By Nishat Chowdhury
Last semester, Rebecca Rocillo and Eunice Addo spent hours together on Zoom meetings thinking about how they could push the next issue of their magazine to new heights and differentiate themselves from other publications.
Rocillo, a third-year English student, and Addo, a fourth-year in the arts and contemporary studies program, are co-editors-in-chief of The Continuist, a student zine at Ryerson. The two wanted to take advantage of the switch to an all-digital platform and push creative boundaries when it came to executing their zine.
Addo wanted to experiment with different mediums to give students a full experience of all the emotions they may have felt during the course of last year. This is when she came up with the idea of creating an audio album to accompany the visuals in the zine, with the music setting the tone and mood for the project and making it an all-encompassing experience.
After two months of hard work, The Continuist released their album, Hall of Mirrors: The Album, titled after their accompanying zine on Dec. 21.
In the past, The Continuist usually published a maximum of two issues during the school year. At the end of this school year, however, they’ll have published three, including “Spotlight,” “Hall of Mirrors” and their upcoming zine titled “Not So Alone” to be published near the end of the term.
“We wanted to create a publication that was a bit dizzying, a little bit over the edge, but also acknowledge that no one’s experience of 2020 was the same,” said Rocillo. The “Hall of Mirrors” theme was inspired by the feeling of being in a funhouse at a summer fair, where reality is suspended but the only thing you can do is move forward and finish the maze.
“It gives readers the chance to work through the wild experience that was last year and sort of come to terms with it and hopefully be able to move forward on a more hopeful note”
This feeling mirrors the lived reality of being forced to stay in a confined space, like one’s bedroom, during lockdown and being forced to confront versions of yourself that have warped, twisted and changed—sometimes beyond recognition during the months of isolation, said Rocillo.
“‘Hall of Mirrors’ is all-encompassing in terms of the subject matter it portrays. It also gives readers the chance to work through the wild experience that was last year and sort of come to terms with it and hopefully be able to move forward on a more hopeful note,” said Rocillo. She said the zine tried their best to incorporate as many perspectives and experiences as they could from their contributors.
“Hall of Mirrors” contains seven different sections: “retrospective,” “pandemonium,” “dead end,” “breaking the mirror,” “delirium,” “picking up the pieces,” and “future,” each touching on different emotions collectively experienced by students in the past year. The 27 audio tracks complement the art and poetry in the zine so readers can listen as they read through it.
“There’s stuff on the page but there’s also music to match it so hopefully it intervals a lot of feelings from people,” said Addo.
Making the music
Comprising “loopy, distorted and eerie” soundscapes, Addo explained the album was inspired by psychedelia. It was produced by Liam Ferguson, a fourth-year creative industries student who after putting out his own EP in November was invited to lead the audio team at The Continuist.
Ferguson plays the drums, piano, bass and guitar and would flip his melodies from samples he found in an old USB. In music production, sampling is reusing portions of an audio recording in another recording. To give the tracks on the album a more personal touch, he would add his own instrumentation on top of the melody.
“I always try to tie it to some sort of authenticity so I like to incorporate a lot of live recordings of the instruments that I play because that makes things that I create in the audio space a bit more personal,” said Ferguson.
The tracks on the album range from moody, panicked and strange to calming and comforting, said Rocillo.
Addo said the mood was prioritized over the music genre when the audio team produced the album.
“I don’t think one genre can be applied to the entire album, but I’d say it contains elements of hip hop, funk, techno, synth-pop, rock and experimental. I can’t produce one word for it,” she said.
Rocillo said that while she and Addo were interested in audio, they didn’t know much about it. Without Ferguson’s help, putting together the audio wouldn’t have been possible.
“In a really short time, they were able to produce that immersive audio experience and make ‘Hall of Mirrors’ something really, really special.”
The visual experience
When Agasha Kankunda, the graphic design coordinator for web and illustration, was given a rundown of the themes that Rocillo and Addo wanted to explore in the zine, she quickly got to work. She was inspired by the TV shows Black Mirror and The Twilight Zone and colourful psychedelic art, whose influence is seen in the graphics and backgrounds of the project.
“It didn’t have to be an issue with a strict theme because last year all sorts of things were happening, so we wanted everyone to be able to feel like they weren’t alone in that”
In the future section of the zine, Kankunda chose a background with stars and clouds to symbolize “coming back down to earth from being so caught up in this weird headspace.”
“It didn’t have to be an issue with a strict theme because last year all sorts of things were happening, so we wanted everyone to be able to feel like they weren’t alone in that,” said Kankunda.
Rocillo hopes that “Hall of Mirrors” can serve to be a time capsule for student artists, including herself.
“We can look back and see how we were feeling during this crazy time in our lives.”
In general, Addo wants The Continuist to be a space for students and local artists to “use their art and creativity as a way to deal with things,” now more than ever because it’s easy to feel lonely being in isolation.
“We wanted in almost all of our publications to just have a space that’s not too limiting (and) just allow people to have fun with their art,” said Addo.