Tone Poem Tuesday

NPR has a podcast called the Open Ears Project:

Part mix tape, part sonic love-letter, the Open Ears Project is a daily podcast where people share the classical track that means the most to them. Each episode offers a soulful glimpse into other human lives, helping us to hear this music—and each other—differently.

I’ve been listening for a while, though I’m behind on episodes right now, and the most recent one I’ve heard is the episode with Tom Hiddleston in which he shares a work called Spiegel im Spiegel, by Estonian composer Arvo Part. Part is apparently the most frequently performed composer alive today, after John Williams, which is really saying something. I’ve heard very little of Part’s music, but what I have heard I always find hypnotic in its minimalism, and that’s certainly the case with Spiegel im Spiegel, which breaks from my usual habit of featuring orchestral music here. This is a chamber work featuring solo violin and piano, and it’s simply wonderful.

Spiegel im spiegel translates to “Mirror in the mirror”, and according to the notes on Wikipedia this refers to an “infinity mirror”, where two mirrors face each other and produce infinite reflections into the eternal distance. This makes me remember something as a kid, in all the department stores: the clothes sections had mirrors so you could see how something looked as you tried it on. The nicer stores had a three-mirror set-up so you could see how something looked from several angles. And if you were really lucky, the two angled mirrors on the sides were hinged so you could bring them in around you. I’d go up to one of those and enclose myself in a triangle of mirrors, and this was pretty trippy fun for a seven or eight-year-old kid. (My mother, for some reason, did not approve when I would do this. To this day I don’t see the problem.)

Spiegel im Spiegel is delicate and contemplative, and the sound is open and clear…almost infinite, like a perfectly mirrored pane of glass. Listening to it I can certainly hear an aural version of the imperfect infinity of endless reflections that bend slightly to one side, since you can never get the perfect vantage point to see all the way into infinity because your head is in the way. What a wonderful piece.

(And I heartily recommend The Open Ears Project. I won’t even accuse them of stealing my Tone Poem Tuesday idea for a podcast!)

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One Response to Tone Poem Tuesday

  1. Roger says:

    Your blog post was going to spur a post from me about the composer. Then I realized that I had already written one:

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