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Contrived and Alluded

04/13/2012

Contrivances, allusions.  More words that mean similar things and could be interpreted as passive aggressive stances.  I take issue with art sometimes because occasionally an entire chapter of the art becomes a series of contrivances meant to invoke certain emotion without giving any actual substance or meaning.

Meg Lee Chin is a lesser known musical artist that I occasionally enjoy, probably most know for her track Nutopia that was featured on a Pigface album.  Its a neat song that takes some liberties with the lyrics.  Most songs do this but its an example off the top of my head.  “Sipping chemical cocktails” is a phrase used in the song.  The insinuation is that a chemical cocktail is something bad like a drug.  In the context of social language this is an acceptable allusion.  In the context of science and reason, water is a chemical substance.  Its certainly not a bad thing to drink water.  Chemical reactions happen in nature without humanity and some might argue that humanity’s existence is due to a chemical reaction in nature.  Point being, its a phrase she used that in all reality is empty but holds context and allusion anyway.  Its not the only one she used in that song and every musical artist with a vocalist at some point uses them if not all the time.

A big complaint on modern horror movies is that they are built on these contrivances.  Horror is a unique genre in that the audience wants to be scared or to jump (not mutually exclusive).  The problem is knowledge is the ultimate weapon against fear so horror movies have to play on these expectations and assumptions.  A horror movie that isn’t clever is probably a bad horror movie.

The problem in art is when something is composed entirely of allusion or contrivance without having any actual intended meaning behind it.  The general public perception of artists is a deep thinker who has statements to make and emotional journeys to enhance the soul to take us on.  The problem is most of the time we do stuff that we think is cool and the depth just comes from our attention to detail rather than an agenda.  A large part of art for the adult is to renew our ability to imagine.

There’s a line to play played between music and video.  Music is almost entirely dependent on imagination.  Video answer the visual and therefore the only thing the watcher is left to imagine is what’s not being shown on camera.  And that’s if the video encourages the watcher to imagine anything.

And then there’s something like the ending of Mass Effect 3 which is built entirely on allusion and contrivance to give the illusion of meaning.  Close your eyes and listen to the music.  It starts out pretty sad, goes into a steady strong build, but at the end of the build something goes wrong.  Music settles down, then credits song hits.  You know its a credits song because it has a beat and makes you want to walk.  Its meant to instill you with a strong conclusive feeling.  The song raises no questions.  While I won’t spoil any of the actual ending video, the video is a series of textbook scenes thought through only to the point of dramatic effect.  The emotional cues are there.  If the game has succeeded in making the player worn out enough, the user may be thinking entirely with emotions at that point.

Why did the alien in Contact take the form it did?  Why did Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings movies struggle with the decision to take his ancestral sword?  Dramatic effect.  In movies, certain angles of shots, certain pans, and certain events are all cues for dramatic effect.  The shower scene in a horror movie will always be associated with this whether the scene is intended to show love, sex, or murder.  A large part of comedy in movies today exists because of these allusions and contrivances.  Film makers sometimes don’t know how their movie is going to play out and will simply film these scenes hoping to edit them in such a fashion that it becomes something.

Like most things in life, taking some but not all is often the best course.  But then again, there are no answers here, only questions and observations.  Have a good day :)

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