As I was talking through the idea of simplicity with my husband, Ben, he remarked, “Like Arvo Pärt?”
I replied, “Yes, exactly!” and then proceeded to suggest that he write this weeks’ post because he knows the simple beauty of Pärt in a way that I understand but can’t explain. I hope you find his words as helpful as I did. Spiegel im Spiegel is one of my all-time favourite pieces of music.
Can simplicity take a lifetime to cultivate? Is it a matter of reduction or focus? How does a simple life relate to order as opposed to chaos? Can it be busy and filled with a plethora of deep and meaningful experiences and still be considered simple. There are times when I feel as though I might be overwhelmed with the regret of not being able to accomplish all the dreams that fly through my head on any given day. But I know that the more I frantically grasp at everything that I believe I’m missing out on, the more it slips through my fingers and leaves me hollow, unfulfilled and tainted with regret.
I believe that simplicity is like a duck gliding across a still pond while underneath its feet are ever moving. The appearance of calm? Or like the gymnast working through forms on a balance beam, developed muscles straining with effort while her body slowly glides from pose to pose. Simplicity takes supreme effort. It takes the working of patterns, of disciplining the mind, the body, the very fibres of our being to wait, to take the long way when the easy one glares bright. Perhaps at its heart, the act of achieving simplicity in whatever venue is a concentrated focus to the venue’s purest form.
Estonian composer Arvo Pärt underwent a remarkable transition in the late 60s and early 70s when, after having his understanding of the meaning of music shattered, he emerged from a period of silence with a new form of compositional method known as tintinnabuli (‘bells’). An exploration of the vertical and horizontal lines of music, tintinnabuli reduces musical material to the most crucial and blends melodic and rhythmic progression in an expression of ‘the composer’s special relationship with silence.’ Pärt’s work for violin and piano, Spiegel im Spiegel, 1 is a beautiful example of this pattern.
This type of music is reflective of ‘a very personal and deeply sensed attitude to life’ for Pärt. It is one based on ‘Christian values, religious practice and a quest for truth, beauty and purity.’ It reflects a simplicity, not solely based upon reduction to make space, but one refined by skimming away the dross, the unnecessary, and distilling to the pure essence of a thing. A process by which the space created becomes a living part of the thing itself. Simplicity undergirded by a self awareness and strength fuelled by the courage to view silence as a positive force in itself and not a thief of meaning.
This post is part of the 2021 Writing Challenge. This challenge is open to anyone and involves writing on one word a week for 52 weeks. Write for yourself or write for others but either way, please feel free to share by posting a link in the comments (if you’re posting on this week’s word) or post on social using the #2021writingchallenge and tagging me on Twitter or Instagram, or posting on my FB page so I can repost. Happy Writing!