Midterm Installation


By Brandon van Sluis

“Worry” is my sound art piece inspired by my own struggles with anxiety. For designing the project, I took on the role of an individual with extreme anxiety/schizophrenia. While my mental health has never reached this level of intensity (thankfully) I attempted to exaggerate my own anxious feelings when producing this track. It depicts an individual‘s personal psyche and mindset while they are forced into a social setting, likely that of a classroom or seminar. The main narrative is told through the thoughts, breathing, and heartbeat of the aforementioned individual. While the background voices and lecture conceptualize the setting. With this work, I wanted to shed to light the struggle that many individuals go through in regards to anxiety and depressive disorders. While this is only my exaggerated interpretation, I feel that it might open the door for productive conversation between those who suffer from anxiety and those don’t have any experience with mental disorders. Parts of the track are unpleasant and fittingly, anxiety inducing, but this was on purpose. I aimed to make the climax of the track scary/unpleasant enough to illustrate anxiety, while still maintaining intrigue in the listener. I was heavily influenced by the music/sound art of Mike Patton, a musician/songwriter/vocalist. His notable works are found in the bands ‘Mr. Bungle’ ‘Peeping Tom’ ‘Tomahawk’ and ‘Faith No More.’ Overall I am happy with the end result, my main goal was to unsettle the listener while bringing attention to anxiety disorders.

Final Installation "Typical Anxiety"

Sporadic guitar playing, vocal samples, and an ambience of fear. Its purpose is to unsettle and disturb. Step into the psyche of anxiousness where the unforgiving nature of mental illness takes over. As someone who has been afflicted with various levels of anxiety throughout my life, my end-goal was to create a sound piece that reflected the hopeless and often sporadic thoughts and feelings that accompany anxiety disorders. I took advantage of my experience as a musician, implementing use of rhythm guitar and my voice as driving forces behind the song’s mood. I attempted to convey, along with the feeling of fear, that of sporadic randomness. This means that the volume and general intensity of the installation vary throughout with little to no warning. My intent is that this idea of ‘fear of the unknown’ will translate over to the listener. My piece is of course most reflective of my own experiences with anxiety, specifically Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Despite my interpretation and artistic expression, I still made sure to implement sound elements that are universally equated with anxiety (i.e. heavy breathing).

I want to emphasize the importance of understanding the varieties of anxiety disorders. My intent is not to claim that this piece is reflective of every individual’s experience with anxiety. Mental health is far too complicated to make such an assertion. However, my hope is that this sound installation can serve as a healthy self-expression regarding a very real topic to myself. Ultimately, I’m attempting to bridge the gap between those who are afflicted with an anxiety disorder of some sort and those who may have not had any experience with it themselves. We as a society have just recently begun to break major ground in regards better treating mental health. I think a big part of achieving that falls on the shoulders of people like me. Starting a conversation and simply empathizing more seem like good ways to start. My hope is that my work can inspire those with an anxiety disorder of some kind to have the courage to speak out about their experiences.

As stated above, my work as a musician and vocalist helped me make my sound piece truly my own. Music is an integral part of who I am, as is my experience with anxiety. Combining the two for this project was extremely fun and fulfilling. Because of the topic at hand, I always knew where to draw inspiration from. Because of this, I tried not to be too critical of the material I was creating, as most of it was sporadic and random. That’s when it hit me that this approach might actual be beneficial to the end-result. After all, I was attempting to convey restlessness and unknown. Upon this revelation, I began playing various guitar riffs and chords on the spot and recorded them on separate audio tracks. The sounds from the guitar varied, some fast, distorted, and even out of tune. While others were written for transitions and had slow tempos with soft notes that rang out. In regards to my own voice I used different styles varying from low zombie-like screaming to a falsetto that attempted to illustrate the depth of insanity that anxiety can feel like. I inserted all the tracks on a timeline in the audio recording program FL Studio, and adjusted the timing and transitions from there.

As for my end result, I can say that I am satisfied. I feel that given that my initial goal was to artistically express the feeling of anxiety, I delivered through the creation of a piece that couldn't have been made by anyone else. I feel as though this individuality is key for this type of work, as nobody else will tell you how to do it, nor should they. It took some courage to reveal this part of myself to others in this creative way, but I'm glad I stepped up.