09 12 2010
#2664

more Pärt on SUNN O)))

Here is a full translation of the Arvo Pärt p[iece mentioned on 26th October at this blog

:::::::

I have reached the beachside forest of Laulasmaa. Bright morning sun pierces the clouds and the air under the pine trees is full of light, that smells of holidays, home and happiness.
I step on the porch of Arvo Pärt’s house. I have around 10 Cd’s with me – some of them compiled and burnt the night before – containing music, that the jubilee-holding composer probably doesn’t meet to often. Rock, house, drum’n’bass, drone-metal, post-rock, ambient, techno, some soundtracks. All these examples come from the artists, that have given praise to the famous Estonian composer, claimed that Pärt is a great favourite or a major inspiration to their work.
The fact that Pärt reaches far beyond the serious classical circles is no news to anybody by now. Most of us can come up with a shortlist of stars who are Pärt fans. Michael Stipe, Björk, Nick Cave, just lately Rufus Wainwright was expressing his respect. However, when we delve a bit deeper, we can see how diverse is the crowd of Pärt’s musical friends. Norwegian black metal act Enslaved and London bass-rave musician Zomby might have nothing else in common at all, than a common favourite among the neoclassical composers. Not to mention the fact that their own music seems to come from very different worlds, than that of Arvo Pärt. In case we are dealing with an ex-punk, who suddenly feels the urge to record something classical-like or some music for film, the connecting dots are obvious.
Maybe Arvo wishes to listen to some of these, I think. I also have a spply of quotes with me, gathered piece by piece from the musicians all over the world. All in all, I think I have some news for Arvo and his wife Nora, who ours out the green tea to complement the raisin rolls.

I start from Estonia: First the Estonian musician Pastacas. Her’s been called a folktronic musician, he creates all the sounds himself, and plays the guitars and flute on top. Pastacas has tried to sample some percussion from your track “Sarah was Ninety Years Old”, and said: “I’ve listened to this song very many times, it’s one of my favourites from Pärt. You might even say that I have a feeling of the world stopping, while I listen to it.”
“Feeling of the world stopping”, repeats Arvo Pärt quietly. “The reason for this is probably that while we come from different worlds musically, we have the same feel. A similar intention. We are in different trains with the same destination.
When my new Symphony “Los Angeles” was played for the first time in London, the conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen told a story in a radio interview, how he started talking classical music with a taxi driver in a taxi in Helsinki, and how the driver said that he knows my music and recognizes himself in it.”
“Pastacas also told that nine years ago he had just purchased a CD of “Alina” just prior the birth of his daughter. He had the album with him in the infirmary and it played on a tiny player in the patient’s room. When the childbirth began, no-one had time to switch it off, and that’s how that child was born with “Für Alina” playing. That is why we named her Pihla Alina Teder. “
“You know, this is so heartwarming”, smiles Arvo. “And I must say there are quite a few of these incidents. Very many. We even have some pictures with small Alinas. And sometimes these small Alinas even come to my concerts and I meet them now and then. My son Michael’s daughter was also born with Alina playing.”
“Yes, the same I have heard from a band called Mogwai. They make music that is called post-rock. Post-rock is aloose name for muci that can be described as classical-driven music made with rock instruments. Band leading figure Stuart Braithwaite has stated “Für Alina” as one of his fave tracks of all time. He also mentioned that his good friend, a style-hopping multi-instrumentalist David Pajo, also named his daughter after this song.”
“How dear they all are to me! I should count them all to know how many of these Alinas are there.”

