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submitted by Eric Miller on 3/2/99   
for the course, Media Rituals   
at the University of Pennsylvania.   
(This paper is approximately 15 pages.)   

Technically, this paper needs work--   
there are too many undigested quotes   
and the theoretical foundation is not stated clearly.   
Yet, even as is, this is one of my favorites.   
This was a mid-term paper: also see the term paper.   

The 1999 Grammy Award Television Broadcast: 
Ritual Aspects of the Set Design

The 1999 Grammy Awards, televised live on 2/24/99, might be discussed as a ritual on many levels.  For one thing, this event was a rite of passage marking the ascendancy of Lauryn Hill, the young lady who won five Grammys, the most ever for a woman; or of hip-hop music in general (in 1998, for the first time ever, rap outsold country, which previously had been America's top-selling musical genre).1   One might look at the role of ritual clown played by Rosie O'Donnell, the host, who deflated the proceedings to the mundane after almost every commercial.2   One might examine the role of flags (Jerry Seinfeld waved a small Puerto Rican flag and shouted, "Viva Puerto Rico," in the course of flirting with his lovely Puerto Rico co-presenter of an award, Jennifer Lopez).  Or one might focus on ways in which the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS), the organization that sponsors the Grammys, attempted in the course of the show to position itself as the arbiter, the ritual master of the musical world.  In this paper, I will touch on some of these subjects, but I will do so through the consideration of a visual element of the show: namely, the 54-panel backdrop or set which appeared behind the singers.3   Each rectangular panel, or screen, was approximately ten feet high and five feet wide.  There were three levels, with nine screens on each side; thus, there were 27 screens on each side.  The two sides formed a "V."  Here is a representation of the set:   

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18 
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  

At times, a larger video screen (approximately 40 feet wide, 30 feet high) was placed in front of the middle six or so rectangular compartments.  I will attempt to argue that the grid of small screens (and the large screen) functioned as a visual symbolic field that illustrated and manifested a sense of multiplicity and, finally, unity and communion.4   

The structure of this paper is as follows:  First I will discuss definitions of ritual that seem especially to apply to this case.  I will discus peoples' desire for participation, and the nature of celebrity.  Then I will discuss spatial demarcation, starting with the line, and proceeding to the inner/outer and central/peripheral dialectics, the rectangle, and complex geometric designs.  This will lead to a comparison of ancient Chinese temples with the Grammy stage; both will be discussed as microcosms of society and the cosmos.  I will comment on the visual and spatial reversal performed by Michael Greene, the president of the Grammy Awards, when he spoke to the TV viewers with his back to the on-site audience, with a sea of human faces behind him.  Finally, I will discuss the success of the ritual as evidenced by Lauryn Hill's acceptance of the organization's divine authority.   

Emile Durkheim's descriptions of ritual, written with ritual systems of certain Australian Aborigines in mind, seem to apply very well to the subject at hand:   

All parties...see to it that periodic conventions are held, at which their followers can renew their common faith by making a public demonstration of it together.  To strengthen emotions that would dissipate if left alone, the one thing needful  is to bring all those who share them into more intimate and more dynamic relationship.5
The very act of congregating is an exceptionally powerful stimulant.  Once the individuals are gathered together, a sort of electricity is generated from their closeness which quickly launches them to an extraordinary height of exaltation.   Every emotion expressed resonates without interference in consciousnesses that are wide open to external impressions, each one echoing the others.6
Participants in the Grammy ritual demonstrated their presence by appearing in the flesh or by watching on TV, and also through the presentation and perception of symbolic representations of their bodies, the 54 screens and the images on them:   
Religious representations are collective representations that express collective realities; rites are ways of action that are born only in the midst of  assembled groups and whose purpose is to evoke, maintain, or recreate certain  mental states of those groups.7   

Society cannot make its influence felt unless it is in action, and it is in action  only if the individuals who comprise it are assembled and acting in common.  It is through common action that society becomes conscious of and affirms itself;  society is above all an active cooperation.  Collective ideas and feelings are possible only through the overt movements and external objects that symbolize them.8

