CIU 210.2 Audio-Visual Essay

First of all, What is a Semiotic? A semiotic in its simplest of form is the study of signs. But what type of signs? To put it simply once again. All of them. (Chandler, 2014)
Semiotics is defined as, the study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation, which originates from the greek word, sèmeioun meaning,  Interpret as a sign. (Google, 2016)

There are three different types of semiotics; The first is an Icon. An icon shows you want is being represented. A sign showing an elephant is an elephant as a picture of a car represents a car so on and so forth. secondly is an index which can be described as a sign is a visual that indicates an idea or object. A good example of an index sign is a skull and cross bone representing death or poison, or an exclamation mark meaning danger. The last semiotic is symbolism. A symbol is a sign that has no physical resemblance to its implied meaning, for example, a cross represents Christianity, or a piece sign representing piece.

Semiotics’ are not just a visual thing it can also be heard through audio snippets or songs and compositions. A good example of this is a short snippet I found on Soundcloud, a place where people across the globe share their audio and music amongst thousands of different people from millions of different audio and musical backgrounds. The snippet consists of three notes and listening to this piece gives you a certain semiotic feeling. Audio would be classafied as a symbolic semiotic.

When you here this 10-second clip of audio, what symbolic meaning does it give across? Sure it may only be three notes, but how do you feel when you listen to it? Is it a piece you would hear if did something good or was feeling happy? No, If you were playing a video game and you made a move and heard this you would know you did something wrong, But why is that? It is because semiotics are not just a visual thing. In this example, the reason you know why you did something wrong is because the tempo of this song is super slow unlike a happier piece with a faster pace and the notes are low and long being drawn out which is something us as humans don’t associate with happy or friendly sounds.

Feeling isn’t the only semiotic you can hear in audio, another track by the same guy makes us paint an image in our heads.

Without reading the title of this track you can hear the shape of a circle in your head. I have tested the sound on numerous people as well as myself without telling the test subjects what the track is called and all test subjects came back with a circle as one of their answers, proving to me that audio is not only feelings, but can stimulate an image in someone mind. Some other responses were spaceships and Craziness also showing that the symbolicalness of a piece of music is up to the consumer and there is not just a straight line answer.

So, as well as audio wise an artist can get across a symbolic message through their cover art. Drake’s Views album uses a plentiful amount of semiotics to help get across the emotions of the album.


This is the cover to Drake’s Views album released April 29th, 2016.

The Toronto CN tower:

The CN Tower situated in the city of Toronto, Canada. It stands at 555 meters tall and is the tallest tower in Toronto and Canada itself. (CN Tower, 2016) It also happens to be in the same city that Drake grew up in. This symbolises two things were, he grew up and how big his career has gotten. The size of the tower is representative of Drakes success. Drake sitting on top indicates that he is in his prime. This belongs in the symbolism category of semiotics as the tower does not represent a physical object but an ideal.

Scaling of himself

He sits on the top of the tower but is very small, this symbolises that he is on top of the world but still feels small and undermined. This relates to most of his songs on the album. For example his song ‘U with me?’ ‘And my house is the definition,Of alcohol and weed addiction. You got a different vision. You wanna walk around naked in the kitchen. Without runnin’ into one of my niggas. That’s not the way we livin’. Too much goin’ on, it’s just not realistic’ (Genius, 2016) this talks about how he can’t have a normal relationship because of his fame and that makes him feel belittled and small. This belongs in the symbolism category of semiotics just like the tower does, as the scale of himself sitting upon the ledge is an ideal.

The Clouds

The clouds are an indication of the overall feeling of the album. The clouds are grey, dark and overcast, giving you the implication of a miserable day. Just like how most of his song on the album are about tough times and his own miserable days. ‘Why would I say all these things to have you feelin’ a way? Why would I tell you I’m 30 away if I’m not on the way?
Why do I settle for women that force me to pick up the pieces? Why do I want an independent woman to feel like she needs me? I lost my way.’  The song is symbolic to about past relationships, about how he’s upset about the emotional trauma she put him through. (Genius, 2016)

Music videos

This video clip is the music video to Drake’s Hotline Bling.

Pre Scene

The video starts with a zoom-out from a water-cooler. In a stereotypical office environment, the water cooler is where you would go for office gossip. This is symbolic as it represents gossip which would be how Drake found out about this girl. The scene then continues through the office where there are girls talking on the phone. The song is about a girl talking dirty to him over the phone, so the girls talking dirty is an icon cause it shows you exactly what’s being represented.

There is then a new scene where the camera then slowly zooms in on Drake dancing. The dancing is a representation of how one would dance in a club, tying back to the song where he sings, ‘Cause ever since I left the city, you. Started wearing less and goin’ out more. Glasses of champagne out on the dance floor. Hangin’ with some girls I’ve never seen before.” This is a consistent theme throughout the video.

Drake’s Hotline bling has four main colours that are shown throughout the video; Yellow, green, blue, and pink. The colour yellow symbolises betrayal, The colour green symbolises envy, blue symbolises sadness and pink symbolise love. The colours flash differently throughout the video to show a conflict of different emotions. The shade of white is also present in the video representing emptiness. The bridge at 2:58 shows all of the colours flashing and changing vigorously, this is symbolic of the the emotional trauma and how he does not know how to feel about this girl. (Marshall, 2016)

Females Dressed in Black

The females are dressed in black because of how unaware Drake is of this girl. He feels as if he does not know here anymore and that she could be anyone at all.

The Stairs

The stairs are present in the video as it symbolic of him trying to climb out of his situation. Drake is never seen at the bottom of the stairs as the emptiness at the bottom is representative of the nothingness he feels, but at the same now he is never seen at the top of the stairs as he hasn’t gotten over this girl yet.

The Slanting Rooms

The slanting room is a symbol of how nothing is straightforward and standard. The walls are slanted cause he feels as if his situation he is in is slowly falling apart.

Dancing with the Girls

When Drake is seen dancing with the girls dressed in black at the end of this music video, it is symbolic of him trying to find this girl who has changed so much and by doing that has to go through all the trials and tribulations of love.


In Conclusion

In conclusion, Music is a very symbolic discipline as audio is not a very visual concept, and when visuals are included, (Music videos and cover art) it is also mostly symbolic as most artists like their music to reflect their lives without having to say it or show it visually through icons and indexes.



Drake Views, Google
Accessed 10th of November 2016

Icon, Index, and Symbol — Three Categories of Signs, Steven Bradley
(5th of April, 2016)
accessed 9th of November 2016

Icon, Index, and Symbol — Three Categories of Signs

La tour CN Tower
accessed 9th of November 2016

Redemption, Genius
accessed 10th of November 2016

Semiotics for Beginners,Daniel Chandler
(7th of April, 2014)
accessed 9th of November 2016

Semiotics, google
(9th of November, 2016)
accessed 9th of November 2016

U with me? Genus
accessed 9th of November 2016

12 colours and there meanings, Peter D.Marshal
accessed 11th of November 2016

12 Colors and Their Meanings



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