Is your art a result rather than a starting point?
If there were no continual effort to start from the beginning there would be no art. I cannot help it but start from scratch. I am tempted only when I experience something unknown, something new and meaningful for me. It seems, however, that this unknown territory is sooner reached by way of reduction than by growing complexity. Reduction certainly doesn’t mean simplification, but it is the way – at least in an ideal scenario – to the most intense concentration on the essence of things. In the compositional process I always have to find this nucleus first from which the work will eventually emerge. First of all, I will have to get to this nucleus. Everything depends on which nucleus, or which part of the nucleus, I choose (or am able to choose at a given time) and on the profundity of consequences. Imagine, for example, you look at a substance or an object through an electron microscope. A thousand-fold enlargement will bviously look different from a millionfold enlargement. Moving through the different stages of enlargement you can see incredible landscapes. Somewhere, though, there is a limit (let’s say at the thirty million-fold enlargement). The landscapes then will have disappeared. What you can see now is a cool geometry: very particular and very clear. Most importantly, however, this geometry will be similar for most substances or objects. At first glance, this geometry has very little to do with the variety of those fantastic landscapes. Landscapes and geometry are, nevertheless, inseparable. The geometry is the point where everything tarts. Geometry and landscapes are not independent from each other but relate as starting point and process. This geometry is an abstraction not unlike a mathematical formula.
Once you’ve found this nucleus, what is the first musical incarnation of the formula?
It can be many different things, yet each one of them would relate to the nucleus only partially. Just as there are many different languages, this ‘artistic incarnation’ can take on many different forms. It does not necessarily have to be a sound. It could be a movement [Arvo Part moves his hand]. It’s got something to do with life, and, with this movement, as it were. Conducting, for example, is a relationship between music and motion. Surely this is not coincidental. I think there is a shared synaesthetic consciousness among painters, musicians and choreographers. I am confident that one thing stands for all. One is all.
Do you need to search for this nucleus every time you make something new?
Somehow, yes. But at the same time not quite. The way to get there is not so simple since the truth is hidden deeply in the human heart.