Today marks a very special day as I drew the double bar line on the first movement of my piano sonata, The Arrogance of Time. In the past 3 weeks I’ve written 500 measures for this first movement, a record for me. How was I able to write so much? the reason is because the piece itself has been a project I started thinking about since this summer, and its inspiration has been something I’ve carried my whole life.
Content Note: The following contains information on suicide and mental health, if either of these things trigger you in any way, or remind you of negative experiences you’d rather not recall at the moment, I would not be offended and in fact, I’d advise you don’t read the rest of this post. It will not negatively impact your experience with the piece since these are more influences rather than a program.
My aim with The Arrogance of Time is to give a memoir of my experiences with my own mental health as well as what I learned by being around others with similar, worse, or just drastically different experiences that all have something to do with mental health and yield a similar result, the formation of a close bond with the individual that I will never forget and the need for us all as human beings to be open about sharing our struggles and being willing to help.
Everyone has unique experiences with their anxiety attacks. Mine vary, but usually they’re silent and unnoticeable to an outsider. Growing up I learned that showing an anxiety attack will make things worse and so my body eventually adapted and I got good at hiding them when they happened, but it’s still miserable.
In a panic attack my worst enemy is time. I tell myself “it will be over soon, just hold it out for a couple minutes” but just as my thoughts get distorted so does my sense of time. Seconds feel like hours, and minutes feel like days, while I get bombarded by what feels like a smoke grenade being detonated in my head, sometimes taking days to clear up.
Musically, I portray this feeling right off the bat, with various attempts to fix a beat to tempo. There are swirling thoughts in the forms of different themes that appear in and out of a cloud of notes of an ambiguous center. It’s a sonata form with 2, 3, or 4 themes, depending on how you look at it. It has 2, 3, 4, or more pitch centers depending on how you hear it, it can have different pitch centers at the same time while still being the same material. The development’s ambiguous and it’s hard to determine what is a cadence when I can’t establish anything else. One thing I do know for sure though, is that this movement is very personal, it’s a musical portrayal of my thought process during an anxiety attack. It takes various things happening in my life, good, bad or neutral, and makes them all bad. It finds ways of to create suffering when I have no reason to. I’m unable to tell if my friends hate me or not, if I’m lonely or not, and even when I lose all sense of time and relation, I’m still not even able to convince myself that I’m having an anxiety attack. The piece ends solidly in A minor, turning the themes into a bit of Rachmaninoff style desperation taking all the themes, a cadential rest from panic towards melancholy.
To those of you who are suffering or have suffered through anxiety, depression, or any mentally related illness, I’d like to dedicate this piece to you. You deserve to be noticed, and seen as the heroes you are. You deserve better, from all of us, and I hope you’ll accept this gift as a way of support and bring some good to the way many of us deal with mental health in our society.