WELCOME TO MY HOUSE. You are free to enter any of the rooms and borrow any material you find there. If you decide to quote text, copy graphics or play any of the music, it would be courteous to acknowledge the source (raykohn.com).
The house was built after I became dissatisfied with biographies I had been reading. I love books but their necessarily linear medium of communication seemed to me to “flatten out” the lives of those being described. I wondered whether another medium might better capture the multi-dimensional nature of our life experience. The result was thinking that a website might be a more appropriate medium.
I set about looking for a suitable subject for a biography where that person’s life could be shown with its many facets accessible to the reader without the necessity of reading it chapter by chapter. At first this was to be one of my musical heroes, Béla Bartok. However, it soon became apparent that my ignorance of his life outweighed my knowledge. So I searched for someone about whom I knew far more. Autobiography soon became the only candidate.
If you click on the front door and walk up the stairs, you will be able to read a chronological set of statements that most closely resemble a chapter by chapter account. However, you are free to explore any of the rooms at any time where different aspects of the subject’s life are revealed. As my visual design skills are severely limited, my artist daughter Ruth supplied the images. Paul Winterman of Sugarcaneweb.co.uk provided the technical expertise to make the website work. I hope you find the house an enjoyable place and some of the contents of interest.
Click on a room window to learn more about Ray
I suspect that I have always been most attracted to poetry that is closer to music. I like rhythm, sonority and declamation above conceptual argument, visual appeal and private self-reference â€¦ although, of course, if the poet manages all these simultaneously his name is probably Shakespeare. Over the years I have penned (or word processed) hundreds of poems. Scores of celebratory cards contain my doggerel that is sent to bemused friends and family. But most of my poems have been a working through of ideas and feelings that were never intended for public view.
There were some that escaped. I did enter a couple in poetry competitions and, to my surprise, won both. The first, The Last Time, won the school poetry prize and the preponderance of audio imagery was remarked upon (I was spending up to 6 hours a day practising the violin in those days). Moorland Ferns was written after one of the many walks my wife and I made in the countryside.
Please feel free to peruse the little books of poetry that I am leaving in this room.
When writing a short story, I am transported into another world - it feels as if I am flying! But I could never express my feelings about short story telling better than Jorge Luis Borges in the commentary to his short story "The Maker".
"Ever since 1934, the writing of short prose pieces - fables, parables, brief narratives - has given me a certain mysterious satisfaction. I think of such pages as these as I think of coins - small material objects, hard and bright, tokens of something else."
These novellas probably reflect some of my longer term obsessions and interests although I hope that that will not spoil your enjoyment of the stories.
Being Jewish is not a situation from which you can opt out. As my mother told me when I was about six, you are Jewish if others say you are. Her experience, of course, was moulded by growing up as refugees fled from the elected government of Germany in the 1930s that decreed who was Jewish and who was not. But, over and above this socio-political aspect, there appears to be a way of thinking - grounded no doubt in the theology and history of the people - that can be seen as "typically Jewish". George Steiner described it as the tendency to think in the abstract: hence the high proportion of Jews who excel in such areas as mathematics, music and chess playing (Steiner's examples).
Most of my abstract thinking may be read about in the Library of this house. But other Jewish themes spill over into this little room: my involvement in performing klezmer music, awareness of the long shadow cast by the holocaust, and stories that seem to grow from Biblical texts.
I have tried to compensate for my lack of graphic skills by producing sets of photographs that reflect my chief interests: my family, friends, places that have featured strongly in my life and - as this is an autobiography - some self portraits.
The library contains what little I have written that could be regarded as "philosophical".
Understanding Learning is the nearest I ever got to writing a book about what I have spent most of my life doing - teaching and working as an educationalist.
Creativity and Language encapsulates much of my fascination with the creative process and my attempt to describe and explain how I believe language functions.
Measuring Creativity is an account of work I undertook with the remarkable company, Salamanda Tandem.
Breath Classification was sent to the Iyengar Institute by my yoga teacher who said they wanted to publish it so as to help other cardiac patients (I have no idea if they actually did).
Burrowing all the way back to my days in Cambridge where my theorising seemed to perplex my tutors led to Gavin Mackenzie (my final year tutor) asking me to try to formulate the foundations upon which I grounded my critiques. A couple of years later I managed to work it out in â€˜Playtimeâ€™ â€“ some of which is re-presented in the Time folder.
The Letters to Moses were my structured attempt to undertake a dialogue that gave reality to my Judaism.
As you mount the steps, you may catch a glimpse of a few significant episodes of my life. I'm leaving curriculum vitae and a snapshot of what I like to read lying about in the hall. But it is in the upstairs and downstairs rooms connecting through the hallway where I actually live.
I began composing music on the piano when I was five â€¦ funny little pieces written in pencil on staves that I drew with a ruler. I wrote pieces for the family but feel I only started thinking seriously about the sound world I was creating once I took up the violin aged twelve. When at school, I composed a solo violin sonata that I performed in the chapel at Charterhouse. Perhaps this is the first composition that merits any attention. The original sheet music is in the music room.
Since then, some of my greatest enjoyment has been in playing, performing, conducting and teaching music. When I began teaching klezmer workshops from 1987 onwards, the powerful folk idiom seemed to affect my 'classical' upbringing and led to the other works that lie in the room: the Three Discourses (commissioned by the Performing Rights Society) that I wrote for Ros Hawley (clarinet) and Mike Kahan (violin) and a series of string quartets.
Everyone's sense of humour is different. My favourite joke goes like this:
A Jew walks along next to a cliff and falls over the edge. Half way down he manages to hang onto a branch. He looks down to the valley floor, hundreds of feet below and looks up to the top hundreds of feet above. He decides to call out to Heaven for help.
"Is anyone there?" he shouts
Suddenly he hears a great voice that booms out "Have faith and let go."
He looks down again, and calls out "Is anyone else there?"
You may not share my taste in humour, so I have relegated these items that tickle me to the outside shed. But you may like at least some of what you find stashed away here.
When I set up my consultancy company, it was with the intention of trying to create new products and services â€¦ sometimes meeting needs that had not yet appeared. I have been surprised at the number of times that the market has come to meet me.
Envirolearn evolved from my work in quality assurance and was used as the basis for Learndirect's manual for their 3000 centres. But I worked it out before Learndirect even existed.
Network Mapping helped a number of organisations in ways that they did not predict before engaging in the process.
The Creativity Matrix (sometimes presented as the Metric Matrix) was born out of my work on the creative process and those organisations that participated in its pilot wrote about its impact in glowing terms.
I have been fortunate in being able to enjoy running my own business with clients whom I almost always liked, undertaking work that I have found and still find stimulating.