'Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication', said Leonardo Da Vinci. It's a sentiment that can perfectly be applied to the music of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, one of the great post-minimalist composers of our time.
With some of the articles in this Inspirations series, I'll look at artists where there are multiple facets of their work that inspire me, and with others I shall feature them in this series because there is a specific feature our quality in their work that I admire. With Pärt, the main thing that inspires me so about his music is the straightforward, essential sound that he is able to produce, and the gravitas and, indeed, sophistication, that come with that.
In general, there is something I find very impressive about creatives and makers who are able to produce work that has integrity and elegance whilst having only the most elemental musical components to make it work. Pärt's work falls into this category. He writes music that is refreshingly unfussy, with no superfluities to hide behind. Live performance differs slightly from production in this way; I'm learning that in production, the devil really is in the detail, and so I try to make interesting background textures and non-linear or -looping elements. Equally, it's so important to remember that it's easy to over-write. Much of the detail in my work often needs to remain below the surface, where interest is added subtly. Pärt is a master of writing only what is completely necessary, and that is a confirmation that I must apply to my own work. With every element, every layer, every texture, I have to make myself decide whether I need it.
Spiegel im Spiegel is one of Pärt's most famous works, and for good reason. The astonishingly simple piano line forms a framework upon which the violin melody can float. Much of Pärt's music fits within a similar aesthetic and somehow managed to occupy the delectable middle ground of being respected by music scholars whilst holding widespread appeal. I love how, in this piece, he creates such atmosphere and emotion from a few crotches and dotted minims, a piano and a violin. No pretence, no fluff. Just sound, and nothing unnecessary.
Next in this Inspirations series, I'm excited to be talking about a British band whose second album was the first album I ever owned, and their third album shaped a huge part of the way I thought and felt about music for a long time.
In the meantime, let's keep writing, keep practising, and keep inspired. Thanks for reading (if you've made it this far), please share this with friends if you've enjoyed what you've read, and hopefully I'll see you next time.