Remy's Books

Remy's other writings



Part XII, Some Thoughts on the Arts

By A. J. Kinkay and Remy Benoit

The why of art-music-architecture is a natural human phenomenon.

To bring something into being, requires changing something into something else.

It also requires the desire to do so; therefore, a vision must be had in order to form the image or object desired.

We who find life rewarding and pleasurable keep ourselves in this state by the pursuit of wonder and exploration. When, as so often happens, we are disappointed in our pursuits, we gather the frustrated remains and find new joy in recreating them into a new form.

This brings to mind an ancient myth: a nymph was pursued by Pan; finding herself cornered near a river bank, she transformed herself into a reed. To console himself, Pan cut the reed and played a mournful tune, thereby inventing the first flute.

I am sure man created musical instruments in much less exotic ways. More likely some ancient hunters traversing a swamp heard strange sound as they stepped on reeds, forcing air through and producing different sounds. Or, perhaps, these hunters were delighted by the twang of their own bowstrings, and decided to sit down and make themselves some primitive fiddles.

This is not so farfetched when you consider that all over the world we see upended fifty-ton stones, sitting alone, or arranged in rows or circles. We wonder at these enormous works of primeval architecture.

Men never know the full power of what they create.

If we see the what, we must always expect to know the why, or the how.

However, the life of architecture begins when man purposely arranges or constructs.

Architecture is a utilitarian art form, as in Mycenae and Egypt, where the pyramids become the near indestructible dwellings for the dead; these then considered the castles of eternity. Architecture has always been a practical art form. From the humble, mundane shelter to the soaring wondrous skyscraper, form follows function.

An observation of the occurrence of music.

Firstly, I believe that all people, everywhere, grunt, groan, and vocalize sounds. Secondly, I believe that to be the beginning of music, particularly when it becomes rhythmic.

Have you ever found yourself humming while doing something? Have you ever burst into a kind of spontaneous singing while walking down a pleasant road? Nine times out of ten, you were probably humming or singing something you had heard somewhere - but the tenth time you may have been humming one of those fragmentary bits of melody that people often make up themselves quiet unconsciously.

I remember my father, who was completely untrained in music but had a love for the sound and rhythm of it. He used to hum meandering melodies with great gusto while playing his homemade violin. I knew when he was pleased with his new found melody by the way his voice would spiral up into a jubilant satisfied rhythm, and emotion felt, a musical embrace enjoyed, a pleasant memory to be cherished. Hopefully to repeat, maybe even to improve and enrich and to sing again.

It becomes obvious that this sort of rhapsodic, spontaneous singing or humming is in essence the first step in all composing. Trained musicians arrive at musical discoveries the same way, except that instead of humming or singing, they play about with tones, rhythms and pitches on the piano keyboard. Other musicians use the process with mental images of these in their minds. In some cases, this habit of mental improvisation becomes so strong that a composer can indulge in it under the strangest circumstances.

I recall reading that Shastokovich was able to continue composing in a room full of people with his children playing in his lap.

&emdash; A.J. Kinkay

Stories require a teller and an audience. I recall as a child my grandfather sitting in the kitchen, drinking a concoction of a raw egg in milk, and telling endless stories. We lack, all too often these days, cross-generational story telling, craft teaching. We are so busy with our lives, we miss so very much.

My grandmother had a huge, heavy cast iron, porcelain coated frying pan in which he she taught me how to cook the pirogues she had taught me how to make. She also had a huge pot for cooking the gawumpki, stuffed cabbage we had filled together. And while she passed on the cooking skills for these for churskniki, the powder sugar- coated twists, she told me stories of her world.

My other grandmother was not a kitchen person, but she told of stories told her as a child sitting on Buffalo Bill Cody's knee.

My other grandfather, who so loved cheese, and was a chef, taught me how to love, unconditionally.

There is so much to be learned: words, stories, love, skills shared through cross generational communication.

I used to enjoy dropping into the elementary school on a Friday afternoon and just sitting and reading a story to one of my children's classes.

What roles have music and story telling played in your life? Did you have a favorite teacher who beautifully read stories to you? How would you feel about sitting down and writing a thank you letter to that person, even if you do not know where they are now?

Do you recall a favorite childhood book, song, melody ? How do you respond today to the music that you grew up with? Does it make you feel joy filled, sad; does it make you wish that you were that age again, had a chance to choose over again? What different path would you choose? How could you tell your story to someone else to try to teach them something that might help them choose a different, perhaps more productive, path? If you are a Veteran what things would you tell a new recruit that might help him understand the reality he might face? What things could you tell him that might help keep him alive? What things could you tell people that would help them to under? Does war have its own music? What does it sound like; how could you capture that in words, on a keyboard?

Considering the tone of the characters, the story, the poem that you are creating what stories, music, story-tellers would you put in their history? You should consider the reactions of those surrounding them to their music, just as you might think about those reactions to yours, and your reactions to those of the new generation. If you could sit down in at an imaginary kitchen table with hot chocolate and a warm fire burning, what words could you use to explain to your parents what your music said to you?

You might also consider putting music, or at least the suggestion of it, into your story. You might also consider your poetry with a musical background. This would be a wonderful time, if you are not already familiar with it, to acquaint yourself with the Jazz Poetry of the Harlem Renaissance of the Twenties in the United States. The work of these truly gifted poets, like Langston Hughes, will give you a whole new perspective on the tie between poetry and jazz. You might also consider listening to the lyrics of different kinds of jazz, folk rock, etc. What stories do they have to tell you?

Take some time to consider what your favorite books and music are now. What things do they have in common with those that your enjoyed as a child, as a young person? What things that are in them reflect your growth?


No comments.

This item is part of historian, author, editor, and educator Remy Benoit's ongoing weblog for Veterans, writers, students, and others who believe in learning from and making history; including thousands of articles and posts and the free writing seminar, Using History for Healing and Writing.

Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by Remy Benoit. A syntactically valid email address is required.

Remember me?

Email address:


Display neither email nor URL
Display email
Display URL