External visual symbols help people to communicate:   
By themselves, individual consciousnesses are actually closed to one another, and they can communicate only by means of signs in which their inner states come to express themselves.  For communication that is opening up between them to come to a communion--that is, in a fusion of all the individual feelings into a common one--the signs that express those feelings must come together in a single resultant.9
"Society is a synthesis of human consciousness."10  The experience of this togetherness can be achieved through the synthesis of symbolic forms, which represent and facilitate the "transcendence of individual consciousness"11:   
Individual minds can meet and commune only if they come outside themselves, but they do this only by means of movement.  It is the homogeneity of these movements that makes the group aware of itself and that, in consequence, makes it be.  Once this homogeneity has been established and  these movements have taken a definite form and been stereotyped, they serve  to symbolize the corresponding representations.12   

Probably because a collective emotion cannot be expressed collectively without some order that permits harmony and unison of movement, these gestures and cries tend to fall into rhythm and regularity, and from there into songs and dances.  But in taking on a more regular form, they lose none of their natural fury.  A regulated commotion is still a commotion.13

The following definitions of ritual supplied by Catherine Bell are also very applicable: "Ritual is...a means to create and renew community, transform human identity, and remake our most existential sense of being in the cosmos."14  "Two of the prime functions of traditional ritual (are) social integration and personal involvement in central events."15   

At this point, the reader may object that the images on the 54 screens were in no way created by the bodies or body movements of either the in-the-flesh or the TV viewers.  This objection is certainly valid.  What we have here is a situation, typical of mass media, in which ritual officers supply and manipulate the component ritual elements.  "A ritual is not something one is audience to, but is something one is a participant in."16  "Spectating is a mode of access.  It has limits, so if one's participation goes no further than spectating, then the meaning of the ritual will probably be thin and its effectiveness small."17  "If the audience is nothing but dispersed spectators, how can they be seen as ritual participants?"18, 19   

To counter the reality of lack of immediate participation by TV viewers--either through their bodies or through representations of their bodies--makers of television shows often seek to simulate interactivity, "to creat(e) for viewers some feeling of presence in the ritual space,...transporting the faithful out of the daily round and into contact with the transcendent."20  "Television is an instrument that can give them the illusion of staying integrated in a secure society and of being linked to the world of the marvelous."21  Thus, TV workers often attempt to "orchestrate some form of personal involvement of the viewer."22  In the case of the Grammy Awards, this was done in various ways in the days leading up to the broadcast, including an ongoing "web poll" (hosts of the Extra! entertainment TV show encouraged viewers to log-on to www.grammy.com, and to there express their opinions on various questions; the results of the previous day's poll were given), e-mail chat sessions with famous musicians, and reports of NARAS' efforts to assist music education in the schools and to distribute CDs of classical music to mothers as they leave hospitals with their new-born children.   

Assumptions, hopes, and fantasies about technology sometimes color the more prosaic reality.  For example, I believe that when the TV viewing public hears the term, "projection screen," many take it for granted that video will be projected onto that screen.  TV workers may also make this imaginative leap.  For example, on the broadcast the day before the Grammy Awards, Bob Goen, one of the hosts of Entertainment Tonight, mistakenly announced that each of the 60 screens would show video (in fact, the small ones, which were the great majority, only showed slides and fields of color).  Moments later, Bob Keene, the Grammy's scenic designer, was shown  saying, correctly but excitedly, "We can do color, projections...on each of the 60 compartments, and they can all be different, every one of them."   

As mentioned, TV workers use numerous "strategies...to break down some of the spectacle-like distance between the performers and the audience in order to create those feelings of interaction and real participation necessary to a 'nation-wide communion.'"  In one "tactic for contravening any sense of discontinuity between the event and the audience, the cameras appealed to an epidemic of celebrations, covering one party after another and merging them into each other until it seemed the whole country was having one vast party."23  This practice has contributed to another hope/assumption that arises when the TV public is presented with a grid of screens: the possibility seems to be there that individual people's live images will appear on each of the screens (that is, a multi-party videoconference will occur).  The groundwork for this mindset has been established on TV by instances too numerous to recount, including the introduction to The Brady Bunch, the (live) set of Hollywood Squares, and the uses of videoconferencing on Nightline, Larry King, and other news and talk shows.  An ultimate in technological advancement is for the home TV viewer to be able to join in via videoconference.  Thus, I submit that when a grid such as the one that was presented at the Grammy Awards is shown, people anticipate that their own images will appear there.  This yearning is related to many peoples' quests to "be in on the action," "make the scene," meet celebrities, and so become celebrities themselves.  The sentiments are commonly expressed that, "'Of all Americans, only celebrities are complete.'  'Either you're a star or you're nobody.'"24  People may be alone and alienated in their houses and rooms (boxes), "But that didn't stop them from hoping that they might yet gain access to that world, that they might yet get to the other side of the glass...  All one really needed was the sanctification of a television camera."25   

