Arvo Pärt & Hip Hop

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So, last night I had what was definitely in the top five classes of my academic career thus far.  I might even go so far as to say it’s in the top three.  I’ve been taking a class entitled The Faith and Music of Arvo Pärt this semester here at St. Vlad’s with Dr. Peter Bouteneff.  Dr. B, as he’s known around SVS, is helping head up the Arvo Pärt Project at St. Vladimir’s Seminary, which is a very exciting collaboration between Pärt and St. Vlad’s.  The purpose of the Project is to highlight and explore the relationship between Pärt’s Orthodox Christian faith and his music.  It is seriously cool stuff.

Anyway, this class with Dr. B has been consistently fantastic and tonight we had a guest lecturer, Dr. Jeffers Engelhardt from Amherst College who gave a presentation on Arvo Pärt and social media, amongst other things.  What made the class so cool for me, was that there was a good amount of time spent on looking at what other people have done with Pärt’s music; whether by bands doing covers, DJs making mixed-tapes, or rappers sampling riffs in their music.

One group, Joe Acheson/Hidden Orchestra, made a mixed-tape with some of Pärt’s works interwoven with ambient tracks from Radiohead (another one of my favorites) and others to produce a really solid experience.  This genre of sampling and mixed-tapes is something I’ve really started to get into in the last year or so, and this only further confirms my interest in it.  There’s something about a DJ taking the works of composers, other artists, and even ambient noises and electronic insanity, and seamlessly putting them together to form something new, and wonderful.  It’s a new type of art.  Well, actually, not entirely new.  Bach did it, too.  He took the best of what was happening in music in Europe and combined it into something new and marvelous.  And today, Pärt samples Bach.

Of course, one of the major issues right now is the awkward and legally problematic aspects of creating these new forms of music from sampled pieces from other compositions and recordings.  With the current copyright laws the creative process can get bogged down.  I understand the need for artists being able to support themselves from their music, and I also feel that other artists need to be free to create new and beautiful things.  I’m undecided on how to best do that, it just makes my brain hurt to think about it.

So, to sum up: awesome class.

***UPDATE***

I had originally meant to mention a few of the pieces that Dr. Engelhardt had played in our class (hence the name of the post), so here they are:

  • Cover of Spiegel im Spiegel by post-rock band My Education.
  • A “lonesome prairie version” of Spiegel im Spiegel by Soundcloud user The Wicks, played on banjo and harmonica.
  • Joe Acheson / Hidden Orchestra, Footsteps promo mix:- Acheson remix (www.ParisDJs.com) 2010-08-09.
  • CD of remixes of famous ECM recordings called Re: ECM by Ricardo Villalobos and Max Loderbauer.
  • Little Weapons ( by Lupe Fiasco, a Chicago based hip hop artist and rapper, which samples Pärt’s De Profundis.  Definitely NSFW language and imagery.
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