• ×

    Bruce Conner: Father of the Music Video

    A new documentary series from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles explores how a fixture of the San Francisco Beat scene invented the modern music video.

    I’m pretty confident when I say that the first music video I remember watching was Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer.” The year was 1986, and somehow, I had managed to stay up late enough to watch the venerable NBC late-night show Friday Night Videos—at the time, my only source for music videos. The mind-blowing visuals and imagination on display in that video have stuck with me all these years, but I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve only just recently discovered the artist who initially introduced the concept of artistically combining film with music: Bruce Conner.

    A fixture of the San Francisco Beat scene in the 1960s, Conner’s early experimentation with found footage, film collage, and music eventually earned him the recognition as the father of music videos—an honor he apparently wasn’t all that comfortable with, according to collaborators. But whether he believed it or not is irrelevant, because his work speaks for itself. To celebrate Conner’s contribution to film and music, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles has recently released a series of short documentaries featuring three of Conner’s most popular film and music collaborations, all of which can be viewed for free on the MOCA YouTube page.

    While Conner may not be a familiar name outside of film schools, his influence has been far reaching. Upon being introduced to Conner’s early films featuring quick cuts and collage, Dennis Hopper said that Conner became an immediate influence on his work, and was the direct inspiration for the cemetery acid trip scene in Easy Rider: