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Two-Headed String

by Ryan McDowell

Ryan image.png

Ryan's project explores the intersections and overlaps of music and poetry in order to examine thematic concerns surrounding subjective psychical experience; in particular experiences like trauma, grief and loss, as well as the stigmatization of masculine emotional expression. The project combines music and spoken word, and makes use of multi-layering of sound, vocal effects, and sound stresses in order to articulate emotional experiences, while also examining the contexts in which many aspects of mental health experiences are ignored. 

In Ryan's words, 

TWO-HEADED STRING is an attempt to demonstrate the inner thought processes behind trauma and the uncertainty it causes in being open and honest with oneself. When my closest friend made the choice to take his own life – I was placed in a period of repression and numbing – in particular a numbing of memory. Despite so many beautiful things – the sound of his laugh and the mannerisms he would exude – I buried it deep within myself to the point it began to manifest in negative traits and behaviours. Hiding away from all forms of connection, irrational conclusions that closeness would only bring collapse, and ultimately a deep fear of expressing myself creatively. If I were to tackle this subject – surely it would have to be perfect and do justice to the memory of a lost friend? However, most of my previous work took the approach of interacting with the sub-conscious, using the first thing which comes to mind and not allowing for any self-editing or subtle censorship. When recording this spoken-word project I endeavoured to minimise the time spent thinking and focusing more on allowing emotion to seep out naturally with obvious imperfection. This resulted in a piece which maintains a lo-fi aesthetic, using minimal takes and trying to place each element in natural harmonisation with another by being created in the same frame of mind. Poetry is most powerful when it captures a specific time and place – a documentation of setting, feeling and mindset. The most important thing, when it comes to self-expression, is that the process is beneficial to the development of the creator. At the end of the day – I couldn’t care less what you think of this project – but only hope that in some way it may inspire you to use artistic form as a tool for development of the mind. As I allow the inner workings of my process to discover more about myself, I am certain that this trauma has not been in vain – and confident that my friend Lewis would be immensely proud of me for taking the steps to move on as he wanted.


Take the time to talk to the ones you love – take the time to know it’s okay to feel negative emotions – and be certain that you are not alone.


the sound of loss – the sound of moments when you are alone – where the motion and sonic nature of travel cave into feelings of pain.






a combination of three different poems – one for the verse and two for the ‘chorus’. Frustration and grief, the unknowing of memory and the uncertainty of how to continue. Where to go from here?








the act of a razor on the neck – the staring in the mirror – the repeated motions, afterwards different and a loss of what was before. splits.








you are smiling – you are happy, your eyes are wide and the sky is wider. then it hits, drills into your stomach and you wince – you wince – and you wince again. you pretend everything is fine and hide within conversation.

1 - Tube FedRyan McDowell
00:00 / 03:31
2 - Sink ShedRyan McDowell
00:00 / 04:04
3 - Shaving FoamRyan McDowell
00:00 / 03:19
4 - PTSDRyan McDowell
00:00 / 04:00

You can read more about Ryan's project and his creative process by clicking on the below Word Document button, which will enable you to download his performance documentation. 

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