To retreat for the moment from discussions of fantasies of videoconferencing and celebrity, I would like to point out that whenever a person sees a grid of frames, a single frame, or anything else, a natural identification process occurs: people identify with the objects they see, and with the way those objects are arranged.  And these arrangements can be very meaningful:  "Each thing has its assigned place in social space."26  "Space would not be itself if, like time, it was not divided and differentiated.  But where do these divisions that are essential to space come from?  All men of the same civilization conceive of space in the same manner."27   "Spatial organization is modeled on social organization and replicates it."28   

Society is possible only if the individuals and things that make it up are divided  among different groups, and if these groups are classified in relation to one another.  Thus, society presupposes a conscious organization of itself that is nothing other than a classification.  That organization of society is naturally passed on to the space it occupies.  To forestall conflict, a definite portion of space must be assigned to each individual group.  In other words, the space must be divided, differentiated, and oriented, and these divisions and  orientations must be known to all.29
Thus, now I would like to engage in a brief discussion of the geometric objects, and the arrangement of these objects, that composed the Grammy Awards set.   

We must first consider the simplest divider of space: the line.  "A line is a boundary separating two fields...  Everything stands in a fixed relationship, 'above' and 'below' a horizontal line and must, it may seem, without question remain that way."30  It is a convention in many cultures that all above the line is airy and spiritual, while that which is below the line is of the earth and is of the material realm.   

Lines can bend or join to form angles.  According to Wassily Kandinsky, particular angles express and evoke specific emotions: acute angles are sharp, piercing, narrow, aggressive, attacking, and active; right angles (used in the construction of rectangles) are fair, balanced, orderly, systematic, organized, and upright; and obtuse angles are passive, generous, relaxed, inclusive, yielding, and seem to be bending over backwards.31   

"The most objective form of the Basic Plane is the square--both pairs of bounding lines (the horizontal and the vertical) are equally strong."32  The compartments composing the Grammy set were vertical rectangles; these rectangles looked a bit like upright coffins.  These 54 compartments were, first of all, definitely separate from each other.  They provided a field, a framework, for possible collaboration.  One large image distributed over multiple compartments delivered the message of unity in diversity: all compartments are different, but they work together to create a whole.  A number of times, especially with the cloud and sky scenes, the image flowed from right-to-left or left-to-right, from one compartment to the next, further communicating the sense of sharedness and togetherness.  "On approaching the boundary of the Basic Plane, a form increases in tension until, at the moment of contact with the boundary, the tension suddenly ceases."33   

The borders around space which create enclosed geometric forms  "control the relations between independent object systems and provide them with standards of reference for their perceptual features."34  In the case of a rectangle, the four walls separate the inner from the outer.  People tend to assign a certain moral validity to that which is inside and centered, as opposed to that which is marginalized:   

In a traditional society, one could journey in either of two directions: toward the  sacred center that orders the known cosmos or in the opposite direction, toward the "other," beyond the periphery of the ordered world, where chaos both  threatens and beckons.  The first sort of journey was legitimate and laudable; the second was suspect and heretical.35
In one of the performances, Kirk Franklin and his gospel troupe emerged out of a large cube in the center of the "V" area.  Eventually, these performers climbed up on top of this cube.  The backdrop during this section formed a white pyramid, or double-staircase.  This motif of going upward foreshadowed Lauryn Hill's reading of the 40th Psalm, which speaks of being lifted out of a pit and of being placed high on a rock.   

The sense of independence and separation of compartments was countered in a number of ways.  During the Grammy broadcast's opening number (sung by Madonna), a man twirling a stick with fire burning at both ends began behind the backdrop screen: his shadow was projected, distributed over numerous compartments.36  The circular motion and the fire implied universal unity (as did the Japanese outfits worn by Madonna and her co-performers).  The technique of distributing components of a large visual image over numerous compartments would not be used again until the final number, performed by Lauryn Hill.  In that case, two paintings were distributed over the middle-height level of compartments (nine on each side): first a painting of the African veldt, with one tree; then a picture of inner city ghetto buildings.  In the balance of the broadcast, repetitive images of the sky were shown, along with some abstract designs and varying and alternating fields of color, often changing in time with the music.  For Celine Dion's operatic-type song, images reminiscent of stained-glass windows were projected.  For Sheryl Crow, there was an alternation of black and white, evocative of the mix of black and white culture that was  central theme of the broadcast.  Especially through hip-hop, "Millions of white kids are defining themselves through nonwhite culture."37  Of course, this interplay between black and white has been going on for quite some time: one of the highlights of the broadcast was a duet blues number by Eric Clapton and B. B. King.   