Next the British rock-band Radiohead, whose members have claimed to be your admirers. For example, one of them, Johnny Greenwood, used the elements of your music to create the soundtrack for the film “There Will be Blood”.
“Aha. Wasn’t that film somewhere in the festival? Like a couple of years ago. I have read about it, but that is all. I haven’t seen the movie”.
“And the Radiohead singer Thom Yorke has said: Very good music, like Arvo Pärt’s music for example, feels like you are knocking on the wall, and suddenly a hole appears, that reveals a whole new world that you were absolutely unaware of before.”
“Before my music was born to this world, my new music, it certainly felt like I have to go through a wall or a mountain. That this music is waiting for me on the other side. That I cannot see it yet, but I have to reach it through a tunnel – to learn to recognize it. It is almost like life is seeking its path. Look, even a small flower grows through pavement. Where does it get the strength from? And what is all this? But the seed is there. And then, while looking for my music, I was in that seed. This must not be misinterpreted. It is not like a need to enforce yourself in the world. Or make a career. No. We are talking about quality here. The substance of music was what I was looking for. A substance that is alive in a sense that sometimes it falls in a hole and then has to climb out again. Like in real life.”
“Next PJ Harvey. An englishwoman. Her output has been rockier-sounding in the past, but her last contained and soulful “White Chalk” has apparently influenced by you. She has said that listening to “Tabula Rasa” chews her up so much, that she can only do it once a year.”
“It shows that the contact with the piece has transformed from being straightly on the plane of music to something else. It is not a pleasure anymore, it enters the realm of some other spiritual activity.
“Tabula Rasa” is also very true for the musicians. It is not a piece for trying, but for playing. And playing it demands such concentration, that can be mustered only once, at the evening performance.
We had a problem before the premiere. Two hours before the concert, total catastrophe. People were learning it, trying to “interpret” it, searching it. Nobody knew what to do with it. We came to the concert, prepared for the very worst. And then suddenly this music just blossomed – because of that tension and seriousness, that we were not able to experience at the rehearsals.”
“This is such a powerful experience…”, I added quietly.
“And it is like a transcendental experience, talking to people in a language foreign to them, but they understand everything. These things exist. Communication is taking place on another plane and that also means that somewhere, on some level we all become one. Music is just like a thin shell separating these worlds. Like a curtain in a theatre”, says Arvo and asks me to specify PJ Harvey’s origin and age.
I continue: “"Then there is a band called Sunn O))). Their members have advocated a great interest in you. They play music called either drone-metal or doom-metal..."
"Why is that metal always there?", smiles Arvo.
"Because he is strong!", says Nora, Arvo Pärt's wife.
Siim: "Yes. And they perform in monk suits. Their music is very slow and fuzzy. Listening to their records feels like hot steam flowing across the floor. On their last record, they have been often compared to Pärt. One author even marked that they have used Pärt's tintinnabuli-style technique in their music".
Pärt: "This we should definitely listen. Even a small bit".
"Let's listen, but you will not recognize it", adds Nora Pärt.
"Well, then. Even better if we won't"", laughs Arvo and we walk to the music center. I will propose a track called "Big Church" from the last album. Arvo pushes play. It starts with a female choir, who sounds like trying to lift off the ground. Arvo nods. on the 23rd second the guitar boom kicks in - vrrr vrrrrrrr. Arvo looks around and smiles again. The track plays until about the third minute and we take a seat again. "There is something there", says the composer. "This slow drone is SunnO)))'s main feature"
"I understand. It also tries to stop time, time in really large chunks".

Now I will speak a bit about Akufen, the Canadian micro-house artist. "He has been asked if he would like to remix Pärt's music, but Akufen has countered it, saying that Pärt's music doesn't need remixing at all".
"Yes interesting that he thought about that..." says Pärt. "Them as well...", he says, pointing at the SunnO)) album. "Some bits are more successful, some are more clear and pure, but if they start offering something that is too close to me, then it mixes everything up. It is because I have my own rules, my own static. Like in architecture. Some houses stand tilted, but they stand like that, strongly. If you start to build a house like that based on intuitition, it falls. Of course they can do that, but then it has nothing to do with me anymore. Then it is a whole another substance".

“And a new rising star from England, Raffertie”, I continue with the dance music artists. “He has studied music and also written an essay about your later work, explored the harmonies, compositional techniques, tintinnabuli method. His own music on he other hand is very fast, noisy. It doesn’t sit still, but moves here and there. He said that there is something in your music that has to be experience intensely and personally. That always, while listening to your music, he discovers something unexplainable”.
“In himself”, answers Pärt. “In himself. This one and only motive runs through these sayings. Everybody recognizes themselves, something opens up inside them. Something already existing in them. And then there is like a small flashlight, that sheds light for a moment to some neglected corner.
I also write music while discovering myself. Searching for myself. I don’t write for others. I guess we must all be in love with each other secretly. Anonymously. And it is very beautiful.”

