Christian Benvenuti

Toxic Masculinity, Death, and Becoming: An autoethnographic account on grief and creativity

This paper aims to present an autoethnographic account relating to the death of the author’s father by suicide. Several manifestations of bereavement are presented, with special emphasis on the emotional regulation by the author, who was then 11 years old, through the act of composing. Creativity is analysed in this paper as a coping mechanism through which the author could overcome self-blame and rage for being left behind. More specifically, the compositional process of the author is discussed in light of its intrinsic nature as a problem-solving activity and personal storytelling. The compositional process is therefore explored as a means to find support for the unanswered and unanswerable questions concerning the death of the author’s father. Here, the author traces a time window which starts one day before his father’s death and extends to two decades afterwards. Across this time window, the author retrospectively identifies a long and delayed grieving process which led to healing and to the realisation that toxic masculinity may have played a decisive role in his father’s death. One reason stems from the documented relationship between toxic masculinity and depression, a medical condition which the author’s father most likely had and for which he actively sought professional help. The author’s father is described in this personal narrative as a person who had been denied unmasculine traits in a patriarchal culture, which potentially led to his violent and destructive behaviour. Often repressing his children’s needs to show their emotions and supressing his own, the father hid his vulnerabilities to a toxic level. Such toxic masculinity was manifested even in his suicide note to his two children, which read, “Be strong, very strong”. The death of a loved one exercises significant psychological, social, and emotional impact, and both the cause of death and the age of the survivors are considered to be aggravating factors in the grief process. By comparing the author’s grief with the testimonies of other suicide survivors, a speculative consideration of music composition as a way to prevent posttraumatic stress disorder is discussed. Building on the growing body of research in health and the arts and at the same time filling a gap in the literature on suicide survival and music composition as a coping mechanism, the author explores the relationship between the death of a man and the birth of a composer.


Independent researcher

Is a composer, multimedia artist, teacher, and researcher. Christian writes acoustic, electroacoustic, and mixed-media works exploring generative processes and methods that trigger a creative response from the composer, forming a duality of determinacy and intuition. Christian studied at the University of Surrey, where he completed his doctorate under supervision of Professor Stephen Goss. He was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul and a postdoctoral teaching fellow at the Federal University of Parana.! His research broadly concerns the relationship between music information, aesthetics, and cognition. His interests include composition, information dynamics of music, communication, music and technology, music and dance collaboration, music psychology, and music cognition.