What did the visual repetition of the vertical rectangular compartments achieve?  "Repetition is a potent means of heightening the inner vibration and is, at the same time, a source of elementary rhythm which, in turn, is a means to the attainment of elementary harmony in every form of art."38   

As mentioned, at times a large screen (perhaps 30 feet high and 40 feet wide) was placed in the center of the backdrop, and video was projected onto it.  The spinning logo (totem) representing the Grammys, a gramophone, was one of the images thus presented.  A clear hierarchy of importance was thus established, in terms of this screen's centrality, level of technology (video instead of slides and fields of color), and size.  Size of screen and image is a very important factor: "Size is one of the most primitive ways we have of perceiving what is happening in the environment...  Large things are consequential, both as problems and as opportunities, and consequently, the encourage a preparation for action."  "If any object, especially one that moved, appeared large, it was large or close, either of which was cause for concern."39  The authors of The Media Equation made three predictions regarding size of image, and their data supported all three:   

1) Larger pictures will be more arousing than small ones.   
2) Larger pictures will be better remembered than small ones.   
3) Larger pictures will be better liked than small ones.40
There are situations where a large screen may be counter-indicated: for example, too much arousal can be counter-productive in learning.  "It is quite possible for emotional experience to distract.  The possible consequence is that little mental energy is left to contemplate, rehearse, or integrate information with prior experience."41  However, this was certainly not a concern in the Grammy Awards entertainment setting.  The point is, however, that a pleasing balance must be achieved between the visual components: to my sense and taste as a television viewer, such a balance was beautifully achieved on the 99 Grammy Awards broadcast.   

In relation to the large central screen, the rectangular compartments, in a sense looked like children surrounding their parent.  This convention is common to a number of cultures, including the Walbiri, an Aboriginal people of Australia:   

In contrast to the core elements, adjunctive features are generally numerous, often diminutive features such as ant swarms, grains of sand, sparks, leaves, pearl shells, stems and immature yams, and footprints.  In a number of instances, these features were explicitly identified as the numerous progeny of  the species...  In a design for a dove ancestor, short parallel lines placed at right  angles to the central line represented the bird's ribs, again identified as children...  In the flying ant ceremony, dashes around the central hole of a  ground painting were identified by one informant s "people" (yaha), that is, the  many people produced by the activities of the ancestor.  In still another instance, the central circle of the yam design was described as the large yam,  while the smaller tubers and roots placed as adjuncts around it were referred to as children...  It would appear then that the typical plural adjuncts suggest  fecundity, or reproduction, or, more generally, the notion of multiplicity so important to the life-maintainance or "increase" notions central to male cult.  The numerous members of the species or "children" are created by the activities of the ancestor.42
Incidentally, Lauryn Hill's culminating performance was a song entitled, Zion, the name of her son.  It was also addressed to him.  During this song, in addition to the scenes of Africa and the ghetto mentioned above, there were designs projected of a child's face, alternatingly right-side-up and up-side-down, surrounded by many small circles.  These images indeed seemed to imply fertility and many-ness.  Also, there were rib-like diagonal lines, especially on the upper and lower of the the three height-levels.   

Throughout the broadcast, then, the star performer was backed and framed by the grid of small compartments.  The video screen was added primarily during the the movie music section, the ensemble jazz numbers, and the lifetime achievement award commemorations.  During the commemorative sections, still images of greats of the past were projected, especially Duke Ellington and the recipients of the five lifetime awards: Sam Cook, Otis Redding, Smokey Robinson, Mel Torme, and Johnny Cash.  The "V" of panels thus came to be reminiscent of a ceremonial cave: "sacred objects are sometimes kept in a small cave hidden in a deserted place."43   

