Frisson, a new short film from Alex Wu, will give you goosebumps

Gillian Tang listens to music in Alex Wu's Frisson (2020). 3-Channel video commissioned for Multivocal, Old Quad.
Gillian Tang listens to music in Alex Wu's Frisson (2020). 3-Channel video commissioned for Multivocal, Old Quad.

Does listening to your favourite song give you goosebumps? Musical chills, or "frisson", are explored by VCA Film and Television alum Alex Wu in a new film entitled Frisson. Commissioned for the Multivocal exhibition at Old Quad, University of Melbourne (co-presented by Old Quad and Grainger Museum) this 3-channel video piece will open alongside almost 100 significant objects and artworks from the history of music on campus. Multivocal will open in 2021 at Old Quad (Parkville Campus). Hear from Alex on the process of creating this film in the below interview.

Hi, I'm Alex. I'm a filmmaker and a graduate of the VCA. And I did a video art piece for Multivocal. My piece is called Frisson, and it's a French term for shiver. And that basically is that feeling that you get when you listen to a piece of music or you hear a certain sound changing key or chord progressions, and your pupils dilate, you get the shivers, you get the chills.

I think it's something that everyone's experienced at some point in their lives. Happens to me all the time. And it's such an interesting thing to happen because it happens without your mind really processing it. It happens compulsively and it's different for each person depending on the song. So yeah, it was just a really interesting concept that I wanted to realise through this three-channel framework.

We brought in Uni Melbourne alumni. We sat them down in the studio, and before that we interviewed them and kind of talked about what music makes them feel certain ways and why that is. And we got them to nominate a selection of tracks to listen to. And we did that, and when we filmed then at different angles, we filmed them just in a wide, we filmed the closeups of the hair on their arms, their pupils, because your pupils can also dilate when it happens. And yeah, we just wanted to see how they reacted and not plan anything in advance and just let the thing happen organically.

It was really interesting getting each different person in and seeing their reactions because, again, I had no expectations, and each person reacted so differently depending on what the song was. You had people that were kind of just bopping and grooving, some people that were completely still just listening and being very focused in it. And just seeing those things that were just compulsive behaviours, just the way that the body would react to things was unique to each single person. And that was just really exciting to just watch and just kind of discover.

And we actually had one person, it was really a beautiful moment, she was like, "Every time I listen to this song, I started crying. And I was like, "OK, great. That's a lot to ask for". But yeah, we played it, and then lo and behold, she started tearing up, and we caught this crazy tear going down her face. It wasn't planned. It was just a really beautiful thing to watch. It was a great experience.

When I was brought in by the team from Multivocal to talk about making a film, I was really excited. I was really excited because before I became a filmmaker, I used to play guitar in high school. And ever since then, music has still been such a fundamental part of my life, and I try and work it into my films in some way. So to get the chance to make a film around a concept relating to our relationship to music was just a no brainer. I was really excited to make something.

I'd do it again in a heartbeat. And I hope people like it.