all of a tune or piece of music off-beat. More simply, syncopation is a general term for “a disturbance or interruption of the regular flow of rhythm”: a “placement of rhythmic stresses or accents where they wouldn’t normally occur.”[1] 

It is lovely to see how his musical analysis proves that this apparently simple song is in fact quite complicated. For example, it took the drummer two years to find the ‘1’ in the song and even Thom Yorke lost the beat during a live performance.

I myself have been intrigued by this song for some time now. Recently, I wrote a blog about the deeper meaning of the lyrics of the song (2 – Radiohead’s Videotape as a hopeful Akasha’s record).

But most of all, my love I for the song comes from dancing on it. When I dance on this song, I feel exactly the syncopation of what WARRENMUSIC is speaking about. For me Videotape is an example of what I call Orbital Music.

Orbital Music

Actually, I love to dance most of the music by Radiohead. Over the years they have been able to add multiple levels to their music what I would define as orbital music:

Orbital music is music which consists of a) multiple different sounds / instruments, which have b) their own seemingly independent rhythms, but which c) are drawn towards a mysterious point of gravity and d) which are interacting during the song.

This is what I think WARRENMUSIC refers to with the mysterious syncopation in the song Videotape. I leave the excellent musical analysis to WARRENMUSIC. But I will try to explain how the different musical elements become visible in something which I call Orbital Dance.

Orbital Dance

Although I have no formal dance background, I consider myself a dancer. More and more I have become interested in what I would call multilayered dance or orbital dance:

Orbital dance is dance form where a) different parts of the body, b) move in their own rhythm on different elements of the music simultaneously but which are c) all aligned to a single point of gravity and d) where the different parts of the body interact with each other.

Gurdjieff Movements the best example of this concept (see 3 for a link). These movements are temple dances and are considered to be sacred dances by some people. Here different parts of the body have their own rhythm and symbolism, but there is a great interconnectedness between the body parts (and the different dancers as it is essentially a group dance). The Movements give a glimpse to a higher reality. On similar principles as the Gurdjieff Movements but less structured, I have developed a dance form called Hermetic Flow Dance (4).

The reason why I speak about orbital music and dance is that both seem to refer to astrological principles about how different planets (elements) circulate around the sun (a single point of gravity) in different configurations. Each different configuration of planets has a different effect on each other: some are positive, while other configurations don’t seem to get along at all (5). In a similar line of thinking, some sounds and movements could be linked to certain planets and some ‘clashes’ between instruments / movements can be symbolized as planetary aspects.

In my opinion orbital music and dance hint to these deeper insights and they enable us to encorporate the Hermetic axiom ‘as above so below’. Because by means of orbital music and dance we can experience the macro cosmos of the solar system in the micro cosmos of our body.

It is this non-linear, almost paradoxical, aspect of Videotape which makes it fascinating. At a first glance, something seems to be off on the song. But after closer listening, it all makes sense on a deeper, but much harder to grasp, level. This is what I also tried to visualize and explain with my dance interpretation of Videotape below.

Example of Videotape as Orbital Dance

As you can see in this clip, I try to follow the various rhythms with different parts of my body. For example, the main piano is represented by the circular movements of my upper body. Let’s assume that this is the watery energy of the moon. The drums at the beginning of the song are visualized by my feet stepping forward and backward. Could this be the straight marching energy of Mars? Sometimes, the movements of both body parts come together and all is in flow. At other times the rhythms of both elements drift apart and as a result my movements become unbalanced. Around 3.15 a light drum break beat comes in, which results in my body jumping slightly up and down: this is active Mercurial energy. Although it goes nicely with the Mars energy, it does disturb the moon turning energy somewhat. Next at 3.25 a heavy Saturnine energy beat comes in. It is so heavy that at first it pushes me to the floor and tends to disrupt the other melodies. Later this Saturnine beat starts to balance with the Moon piano. Against this melody, at 3.40, a Drum-‘n-bass beat comes in, which pushes me up and supports the Mercurial energy. Lets say that this is a Juperterian force. At the climax of the song there is a tension between Moon / Saturn energies on one side and Mercurian / Juperterian energies on the other side.

Conclusion

An article by WARRENMUSIC which investigated the depth and complexity of the music of Radiohead’s Videotape, inspired my to investigate the same song, but then from a dance perspective. I tried to explain that the syncopation of Radiohead’s music is intentional and in fact an indication to a deeper concept which I call orbital music. Orbital music is characterized by multiple instruments and melodies which seem to be independent, but which interact with each other and swirl around a single point of musical gravity. Orbital music is complemented by orbital dance which basically follows a similar definition. Both are based on astrological principles of planets, each being in their own orbits around the sun and interacting with one another. Based on the Hermetic axiom ‘ As above, so below’, orbital music and dance allow micro cosmically to experience these macro cosmic principles and astrological planetairy aspects. Finally, I presented a clip of my orbital dance interpretation of Videotape with a loose attribution of movements to their respective planetary influences.

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1 – The Hidden Syncopation of Radiohead’s “Videotape” by WARRENMUSIC – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RvKhtFXPswk

2 – https://irkodel.wordpress.com/2017/04/14/radioheads-videotape-as-a-hopeful-akashas-record/

3 – Example of Gurdjieff Movements https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qftYyjV9tsk

4 – Website Hermetic Flow Dance: https://hermeticflowdance.wordpress.com/

5 – Interestingly, in astrology all planetary configurations are part of the ‘flow’ of our solar system. Some are labelled beneficial and others are not. But none are out of key or wrong. In other words: astrology doesn’t know false rhythms or mistakes as our musical theory does.

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