Gateway: Arvo Pärt

Whenever I introduce myself as a "composer", there are only a few logical follow-up questions. "What kind of music do you write?" OR "How does that work exactly? How do you make money?" Despite the difficulty of self-definition (and limitation), I much prefer the former question. That is, however, until I realize that most people have no point of reference to contemporary music. 

In an ideal world, this is how I would go about describing my "style":

Me: "My music sounds something like Bang on a Can covering Radiohead."
- "Bang on a Can?"

Me: - "Ok, do you know Arvo Pärt?  My music is like Arvo Pärt remixed.
- "Arvo who?"
Me: - "Ok, do you know Philip Glass?"
- "Oh, yeah, I think so."
Me: - "You think so? How about Steve Reich?"
- "No, sorry"
Me: "John Adams?"
- "The President?"
Me: "So what do you do?
It's a little disheartening how little people know about the most famous contemporary composers.  And these are composers who write generally pleasant, accessible music.  Notice I didn't ask about Lachenmann.
But I think most people could find a place in their lives for Arvo Pärt (pronounced like Pare with a T).  Not unlike Gorecki, Pärt's music achieves transcendent beauty through slow-moving, simple lines flowing through various states of consonance and dissonance.  He started off writing more aggressive modernist music but, after an artistic crisis, began writing in a more mystical vein of minimalism.  He invented a composition technique, dubbed "tintinnabuli", in which a stepwise voice moves against a voice outlining a triad or chord.

"Tintinnabulation is an area I sometimes wander into when I am searching for answers - in my life, my music, my work."

Listen to his music on Grooveshark.

Björk: "You give space to the listener."

A look into the mind through the fingers of Arvo Pärt himself.

Filed under: gateway, minimalism, new music

Tags: minimalism

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