Mid-Week Music #16- Joey's Jams
Joey Fortino, a freshman in the Performing Arts Technology (PAT) program from Grand Ledge, Michigan, recently began experimenting with music composition as an outlet for discussion of mental illness, specifically anxiety, in his newest piece, “Air”. Despite being involved with music since the age of seven when he began guitar, drum kit, and trumpet lessons, this was his first time directly reflecting on his mental health in a piece. That doesn’t mean music hasn’t had an impact on his mental health until now, though. As Joey says, “when I first started off doing music, I immediately saw that it was a release or a new way to look at myself because even when I was really young I knew I had some sort of anxiety and I recognized it as something that could help relieve me of that.”
Listening closely to the predominantly electronic piece, short phrases such as “I can’t breathe”, “let me out”, “way too fast” and “way too slow” jump out at the listener. “I can’t breathe” isn’t solely an anxiety reference to Joey, though. “I also have asthma and so when you get a panic attack it affects the asthma so it would always feel like I literally couldn’t breathe, both mentally and physically”, he explains. Not only do some of the phrases touch on the misconception of time that anxiety and panic attacks can cause, but the technical aspects of the piece also contribute to this feeling. When asked why the piece centers around one large dramatic build-up, Joey explains that “the build-up is symbolic because that’s what anxiety is, where it’s low level, kind of underneath, and it slowly grows and then just eventually explodes. The really patient build-up is just the switch from subconscious to conscious anxiety.”
Despite Joey’s love for music, it can itself be the cause of his anxiety on occasion. He’s currently involved with two bands, FLYING and Shmongo, which can be hard to balance time-wise. Not only does the time commitment cause some anxiety, the social atmosphere does as well. Drugs are very prominent within the music scene at Michigan which adds stress to Joey’s involvement in these groups as he’s worried that drug use could worsen his anxiety. Additionally, because this piece was done for a class (PAT 202), the deadline and requirements of the assignment ironically made writing the piece about anxiety rather stressful.
When asked if Joey sees himself continuing to write about mental health moving forward, he replies, “I think I’d really like to keep making songs that can do that, that resemble my life and the mental health aspect too because it was a really cathartic experience to do and it just felt good to release something, to have something that wasn’t just internal. Making it external is really healthy so I feel like I have to continue to do that.”