One function of this visual field was that it represented a microcosm of the universe.  In ancient Chinese culture, "Artistic creation was generally mobilized by a desire to make religious concepts concrete: these tangible forms, not abstract principles, were directly related to religious experiences."44  "The temple unified the world, providing a physical representation, an artificial microcosm, of the universe."45  In the case of ancient Chinese temples, "Zoomorphic images on...ritual paraphernalia were not the ultimate objects of worship; rather, they appear as the surface elements of ritual objects...  These zoomorphic images functioned to 'animate' inanimate materials"46: in the case of the Grammy Awards, the screens themselves were the ritual objects.  "Temple of Origin rituals performed in the temple followed a uniform pattern to seek to 'return' and to communicate with the origin.  Temple rituals guided people to go back to their origin and maintain the ancient, not forgetting those to whom they owed their being."47   

The "V" was clearly a sacred space in which images of the founders of the clan were presented.  Beneath and surrounded by these images, musicians played their music.  As mentioned, on the large central screen, moving images were not shown of Duke Ellington and the lifetime achievement award winners, although the technology here was capable of it.  This decision to avoid literalness may have been made in order to maintain a distance from representations of these legendary figures, as was done in ancient China:   

Even at the end of the ritual process, people found not a concrete image of the ancestral deity, but only the means to communicate with this invisible being.48
The ritual vessels, hidden deep within the temple compound, would provide people with the means to to communicate with the invisible spirits of the ancestors--to present offerings and to ascertain their will.49   
The whole visual complex becomes a metaphor of the ritual itself.50
The 1999 Grammy Awards was held in Los Angeles, site of the founding of NARAS.  The Grammys are alternately held in LA and New York, two central sites of the music and media businesses:   
What actually has caused the erection of certain sites into totems is that a mythical being is thought to have stopped there and to have done some deed of his legendary life.51   

These totemic centers are certainly the consecrated places where the clan held its meetings.  It therefore seems likely that each group took as its emblem the  animal or plant that was the most plentiful in the neighborhood of the place where it usually assembled.52

There was a grand moment of visual reversal during the 99 Grammy Awards.  Approximately two-thirds of the way through the show, Michael Greene, the president of NARAS was introduced.  He appeared standing in front of the seated audience.  Thus, instead of 54 panels displaying mythic and other images, a sea of the upper bodies of real people served as his backdrop.  The TV viewer watched him from the perspective of an onstage performer.  As the camera slowly began to zoom in, he said,   
Good evening folks, and on behalf of the Recording Academy, we hope you are  enjoying the 41st Annual Grammy Awards.  There's over a billion of you out there in more than 180 countries.  You're the fans, you're the music lovers, the  main reason that we're all here tonight.  And before the last chance of the new millennium slips away, all of these wonderful and talented people here want to say, thanks.  Thanks for buying our music.  Thank you very much for  coming to our concerts, and for making us reach higher by always demanding our very best.  So from all of us here to all of you, our partners, a great big thank you.53
It did not matter that he mistakenly said "last chance of the new millennium" when he meant the "old millennium."  It was a touching moment.  In fact, it prompted the people directly to his left side to touch each other:  When the phrase, "last chance," was spoken, the head of a dark-haired lady bobbed a bit.  Next to her sat Beck, a (newly-famous) musician.  Beck seemed to take this head bob as a cue: he raised his right arm to put it around his lady-friend; she smiled and leaned forward; and he completed the gesture.54  Now, in a sense, seats are compartments.  According to strict middle-class norms, one is supposed to remain a polite, passive spectator and always stay in one's own compartment.  During the early days of the American cinema, "working class patrons made a display of their lack of breeding.  Crammed into small and often steaming nickelodeons, members of the audience would neck during performances, munch peanuts or eat fruit, talk, wander, shout at the screen."55  I doubt anyone was offended by Beck's gesture, in fact it was quite warm and gentle--but it did break the norm of physical compartmentalization and separation as presented by the seats and by the rectangular screen compartments.56   

Of course, at festive occasions, there is always a good deal of frame-breaking:   

With such games and performances, events are carried on not only between the players within the frame, but between players and audience  members, or spectators, a relationship that goes outside of the frame as well...  If there is a play frame imposed on festivities, it is so much more diffuse and all-encompassing that the very notion of framing becomes problematic.57
That sort of informality must be kept within bounds at a Grammy Award broadcast.  In addition to conventions of decorum usually practiced at prestigious award shows, the Grammys in particular was founded to stem the tide of anarchic, out-of-control, rock and roll, and the organization's predilection for technical excellence and precision (and centralized control over production and distribution of product) remains.58   

One of the running ads throughout the broadcast showed a door that all variety of people, animals, cartoon-figures (including the big bad wolf) tried to open.  The door represented Intel's Pentium 3 computer chip microprocessor.  The voice-over said, "When this door opens, the Internet is going to be a much more fun place.  Opening February 28."  Thus, the product's availability was presented as if it were a movie opening.  The new processor will, among other things, enable the faster streaming, sending-and-receiving, uploading-and-downloading of music files across the Internet.  Here again, with the image of a door, we have the image of the compartment, the box, the frame, the cube, that contains the sacred substance, the answer to all of one's longings.   

"Consecration (is) the moment when the novice is admitted to the sanctuary where the sacred objects of the clan are kept."59  "To consecrate a thing, one places it in contact with a source of religious energy."60  Lauryn Hill was definitely consecrated by the Grammy Award show near the end of the broadcast.  Not only was she allowed to perform the final number in the now very sacred "V" space, she was given the final award (best album of the year).  Upon receiving an award earlier (best new artist), as mentioned, she had read the 40th Psalm, which spoke of being placed up on a rock.  Strikingly, she had then said, " I want to say, thanks to God for honoring me with this huge responsibility."  Thus, she stated that God had worked directly through the Grammy organization--she was collapsing God's will with its will, something that the Grammy people I am sure appreciated.   

The only hearth at which we can warm ourselves morally is the hearth made by  the company of our fellow men.61   

If society is to be able to become conscious of itself and keep the sense it has of itself at the required intensity, it must assemble and concentrate.  This concentration brings about an uplifting of moral life that even expressed by a  set of ideal conceptions in which the new life thus awakened is depicted.62

Lauryn Hill definitely seemed to have experienced this moral uplift, and she did her best to try to uplift others.   

The man who has obeyed his god, and who for this reason thinks he has this God with him, approaches the world with confidence and a sense of heightened  energy.63   

There was a good deal of visual and aural frame-breaking when Lauryn Hill won her final award.  Just before the winner was announced, a male audience member called out her name.  Whitney Houston, one of the presenters (but not the one to speak the winner's name), having seen the winner's name on paper, repeatedly punched the air.  As Lauryn Hill gave her acceptance speech, numerous people called out, "Come on!", "Go ahead!", and "Amen!"  Proponents of soul and gospel music seemed in total harmony with reggae, rap, and hip-hop people--the whole became a raucous church service:   

Only regular, elaborate rituals could convince them that their way of life was real--a given and not a construct.64   

Awards are emblematic of the resources of organized bodies of individuals, the permanence, visibility, and power of which are manifested in the awards and  give them meaning.65   

Award ceremonies serve to gather the faithful and encourage commitment by celebrating the goals of the group as embodied in a particular exemplary  individual.  The ceremony serves...to remind members and the relevant publics  of the more noble and perhaps abstract goals of the group and its success in fulfilling them.66

Thus, by presenting a microcosm of the universe onto the stage set, and by projecting onto this surface the images of so many great musicians of the century, the Grammy organizers transmitted the message that they are the authority regarding popular music: if popular music is made, it is done under their auspices and within their realm.  This is not something that can be taken for granted, as there are other musical awards shows, and the entire music industry is on the verge of massive reorganization and shake-up due to the coming technology that is enabling musicians to distribute music directly over the Internet.67   

Appendix:  Incomplete List of Performers and Uses of Set   

On the 54 rectangular compartments:   

Madonna:  Fire-twirler behind faux screen, his shadow projected on multiple compartments.   
Steven Tyler:  Violinists standing in front of blue compartments.   
Kirk Franklin:  Performers emerge from cube, climb atop it.  Backdrop shows blue sky; then white pyramid.   
Sheryl Crow:  Alternating black and white compartments.   
Ricky Martin:  Blue florette images.   
Shania Twain:  Red-orange sky; expanding white circles on brown/red backgrounds;  white, with sparks.   
Celine Dion:  Circular multi-compartment stained-glass window projections.   
Jazz:  Posters (text) about Duke Ellington on middle-height level.   
Movie music medley:  Black background, countless tiny stars.   
Lauryn Hill:  Drawings of faces, alternating rightside- and upside-down, surrounded by  small circles, on middle-height level.  Blue, then brown hand-drawn diagonal  lines.  Distributed on the middle-height level, painting of African veldt, with one  tree behind and to the left of the performer; then a ghetto scene, with burned out  buildings.  Faces and diagonal lines return at end.   

