I’ve been carrying on with my music project. It’s been full of surprises — what I’d call a success, in other words. I think I am learning to listen. What began as a systematic, linear move through Tom Service’s list of 50 composers (see earlier post) has already branched and morphed. However I have not abandoned the list. I have come across other composers who aren’t on the list and added them at the end of this one. I’ve started listening to music on BBC radio 3 (FM music station) pretty regularly — at least several times a week, listening closely enough, long enough to fall in love with some specific piece. This week I was “officially” listening to Arvo Pärt — the Estonian composer of an absolutely unique, clear, maybe “transparent” kind of music. Against the discord and utter confusion everywhere in the world, it seems to offer a gentle, firm resistance, some reassurance that we’re right to take the time to listen, if for no other reason than that it’s possible to hear a broad, durable peace.
Interspersed with Pärt this week was a prize-winning jazz “take” on Mahler by pianist Uri Caine and a haunting little song, called Sogna fiore mei [Dream, my flower] by a contemporary Italian composer. It was published with a collection of commissioned compositions that use Italian Baroque music as source material. That already sounds good to me, but it turns out Ambroglio Sparagna is also a wonderful performer with a sense of humour and an infectious rapport with all kinds of different communities. Often, he plays accordion and everybody dances — and laughs. It seems a long way from Pärt’s pared-down clarity. But is it?
This learning is messy stuff — weeks intersect with one another…expand and contract, reach backwards and forwards, persist in your mind — or not. The only steady thing is the surprise — every day!
The image is the sleeve for one of Pärt’s best-known works, Für Alina.