Music, Sound, and the Moving Image

Subjective Perspectives through Word, Image and Sound: Temporality, narrative agency and embodiment in the Dixie Chicks' video 'Top of the World'

Music, Sound, and the Moving Image (2010), 4, (1), 3–37.

Abstract

The Dixie Chicks have claimed a prominent place in country music video while at the same time confronting the normative values of the traditional country music genre. Their 2003 collaboration with video director Sophie Muller set aside the sense of youthful liberation evident in their earlier videos, adopting more sophisticated editing techniques to take a critical stance on serious social issues. The video for 'Top of the World' addresses the cyclic generational effects of domestic abuse, using montage editing and image superimposition to convey a complex multi-generational narrative structure. This paper analyses the lyrics, images, and music of 'Top of the World', as they are integrated into a video form that accommodates multiple subject positions in a narrative of domestic abuse. The gendered and subjective perspectives of the story reveal both the origins and consequences of abuse through three generations of one family. In the domain of images these perspectives are suggested through characterisation and action, while in the domain of vocal and musical presentation the Dixie Chicks develop a musical 'voice' that accommodates a narrative of multiple agencies. In order to explore the ways in which words, images, and music are combined to communicate these, we draw upon the scholarship of literary, music, and film theorists. The analysis focuses on three interpretive perspectives: temporality, narrative agency, and embodiment.

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Author details

Burns, Lori

Watson, Jada