On the temporary central video screen:   

Steven Tyler:  Video of earth as seen from outer space.   
Jazz:  Still images of Duke Ellington.   
Movie music medley:  Video of scenes from movies.   
Lifetime Achievement Commemorations:  Still images of Sam Cook, Otis Redding,  Smokey Robinson, Mel Torme, and Johnny Cash.   


1   Christopher John Farley, "Hip-Hop Nation: After 20 Years--How it's Changed America," Time,Feb. 8, 1999.  Vol. 153, No. 5., p. 54.   

2   Some of Rosie’s statements: "Time to go the refrigerator."  "Isn't Ricky cute?"  "I told (a blind musician)  I was size 6 with long blonde hair--you got to take it where you can get it."  On Entertainment Tonight before the show, Rosie had spoken “honestly” about her weight difficulties.   

3  On Entertainment Tonight the day before the broadcast, Bob Keene, the Grammy’s scenic designer, said that there were 60 screens.  I counted 54 vertical rectangular ones: perhaps he was referring to other screens for the remaining six, or perhaps my TV view was incomplete.   

4  This ritual was not created and executed by the “media” or by the “Grammys,” but rather by individuals: Executive producer, Pierre Crossete; producer, Ken Ehrlich; producer and director, Walter Miller; scenic designer, Bob Keene.  At the end of the paper, there is an appendix: An Incomplete List of Performers and Uses of Set.   

5  Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life,trans. by Karen Fields, NY: The Free Press, 1995.  Originally Published as Les Formes Elementaries de la Vie Religieuse,1912, p. 212.   

6  Durkheim, p. 217.   

7  Durkheim, p. 9   

8  Durkheim, p. 9   

9  Durkheim, p. 231.   

10  Durkheim, p. 432.   

11  Durkheim, p. 233.   

12  Durkheim, p. 232.   

13  Durkheim, p. 218.   

14  Catherine Bell, Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions,Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1997, p. 264.   

15  Bell, p. 246.   

16  Eric W. Rothenbuhler, Ritual Communication: From Everyday Conversation to Mediated Ceremony,Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1998, p. 125.   

17  Rothenbuhler, p. 65.   

18  Rothenbuhler, p. 81.   

19  People can respond to TV shows--about musicians, for example--by buying CDs and going to concerts, and, of course, by purchasing products advertised in commercials.  Such participation, however, is neither direct nor simultaneous: it does not contribute to or effect the TV show (as would a telephone call, a fax, or an e-mail--communication techniques which are increasingly used on TV).   

20  Rothenbuhler, p. 88.   

21  Bell, p. 246.   

22  Bell, p. 243.   

23  Bell, p. 243.   

24  Neil Gabler, Life, the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality,NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998, p. 186   

25  Gabler, p. 187.   

26  Durkheim, p.443.   

27  Durkheim, p. 10.   

28  Durkheim, 11.   

29  Durkheim, p. 444.   

30  Wassily Kandinsky, Point and Line to Plane,Hilla Rebay, ed.; trans. by Howard Dearstyne & Hilla Rebay, NY: Dover Publications, 1979, p. 116.  Originally published as Punkt und Linie zu Flache,Munich: Bauhaus Books, 1926.   

31  Kandinsky, p. 73.   

32  Kandinsky, 115.   

33  Kandinsky, 137.   

34  Rudolph Arnheim, New Essays on the Psychology of Art,Berkeley: U. of California Press, 1986, p. 83.   

35  Bell, p. 249.   

36  This was projected on a smaller temporary screen grid that had been placed in front of the permanent one.   

37  Charles Aaron, "Black Like Them," Utne Reader,March-April 99, pp. 68-73.  Originally published in Spin,Nov. 98, p. 69.   

38  Kandinsky, p. 38.   

39  Byron Reeves and Clifford Nass, The Media Equation,Stanford, CA: Center for the Study of Language and Information, 1996, p.194.   

40  Reeves and Nass, p. 196.   

41  Reeves and Nass, p. 200.   

42  Nancy D. Munn, Walbiri Iconography: Graphic Representation and Cultural Symbolism in a Central Australian Society,Ithaca: Cornell U. Press, p.  164.   