“Another English guy – Bill Drummond. He was a member of a culture hooligan formation called The KLF in the 90s, who were one of the first used sampling. Besides music, they did some pretty weird tricks like burning a million pounds of their music-earned money as an art project”
“Weren’t they imprisoned for it? In Russia they would have been”.
“And Drummond has written in his book “17”, that one year when he was going through artists starting with a P, he came across Arvo Pärt’s work and fell in love instantly. Especially the choir music. This encouraged him to write his own choir music, at least in his fantasies.”
“That same hooligan?”, laughs Arvo. “Like the record that we listened to, the first bits of it – there was something there, sounding like a choir”.
The Berlin band Einstürzende Neubauten has been labeled as one of the forefathers of industrial music. They have an album called “Tabula Rasa”, due to which they discovered your music. Bandmember Blixa Bargeld has admitted that a track called “The Garden” from the album “Ende Neu” is a subconscious homage to your music. They drank a bottle of absinth with a friend, listened to “Tabula Rasa” and felt clear-headed and completely lucid.
Arvo is clearly delighted by that. “Innocent kids. They are innocent kids”.
“Blixa Bargeld has also played guitar in an Australian collective called Nicak Cave and the Bad Seeds. This band makes a sinister and bleak, sometimes even dangerous bar music.
And Nick Cave curated Meltdown Festival in London in 1999, where he also used your music in the program. The soundtracks written by Cave and Warren Ellis have often been compared to Arvo Pärt. For example the theme of a film that was also cinematically released in Estonia, “The Road”, sounded like “Alina”.
“Yes, I come across those “similar-sounding” soundtracks a lot. Like a little boy, who comes to you all shy and pouting, saying, “I messed up. I messed up a little!” Nick Cave, that name I have heard.”

“A musician called Jah Wobble. He was attending the birth of postpunk, later known for his forays in dub and world music, also dabbled in classical music. He has said that yours is a musical test of shivers and shakes.”
More amusement from Arvo’s side. “These are living people. With lively thought and senses. That is why they are looking for something and finding it as well. The creative nerve is switched on constantly. In a classical music world there might not be as much of that liveliness. There was a boy coming to Estonia, with a really beautiful voice, who even invited me to a concert, but I was away.”
“Rufus Wainwright?”
“Yes, him. I checked him out on the internet and had a very nice impression.”
“The list of those who have mentioned you as an influence would be endless. British band Franz Ferdinand. Canadians The Arcade Fire, who has collaborated with your son Michael Pärt, Icalandic band Sigur Ros, who makes a kind of slowly progressing music. Of course, Björk from Iceland as well…”
“She wanted to study under me, when she was already a fully developed artist. I didn’t know anything bout her when she approached me. It was in the 1990s. I was driving to an author concert in Iceland. I went to a hotel and suddenly the phone rings. I hear a voice that sounds like a boy: “I would like to meet you and show you something”. These things happen to me sometimes.
I asked: “Do you also have something on tape?” “Yes, I have”. I told her to come to a rehearsal in a couple of hours and give it to me there.

And that’s how it went. During the rehearsal, suddenly a really colourful person steps up to me. I hadn’t heard Björk’s name or anything and asked her: “Is it pop music that you are writing?” She answered, that well, this is what they’re saying. She was very modest. I thanked her, put the record in my pocket and said that if she wants to watch a rehearsal, then she can sit there.
I’m walking round the hall, the rehearsal is on and people in the orchestra are all the time glancing towards the audience. Plying and looking. I didn’t understand what is going on. They were looking at their national hero Björk, trying to guess what she is doing there.
When I went back to my hotel room, there was a long long fax roll waiting for me. Björk had handwritten it, just like to a friend. It was about what she had heard at the rehearsal, what were her feelings and thoughts on that and on music in general. Also about her wishes and what she would like to learn from me. She wrote that she has to fly away next morning. I was also flying the next morning. I lookded for her in the airport, it was pretty empty because of the early morning hours. I even didn’t know what flight she is taking, but I tried to find her anyway, unsuccessfully.
Some years later she interviewed me for Channel 4. After that she said that she would like me to arrange some music for her. I saw really, who she is and heard her music. That record, where she is on the cover in kimono. I’ve even seen the film. This is real art. What an interesting person. What a shine. In every intonation, every syllable.”
“Björk was supposed to appear on stage in the Niguliste church in Tallinn, during one of your music concerts.”
“Yes. I had a contract job for an international choir assembly in Iceland. And the following tour around the holy places in the world, through Europe, from Bergen to Compostela, through Tallinn. I wrote a track called “…which was the son of…”. I took the Christ’s family tree from the bible and I did it because being in Iceland, I saw how much the people there value their heritage, the family trees and that kind of things.
Björk was supposed to sing a solo there, but at that time she was tied up with that film, where she was singing and acting in. Something in her personal life changed as well, so she stepped out of the project. That’s why she never made it to Tallinn.”
Taka, a member of a Japanese post-rock band Mono has said that performing in Estonia was a very special experience for him – they’ve been over to play here twice precisely for the reason, that Arvo Pärt was from Estonia.
“What moving stories! This was a completely unknown world to me before and makes me think about so many things. Thank you so much!”

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