Opinion

Studying and creating art is an essential human need

It’s high time the arts get the respect they deserve as bona fide academic subjects for kids.
In the spring, owing to budget woes, the Hyde County School District cut the art teaching position from both schools and there’s no telling when it will be restored. Fortunately, in the Ocracoke after-school program, art and music will be a choice for students thanks to Ocracoke Alive programming to start in January. At least that’s something.
But, why are art and music the first things to be cut from budgets?
Art is the only thing that survives. Witness the great ancient temples, classical music, literature and paintings of all kinds all carefully kept by various human cultures through the ages.
Perhaps the value of art can best be stated by Karl Paulnack, pianist and director of the music division at the Boston Conservatory.  The following is an edited excerpt of a speech he gave several years ago to the parents of incoming freshmen:
“Music is the opposite of entertainment. The ancient Greeks said that music has a way of finding the big, invisible moving pieces inside our hearts and souls and helping us figure out the position of things inside us.
Music is a basic need of human survival. Music is one of the ways we make sense of our lives, one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words, a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we can’t with our minds.
Music allows us to move around those big invisible pieces of ourselves and rearrange our insides so that we can express what we feel even when we can’t talk about it.
One of the most profound musical compositions of all time is the “Quartet for the End of Time” written by French composer Olivier Messiaen in 1940.
Messiaen was 31 years old when he was captured by the Germans and imprisoned in a concentration camp in June of 1940. This work was composed for the instruments available (clarinet, piano, violin and cello) and was first performed in the prison camp.
Given what we know about life in the concentration camps, why would anyone in his right mind waste time and energy writing or playing music? There was barely enough energy on a good day to find food and water, to avoid a beating, to stay warm, to escape torture. Why would anyone bother with music? And yet, from the camps, we have poetry, we have music, we have visual art. Many, many people created art. Why?
Well, in a place where people are only focused on survival, on the bare necessities, the obvious conclusion is that art must be, somehow, essential for life. The camps were without money, without hope, without commerce, without recreation, without basic respect, but they were not without art.
Art is part of survival; art is part of the human spirit, an unquenchable expression of who we are.
Art is one of the ways in which we say, ‘I am alive, and my life has meaning.’ “

Categories: Opinion

2 replies »

  1. This is a needed, and very thought provoking editorial. A good question is asked, and the excerpt from Paulnack’s speech should lead your readers to take it seriously. The community’s response to the need demonstrates the depth of resources available, and the concern for this subject locally. Once again the Observer touches all the bases: history, science, art and more!