43  Durkheim, p.119.   

44  Wu Hung, "From Temple to Tomb: Ancient Chinese Art and Religion," Presented at the 1987 Symposium on Han Art at the University of Michigan, p. 78.   

45   Wu Hung, p. 92.   

46   Wu Hung, p. 106.   

47  Wu Hung, p. 80.   

48  Wu Hung, p. 86.   

49  Wu Hung, p. 86.   

50  Wu Hung, p. 86.   

51  Durkheim, p. 103.   

52  Durkheim, p. 236.   

53  Transcription from the 2/24/99 Grammy Awards broadcast.   

54  Incidentally, this occurred in the lower right corner of the screen: the translucent CBS logo was superimposed on Beck during this moment, as if certifying this act of togetherness.   

55  Gabler, p. 42.   

56  Earlier Rosie had pretended to be unaware that a commercial break had ended: she had scolded Aaron Neville, telling him to get back into his seat, that is, to contain himself in his compartment: "They will see you!", she said.  This implied that in reality people are getting out of their compartments all the time, but for the sake of making a proper impression on the viewing audience, a fiction of orderliness needed to be maintained.   

57  Roger D. Abrahams, "Marketplace Experience and Festive Play," unpublished manuscript, no date, p.19.   

58  Henry Schipper, Broken Record: The Inside Story of the Grammy Awards,NY: Carol Publishing Group, 1992, p.1.   

59  Wu Hung, p. 117.   

60  Durkheim, p. 422.   

61  Durkheim, p. 427.   

62  Durkheim, p. 424.   

63  Durkheim, p. 211.   

64  Bell, p. 224.   

65  William G. Lehrman, "Awards in Organizations," Presented at the 1993 annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, p. 12.   

66  Lehrman, p. 5.   

67  See  www.mp3.com   


Aaron, Charles, "Black Like Them," Utne Reader,March-April 99, pp. 68-73.  Originally published in Spin, Nov. 98.   

Abrahams, Roger D.  "Marketplace Experience and Festive Play."  Unpublished manuscript, no date.   

Arnheim, Rudolph, New Essays on the Psychology of Art.  Berkeley: U. of California Press, 1986.   

Bell, Catherine.  Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions.  Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1997.   

Durkheim, Emile, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life.  Trans. by Karen Fields, NY: The Free Press, 1995.  Originally Published as Les Formes Elementaries de la Vie Religieuse, 1912.   

Farley, Christopher John, "Hip-Hop Nation: After 20 Years--How it's Changed America."  Time, Feb. 8, 1999.  Vol. 153, No. 5., pp. 54-66.   

Gabler, Neil.  Life, the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality.  NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998.   

Kandinsky, Wassily.  Point and Line to Plane. Ed. by Hilla Rebay; trans. by Howard Dearstyne & Hilla Rebay.  NY: Dover Publications, 1979.  Originally published as Punkt und Linie zu Flache, Munich: Bauhaus Books, 1926.   

Leach, Edmund R.  "Ritualization in Man in Relation to Conceptual and Social Development."  In Reader in Comparative Relgion: An Anthropological Approach,Fourth Ed., William A. Lessa & Evon Z. Vogt , eds., NY: Harper & Row.   

Lehrman, William G.  "Awards in Organizations."  Presented at the 1993 annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.   

Hung, Wu.  "From Temple to Tomb: Ancient Chinese Art and Religion." Presented at the 1987 Symposium on Han Art at the University of Michigan.   

Meyer, John W.  &  Brian Rowan.  "Institutionalized Organizations: Formal Structure as Myth and Ceremony."  In American Journal of Sociology,1977 (83): 340-363.   

Munn, Nancy D.  Walbiri Iconography: Graphic Representation and Cultural Symbolism in a Centarl Australian Society.  Ithaca: Cornell U. Press.   

Reeves, Byron  &  Clifford Nass.  The Media Equation.Stanford, CA: Center for the Study of Language and Information, 1996.   

Rothenbuhler, Eric W.  Ritual Communication: From Everyday Conversation to Mediated Ceremony.Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1998.   

Schipper, Henry.  Broken Record: The Inside Story of the Grammy Awards.  NY: Carol Publishing Group, 1992.   

Calacanis, Jason McCabe.  Silicon Alley Daily(e-mail newsletter), 2/25/99, edited and published by Jason McCabe Calacanis.  (see http://www.siliconallyreporter.com)   
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