Fratres (Avro Pärt 1977) [9:30]

Is this music simple? Is it anything that it doesn't appear to be? Is it trying to decieve us? Or is there a statement within the simplicity itself that is completely obvious and which tend to overlook when we try and read depth beyond the surface?

The composer once said that '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.' Written in his tintinnabuli style (which essentially means that some voices have a polyphony restricted to certain triads, whilst others are free to express a melody), the music follows a slow weave through a variety of chords in his beloved A minor, following three phrased sections in 7/4, 9/4 and 11/4, the notes apparently being selected using some form of formula which this guy has elegantly cracked. Between each triptych of strings comes an odd interlude; orchestral percussion hammering in 6/4. The music rises and falls gracefully, an effect I try to emulate by adding more and different strings as it rises to a cresendo, then fades back whence it came. Less a musical approach than it is a philosophy, Pärt has stated before that he uses the tintinnabuli approach in his life in general.

Fratres of course means 'brothers', and is (I assume) a reference to the fact that there were numerous varieties of this composition scored for (among other things) Violin, strings and percussion; String quartet; Cello and piano; Four, eight and twelve cellos; Wind octet and percussion; String quintet; Wind quintet; Violin and piano; and Viola and Piano. There is another version out there of it being played upon audio feedback from an Allen and Heath GL2400-40 mixing console. Don't believe me? Watch this and find out for yourself.

The version I have attempted here is that which was written for strings and percussion. The sustained drone underneath the melody is created by blending the Wilden organ and some seriously mistreated doubled-up cellos, and the clacking claves you hear is actually...well..Mellotron. More precisely, it's the sound of the two cheekblocks taken from either side of the M400 and rattled together. Even the bass drum isn't actually a bass drum at all, just a very carefully selected recording of me banging the side of the Mk V casing. Tintinnabuli utilitarianism.

Instrumentation: Mellotron M400 and Mk V Playing

FLAC version here.