Exploring the Arts
SIS-PIK students have balance, and a passion for the Arts.
Music is powerful and has a way of touching our hearts. Let me share with you the story of the French composer Olivier Messiaen. Messiaen was 31 years old when France entered the war against Nazi Germany. He was captured by the Germans in June of 1940 and imprisoned in a prisoner-of-war camp. He was fortunate to find a sympathetic prison guard who gave him paper and a place to compose, and lucky to have musician friends in the camp, a cellist, a violinist, and a clarinetist. Messiaen wrote his quartet End of Time with these specific players in mind. Messiaen describes the opening of the quartet:
“Between three and four in the morning, the awakening of birds: a solo blackbird or nightingale sings a halo of trills lost very high in the trees. Transpose this onto a religious plane and you have the harmonious silence of Heaven.”
It was performed at the prison camp, outdoors and in the rain, on the 15th January 1941. The musicians had decrepit instruments and an audience of about 400 fellow prisoners and guards. Messiaen later recalled: “Never was I listened to with such rapt attention and comprehension.” Today, it is considered a masterpiece. Life in a Nazi prison camp was horrific; why would anyone waste time and energy creating music? It was a struggle just to survive; starvation and beatings were common, why would anyone bother with music? And yet – even from the prison camps, we have poetry, music, visual arts; it wasn’t just this one fanatic Messiaen; many, many people created art. Why? 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 joy, without fun, 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.”
The Arts are also essential to learning at SIS-PIK