Stevie Wonder kicked off his birthday (May 13) celebrations by unveiling a groundbreaking new music video incorporating description technology at a Los Angeles press conference this past Monday, asking attendees, to, "travel with me and see with your ears," providing the audience with blindfolds to experience the premiere of his new music video, "So What The Fuss."
The debut single from his soon to be released new album, A Time To Love, is the first music video in history to be enhanced with a second, descriptive audio track to be made accessible to people who are blind or have low vision.
Dozens of press conference attendees in both L.A. and satellite-linked New York City, including Wonder's daughter Aisha (who appears on the new album) were treated to the historic, descriptive narration, recorded by hip hop star Busta Rhymes.
"Ten million blind people, as well as those with low vision, will now be able to 'see' music videos," stated Wonder. "Thanks to this new video description technique, passionate music fans that have not been able to share the same experience as sighted fans will now experience music videos in a more complete way, enjoying what is happening visually as well as musically."
Linda Idoni, West Coast Director of Operations for the Media Access Group of WGBH, the Boston Public Television station that collaborated with Wonder and pioneered the video description technology, thanked the artist for his devotion to the project.
"Working with Stevie Wonder has been an amazing process," stated Idoni. "By embracing the video description service, he has created a momentum and energy that will spread the word and knock down doors, making music videos more accessible to many--and some day all--blind and low vision music lovers throughout the world."
Sylvia Rhone, President of Motown, Executive Vice President of Universal lauded Wonder's initiative from the record company's perspective. "This project is another milestone in a long list of humanitarian accomplishments from Stevie Wonder," stated Ms. Rhone. "On behalf of everyone at Universal Motown, I thank Stevie and his collaborators for enabling visually impaired music fans to incorporate their own vision into the music and videos they love."
Busta Rhymes, who begins his effusive narration with the line: "Here's how it's going down ... " stated in a videotaped interview presented at the press conference that he was thrilled to be included in "a revolutionary new standard for how we're going to play this game form now on." Speaking about the actual process of recording the narration in Wonder's LA studio, Rhymes joked, "The General (Wonder) cleared the room and said: just give it to me like you're talking to me."
Wonder's support of the video description technique stems from his lifelong appreciation of the visual arts. "I remember when I'd be watching movies with my brother when I was a boy," Wonder told the audience.
"I always used to bug them, 'tell me what's going on. Tell me what's happening.' Well, music fans don't want to be asking people every five seconds what's happening in their favorite videos either. For me, this whole process is indicative of the spirit behind A Time To Love. There's a time to talk about what you plan to do, and there's a time to actually do something and make a difference. I believe that anything that you can visualize in your mind that's for the good of mankind is truly worth seeing fulfilled. It's my joy to be the first, but this breakthrough is far bigger than me."
Wonder says he and the Media Access Group of WGBH are currently enlisting other artists to incorporate descriptive narration into their future music videos, with plans in the works for Wonder to include the feature in his yet-to-be announced second single/video.