June 26, 2020

Is music just emotional manipulation?

Ollie Hawker | Scott Crawford Morrison, 26

Audio-visualThe Owen Wilson Elegies, 2020

The Owen Wilson Elegies shows how something as commonplace as an offhand comment from a promotional interview with American actor Owen Wilson can, with the simple addition of music, be transformed into something simultaneously sad, funny and beautiful. The work is an exercise in context over content. A seven second clip of Wilson’s dialogue is cut up and reconstituted against shifting musical backdrops for 30 minutes. These fluid backdrops, and the varied emotions they deliberately elicit, show how easily the emotional meaning of a sentence can be skewed by music. The music tells you to feel sad, but the sunny, comedic reputation of Owen Wilson seems to tell you something else. So is the sadness ironic? Is the music sincere? Then further questions arise, like what shade of sadness is appropriate, or is sadness even appropriate in the first place when things, just for a moment, suddenly seemed funny after all… In an age of algorithmic playlists, binge-watched television and ever-streaming movies, music is constantly being used to shape and enhance how we feel. But the bluntness of words like ‘sad’ or ‘happy’ don’t quite capture what is going on, which is weird and interesting and troubling and beautiful.