Kindness in Sound

“House,” and the value of music mentoring

There is something so utterly innocent, beautiful and inspiring about this video, that it brings tears to my eyes just to think about. We begin with a monologue by UK artist Kindness, seated and addressing the camera initially with a brief discussion of “pop music.” He is dressed in a minimalistic black suit and long hair, and asks us “Why do adults resent [pop music] so?” he asks. “And why do I like it?” Kindness is struggling to understand the joy and frustration that he draws from pop music, in all it’s mysterious, frustrating inconsistency and occasional shining brilliance and joy.

Pop music has been frustrating and intentionally subversive, not to mention derided or misunderstood by older, “adult” people since its birth. I am speaking especially of the 20th century, and particularly referencing the age of Beatlemania. But it’s appeal, in any decade, is that it serves as the voice of the young people. In this video, Kindness is seated alongside two keyboards and a drum machine, with a child named Ramon. The first half of the video shows the two of them playing and experimenting with the instruments. They talk, test their instruments, and experiment with the fascinating sounds that they can make. Together they try to recreate the sound of Kindness’s most popular song, “House.”

About halfway through the video, another musician joins them, and soon they are making music, dancing around the room and celebrating the feeling of the music, and the spirit of experimentation and freedom licensed to people when they are free to test themselves creatively, and push the limits of what can result from uninhibited collaboration and self-expression. Their dancing communicates pure joy and youthful celebration, and it is one of the cutest and most heartwarming things you can hope to see.

What I love most is that this video pairs the hopefulness and vibrancy of the song “House”, which is a warm and gentle plea for love in the face of desperation, with the innocence and simplicity of a music lesson on video. “I can’t give you all that you need/ But I’ll give you all I can feel,” goes the chorus of the song, and this line, to me, lies at the core of this video’s genius. Music is such a pure and universal expression of one’s feelings, and it appeals to every person, regardless of background. Given access to an instrument, or a studio, and a good teacher who can provide proper motivation and encouragement, any person can create something unique and beautiful that reflects their indelible individuality and humanity. This video demonstrates just such loving and nurturing support for individual creativity, a thing that is rare in most educational settings, and it is a beautiful thing to witness.

When the two try to describe the sounds of the track, they struggle to find the words for the sound they are creating. Adjectives like “muddy” and “scrambled” emerge in their conversation… but in fact the feelings associated with their music are impossible to describe. The effect of good music is that it eludes description, and can hardly be captured in words. Kindness can only have created the sound we hear by testing and experimenting with the equipment and instruments, and only with the guidance and training of a previous mentor, just as he is mentoring this child.

To me, this is what makes music so precious… it is the collective story of people, passed down from person to person, through the decades, centuries, and millennia, through tutelage and gentle education. We have been recording music with electric guitars, keyboards, synthesizers, and microphones, turntables, and computers in recent years, but people have been strumming and dancing and testing sounds and harmony and lyrics, expressing the human experience in sound, since the beginning of recorded history. It is the lifeblood of personhood, and it is infinitely precious. What I love so much here is that this video manages to encapsulate that experience. Kudos to Kindness, this video is brilliant.

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