Sometimes the people suffering the most are the ones that appear to be the most optimistic and happy with their lives. I’ve noticed especially here in Boston that there are people who are very open with their personal issues and rightfully look for assistance and help (in comparison to back in Singapore, where mental health is talked about much less - but it’s improving!). This piece, however, is about those who don’t talk about their problems, either because they don’t have the space or the agency, or for other reasons I may not be aware of, are simply not comfortable with doing so. I’ve also noticed that we tend to assume that if someone is extremely optimistic or happy, that they don’t have their own set of problems or issues that they are dealing with. That needs to change. I attempt to show some aspects of that in this piece. Behind that smile begins with an nauseatingly sweet and chirpy melody that shows hints of falter by way of glitchy rhythms. Eventually the darker, hurting side behind this fake smile starts to come to the surface. We begin to unravel more and more of this suffering, as the sweet smile breaks completely. The smile later attempts to return, but there is clearly something unnerving about it. There’s always that push for positivity as well as reflection, but we eventually return to that unnerving, broken smile. Look out for those friends who seem the most positive, they may not always ask for help, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need it!
About the work
behind that smile (2019)
for two violins, contrabass, and two percussion
Performed by members of Wet Ink (Josh Modney and Ian Antonio) and contraBAND (Brian Stulligros, Gillian Dana, and Dan Reifsteck) at the Boston Conservatory on 24th February, 2019.