Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"The opposite of killing"

I've been listening to performances of the Estonian minimalist composer Arvo Pärt over the last few weeks, primarily his vocal works. His compositional method of "tintinnabuli" has been on my mind as a potential frame or model for poetic composition.

Anyway, this video best expresses how I feel today

The melodic voice is being played on clarinet. I've heard other versions of the piece played on cello or violin. I like this one too. And the rabbit really pulls it together.

Pärt talks about "tintinnabuli" in a way similar to Cage's discussions of "noise" and "silence" and Thomas Merton's understanding of the goals and methods of contemplative prayer. This is what he says:
Tintinnabulation is an area I sometimes wander into when I am searching for answers—in my life, my music, my work. In my dark hours, I have the certain feeling that everything outside this one thing has no meaning. The complex and many-faceted only confuses me, and I must search for unity. What is it, this one thing, and how do I find my way to it? Traces of this perfect thing appear in many guises—and everything that is unimportant falls away. Tintinnabulation is like this. Here I am alone with silence. I have discovered that it is enough when a single note is beautifully played. This one note, or a silent beat, or a moment of silence, comforts me.
I think there might also be relevance here to the way I've been thinking about ikons: word as ikon, sound as ikon, poem as ikon. Pavel Florensky defines and defends ikons negatively, that is to call them a "notness." By addressing a "notness" be it ikon (not God), silence (not sound or music or text) we are reminded of what is absent. That which is not here is most here as our minds' struggle to wrap around the immensity of the vacuum it leaves in our lives. The absence is precisely what initiates the thing (whatever it is) coming-into-being, at least in form if not actuality. As a crudely formed poetics: silence and absence are crucial to the word's alchemizing into both concrete object and portal for the unknown to enter the world. As a profoundly felt lack, the poem is, while a contemplative space, a performance of longing. I've also been reading Fanny Howe's Emergence in preparation for a review for Jacket and John Taggart's new Selected. I think these matters have relevance in both of these poets' work as well.

And here
Pärt talks to Björk. She discusses crickets mostly.