On words, music, and expression

“Most of my early music was non-vocal. In fact, I only started writing intensively for choirs after I met the Hilliards. Hearing them for the first time changed my life totally. The tears fell over my face and I was not able to say where I was – in heaven or here on Earth. It was a shock.”

— Arvo Pärt, The Telegraph (more…)

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I see that Sony Classical has released an impressive new box set of Glenn Gould‘s unreleased 1955 renditions of Bach‘s Goldberg Variations. Andrew Clements weighs in on the exhaustive 8-disc collection:

“It constitutes detailed documentation of Gould’s quest for his ideal Bach performance – his obsession with every detail, his insistence on getting the articulation of every semiquaver in every bar exactly as he imagined it, sometimes to the audible exasperation of the producer, Howard Scott. There are multiple takes of every variation, each subtly distinct in tempo and nuance, from which the definitive performance as it eventually appeared on LP was later spliced together. Taken together they also demonstrate the unwavering virtuosity of Gould’s playing, and the startling clarity he seemed effortlessly able to bring to the densest contrapuntal textures.”

— Andrew Clements, The Guardian

Catching up on my reading. What follows are a few of the articles and interviews that have caught my eye over the last few weeks – and some that I have been inspired to revisit.

Joseph Conrad on Henry James and what makes a great writerMarilynne Robinson on William Faulkner and what literature owes to the Bible • Sonny Rollins on how fifty years of practicing yoga made him a better musician • Alex Ross on the consolations of Arvo Pärt‘s music • Peter Bouteneff in conversation about Arvo Pärt • On the lasting emotional impact of Louis Kahn‘s architecture

I have been revisiting the music of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt recently, which I find very consoling. Back in 2014, Tom Huizenga (NPR) managed to secure an interview with Pärt, where he reflected on the use of space and silence in his work:

“[W]hen we speak about silence, we must keep in mind that it has two different wings, so to speak. Silence can be both that which is outside of us and that which is inside a person. The silence of our soul, which isn’t even affected by external distractions, is actually more crucial but more difficult to achieve.”

Source: The Silence And Awe Of Arvo Pärt : Deceptive Cadence : NPR

Teju Cole
Teju Cole

Back in February, Van Magazine, an independent publication that celebrates classical music, published an interview with the writer Teju Cole. (more…)