Arvo Pärt at 80

“I have discovered that it is enough if a single note is played beautifully. This single note, the sense of peace or silence have a calming effect on me.”

So says Arvo Pärt, the Estonian composer born 80 years ago on 11th September 1935.

Pärt has become one of the world’s most recorded and best loved composers, his works bringing calm reflection, and touching audiences around the world.

Here is his piece Tabula Rasa, one of the first of his compositions that I encountered as a music student many years ago, which remains a favourite (Part 2 also follows below, and is very special) :

The timeless and inclusive spirituality of Pärt’s music acts as an antidote to the pressures and stress of life in the modern age. The composer explains:

“The more we are thrown into chaos, the more we have to hold onto order. This is the only thing that helps us to restore our sense of balance, even if only a little, and allows us to see things in perspective and to be aware of the value of these things.
The greater the sense of order and the greater our ability to stand back and feel the wing-beat of time, the more powerful will be the impact of the work of art.”

Reflecting on his process as a composer, Pärt says:

“My music was always written after I had been silent in the most literal sense of the word. When I speak of silence, I mean the nothingness out of which God created the world. That is why, ideally, musical silence is sacred. Silence is not simply given to us, but in order that we may draw sustenance from it. This sustenance is no less valuable to me than the air I breathe.

“If you approach silence with love, music may result.”

Pärt’s music brings an eternity that will stay with us. Long may he stay among us too, gracing our lives with his beautiful music.

Happy 80th Birthday to Arvo Pärt.

A Theoretical Diversion…

My recent in-depth post concerning the current ABRSM Grade 5 Music Theory requirement has attracted considerable interest and debate online, not unexpectedly. A second in-depth post will follow later in the month, in which I hope to answer the questions raised in the first. Until then, a small diversion…

Continue reading A Theoretical Diversion…

Lucinda Mackworth-Young: “Piano by Ear”

Lucinda Mackworth-Young’s new book “Piano by Ear” fills a massive gap in the market. Here’s my review :

Quite simply this is the book that I, and no doubt many other thousands of pianists and teachers, have been waiting for. For years!

I even considered writing something like it myself at one point, back at the time my own Keyquest books for electronic keyboard were just out. But thank goodness – Lucinda Mackworth-Young has saved us all the effort, and has certainly done a far better job of it than I would ever have done!

Continue reading Lucinda Mackworth-Young: “Piano by Ear”

Grade 5 Theory: Reconsidered

In this first of two articles about Music Theory, I will be considering the important issue of whether music theory should be a compulsory element of a well-rounded music education. A second article follows, examining in more detail how we might re-imagine a Music Theory curriculum and syllabus for the 21st century.

Continue reading Grade 5 Theory: Reconsidered

“Leave your thoughts in a place you will not visit”

It is clear that controlling our thoughts is a huge issue for us pianists. Indeed, most of the piano players I have met are easy to describe as “conceptual thinkers”. Indeed, I would say that conceptual thinking is probably an essential skill for any high level player.

But there’s a huge problem. In recent years, we have become increasingly aware that “over-thinking” any problem can break rather than solve it, and often leads us to bizarre conclusions.

At the same time, we have been convinced by the growing body of research confirming our suspicions that many physical health problems are rooted in the activities of the mind. “Over-thinking” can ultimately be associated with anxiety, fear, paranoia and mental instability, all of which can have serious physical as well as social consequences.

Continue reading “Leave your thoughts in a place you will not visit”

Recovery from Abuse: Interview with Fiona Whelpton

The relationship between music teachers and their students is a particularly important one. At best it can nurture young people’s development both as a person and bring out the best of their talents as a musician. But what happens when boundaries are crossed and rules get broken?

Continue reading Recovery from Abuse: Interview with Fiona Whelpton