Level 1 - Lurker
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Byron Bay- Australia
My Semiotic Analysis for university
Okay I'm just gonna copy and paste my essay now that I've finished writing it for uni (for my bachelor of audio). Please tell me what you think.. I'll probably get better feedback here than from my teacher TBH.
This essay will cover the symbols present in the music video Parabola, by Tool; breaking down the way in which audio/ visual signs are displayed, structured, and interconnected to convey messages and emotions to the audience. This music video actually covers two songs; starting with ‘Parabol’, and ending with ‘Parabola’. Parabol is an introduction leading up a profound experience, which is symbolized in Parabola.
Because this video is so abstract and there are so few solid answers as to why the producer used certain symbols, this essay ultimately comes down to personal interpretation. Many people have written insightful, detailed explanations into the videos symbology, although their conclusions come from personal experiences and ideologies, which contradict one other. For this reason I am taking the stance that I do not have a complete understanding, as there simply are not resources to fully justify my claims. However I believe the scope of my research has allowed me to come up with a well concluded answer after researching the bands vast ideology.
It is clear that the music video shares the bands’ testing experience through obtaining spiritual enlightenment, and stresses the importance of mindfulness; staying present to each moment. Because this song has psychedelic themes, and the infamous visionary artist Alex Gray worked on some of the visuals, it would suggest the video reveals the bands journey after consuming psychedelics. However I want to point out this song has many more symbols which are easily overseen.
If you only listen to the music, the message is fairly simple, but with the added media of video it presents the viewer with a lot of hard hitting, surreal symbols. Because Tool’s guitarist (Adam Jones) directed the video, the video clip gives you many more clues as to what the band members were experiencing, especially when examined in time with the lyrical content.
There are many themes of sacred geometry and interconnectivity throughout the universe in this video. This can be seen in the beginning where the camera zooms out of cells which are connected to one another, making up the entirety of the first scene. The transition between songs shows more sacred geometry, transforming from a circle into a Heptagram; which signifies the beginning of a profound experience, as well as the end of the first song. Lastly this can be seen in the outro where the character experiences oneness, becoming fully aware of his spirit as a torus field of energy connected to the rest of the universe.
The businessmen represent some of the artists and possibly their friends: as the first one enters the scene the lyrics are “this one, this form I hold now”. The symbology behind the businessmen depicts spiritually disconnected people, not only because they are straight looking businessmen, but because they have small beady eyes, symbolizing a type near blindness. It gives the viewer an impression of a formal, yet non sacred setting. A similar businessman features in another music video by Tool: ‘Ænema’. He’s seen in time to the lyrics where it describes people’s inability to cope with disaster, having attachment to the comforts they are used to.
The businessman puts his suitcase on the table to withdraw a knife, while an apple appears in the centre of the table. As he cuts the apple, you are again shown sacred geometry or occultist patterns, as the song plays “wide eyed and hopefully wild”. This implies that these men have gathered around to perform a ceremony with the sacred apple to have a wild experience. The reason it is an apple is to signify the fruit of knowledge, also known as the apple of Eden. Initially the apple has a Pentagram carved around its five seeds, but when the camera zooms in it is now a Hexagram with six seeds, zooming in once more it is a Heptagram with seven seeds.
Once one of the other businessmen notices the apple is ready, a flame appears on the end of his finger; shows his burning desire to try the apple. All three men proceed to simultaneously float upward, experiencing supernatural effects. They start vomiting as a sign purging inner toxicity. As they vomit in unison to create a circle, their sickness is joined together as you hear the lyrics “feeling eternal, all this pain is an illusion”. This is the first sign of awakening, which has the scene fade away, concluding the first song Parabol.
This scene has shown many signs of occultism which stems from many forms of spirituality; Thelema and Kabbalah just to name a couple. These could be further analysed, but it is out of the scope of this essay as it would take too long to describe. All that is relevant to their story is they are performing occultist practices in order to achieve an awakening.
Once the next song starts you see stones swinging, and a small creature avoiding them. You then see the main character (Tricky from the band Massive Attack) taking the blow of these swinging stones, resulting in broken pieces to float away. He then drops and smashes another stone, resulting in more broken pieces floating away. Breaking these stones represents destroying mental burdens in order to protect his ego, which is the small creature.
Now that the focus is on this man in a room, it signifies that he is having a profound inner journey within the confines of his own mind. The fact the focus has shifted from businessmen with small eyes, to a man with antennas shows a transformation to heightened, supernatural senses.
Next you see the man walk over to a tree structure which looks like brain pathways; this is where the man and ego meet, allowing him to see the entirety of his brain and start to understand his inner workings. Afterwards, the man’s ego watches him walk over to a glass box, where he places his head inside and the perspective shifts into what looks like a portion of his brain. The brain pathways start to inflate, grow, and rush with fluid as you hear “in this holy reality”- the other time this phrase is heard is when the man smashes the rocks, gaining control over his reality. This phrase, as well as “choosing to be here right now” is symbolising mindfulness meditation, and gaining control over your consciousness.
After practicing this mindfulness meditation the man notices a floating black ball which symbolises his newly formed, higher consciousness. This divides over time, again symbolizing personal growth. Initially the man is playful with this consciousness, but his ego is hiding within the brain structure, seemingly scared of it. With his new consciousness the man looks to the outside world for the first time, completely removing his perspective from his mind (the house) to observe the rest of nature. At this point his ego is threatened by how much his consciousness has developed, as you see it has divided into many balls. As you hear “twirling around with this familiar parable” (parable is a story to illustrate a spiritual lesson) his consciousness destroys his ego. You then hear “spinning, weaving round each new experience” signifying the intensity of this awakening. The man approaches his consciousness as you hear “recognize this as a holy gift”, he then screams at it, angry that it destroyed what he knew about himself. Even though he sees it as a gift it was painful to let go, so he reminds himself to carry on as you hear “and celebrate this chance to be alive and breathing” showing he should only be concerned about life, even without his ego.
The man proceeds to dissect his ego now that it is dead, so he can understand how it works. Now that his ego is dead he fully embraces the outside world with his higher consciousness by his side. He turns around to notice the floating balls, but has no fear or concern. He then picks up a leaf off the ground, signifying a complete immersion into nature, where the leaf begins to float and turn into a flame.
As this scene begins you will notice the frame of the video slides away which gives the viewer the impression of a clear consciousness, no longer viewing things like a TV screen. As a new visualization begins (by guest artist Alex Gray), it portrays a mystical experience which is known as a kundalini awakening in yogic theory.
The flame transforms into a flaming eye which allows the man to see his hand as transparent; revealing veins, bones, muscles, and eyes on his hands (an eye on the hand represents Hamsa: a symbol which grants protection from the evil eye/ consciousness in many religions). The eyes divide into two and enter his body through his feet and legs, revealing energy (chakra) points and electricity nodes. The eyes travel up his spine, awakening the seven main chakra points in the human body with an emphasis on the middle (heart/ Anahata), and upper (third eye/ Ajna) points. This is because the key to having a kundalini awakening is said to lie with having an open heart, where you will eventually perceive reality through your third eye.
In conclusion, Parabol seems to signify consuming the sacred fruit of knowledge, which is a psychedelic drug. Parabola goes on to indicate the inner challenges throughout a spiritual awakening. Lyrically alone it is clear the band is describing the importance of mindfulness throughout this experience. Overall the video shows symbols of universal connectivity. From the cells in the intro, to the character experiencing oneness in the outro; it symbolises the ideology of universal connection from cells to the human spirit.