We had to create a soundscape for this project and this is unlike anything I have ever done before, but it was challenging yet fun experience.
The idea of my soundscape is more of an emotional soundscape than a physical soundscape. It is one that aim to portray someone struggling with mental illness, in particular, anxiety. I wanted to portray something doesn’t have a sound to it, a place where people can’t physically go unless you yourself experience anxiety, a mental cage of sorts. This soundscape aims to invoke certain emotions in audiences and joining in this journey of someone who struggles with anxiety that plays out as insomnia. From the “quietness” of the mind to the beginning thoughts of strange noises to all the thoughts that flood one’s mind, it is a journey through anxiety and insomnia.
The concept of using my soundscape to portray something like mental illness came to me actually while Ms Lei was giving us the brief. Though, I did look through some foley artists to see how they work because it is amazing! I initially intended to record sounds physically, with the zoom recorder, but I felt that just like how mental illness may be foreign to some of us and also because it is something we can’t hear around us, I wanted my soundscape to feel slightly foreign and weird, which was why I decided to scrape the foley idea.
Moving on from the foley idea, I decided to use GARAGEBAND to record the kind of sounds I was looking for.
I started doing my research and found that the term mental illness is really broad and so I wanted to zoom in and focus on 1/2. I chose depression and anxiety and in the end, I went with anxiety. I then read up on some articles of people who face anxiety and how they would describe it.
“To me, anxiety feels like being in a big, creepy house alone at night (you can also substitute “driving alone on a deserted highway” or “lost in a city where you don’t speak the language” if you love creepy houses at night). You hear a noise that wouldn’t cause any real reaction if you heard it during the day at work — but hearing it alone in this big scary house makes your heart race and your body prepare for fight-or-flight. You become extra sensitive to everything else around you — sights, smells, whatever — because your body is trying to figure out if you’re threatened. I’ve found that explaining it in this way helps me better convey the emotionally-charged nature of my anxiety — and its trajectory, which is less “rise to a peak and then experience relief at the end” and more “get freaked out over and over again by the weird creaking noises until you eventually fall asleep.”
“ Insomnia is one of the main ways my anxiety manifests itself — I wake up after an hour or so of sleep with my heart pounding, and find that my brain wide awake and full of every spare worry floating around my head. “
“There’s a misconception that anxious people are antisocial, short-fused or over-dramatic. But they’re most likely processing everything around them so intensely that they can’t handle a lot of questions, people or heavy information all at once. Anxiety is when you feel everything.” — Katie Crawford
“Anxiety can keep you up at night — tossing and turning. It’s like a lightbulb that comes on at the most inconvenient times and won’t switch off. Your body feels exhausted, but your mind feels wide awake and racing. You go through the events of your day, analyzing and agonizing over every specific detail.”
After reading through these, I realized that many people have attacks at night, when they are about to sleep and because of these attacks, they are kept awake till the wee hours of the night. Hence, I decided to portray the mind of someone who is having an attack and has insomnia.
While doing the initial draft of my soundscape and in fact all throughout this project, I chose to do it at night. I remember the first draft I was doing, was actually at 1am in the morning. My soundscape starts off with this humming that increases. I was thinking about how when people have insomnia, they lay in bed and even though all around them is quiet, in your mind it just feels like there is a humming sound and the more you start thinking about how quiet it is, the more aware you are that it is quiet and then it escalates from there. I introduce this bell-like sound that comes in short beats. When I added this, I was thinking about how one of the ladies said that she might not be scared of the sound in the morning but when its at night, she starts thinking about the sound. For me, the first thing that came to mind were windchimes! My house has a windchime in the living room and it sounds really beautiful when it is bright outside but once we hit pass 12am and when the whole family is asleep but I’m up, the sound of the windchime starts to get very creepy. Drawing on that, I decided to play these 2 tracks throughout the whole soundscape. I slowly layered different elements and the intention was for it to represent more thoughts and more emotions all happening, more unsettling thoughts and uneasiness. And just when it feels like its climaxing and ending, the messiness just continues. I drew inspiration from what this person said
“rise to a peak and then experience relief at the end” and more “get freaked out over and over again by the weird creaking noises until you eventually fall asleep.”
This basically means that there is no exact resolution of the person slowly calming down, which I thought was really important because that was how I decided to end my soundscape, on this loud and messy note.
Initially, I was afraid that I was on the wrong track too because I thought I misinterpreted the project brief and that we were supposed to do something more of a physical soundscape. However, once that was settled, I think one of the biggest challenges was finding the right instrument and right notes to record on garageband. I had to try multiple instruments and different ways of playing the notes to make it sound the way I wanted it to sound. It was my first time “composing” sounds, let alone on garageband, so I was initially quite stressed out about it.
I was not really accustomed to the garageband interface but thankfully that was settled relatively quickly
So here is the link to my final soundscape and I hope you find it interesting:)