Uncomplicated, straightforward, effortless, clean, pure, direct, basic, facile, lucid, clear. . .
If you’ve read my artist statement or the about page at Parallel Audio, you have already picked up on the way my sensibilities lean towards simplicity. Looking back, I can see how it’s been a recurrent theme for me, but the realization of its persistence and the depth of its influence is relatively recent. Hidden inside the concept is an intriguing irony. Simplicity is not easy. For example, the Anna Magdalena Notebook by J.S. Bach, a collection of simple little pieces, used for pedagogical purposes, are technically easy, yet extraordinarily difficult to play well. It’s impossible to exaggerate this point. Once a performer’s technique gets to the requisite skill level, that is, the notes ‘under their fingers,’ even the thorniest, most technically intricate, most heroic piano concerto can’t hold a candle to these simple little pieces. Because of their simplicity, every note is exposed to scrutiny. Each stroke of the key must be played with exceptional precision and exquisite finesse, without which these pieces become vapid little bits of tripe.
Simplicity has another sharp edge; it’s too easy to get duped into thinking it’s too simple. Things are never as simple as they appear. Simplicity has limits. As we take a closer look, we find there is more to it. Yet if we don’t stay on track, unrelated side issues get conflated with important issues resulting in a convoluted, overly complicated muddle. Staying diligently focussed at every turn is imperative for separating the substance from the interference.
Simplicity directs my thoughts and my art. When I see a messy problem, whether material or aesthetic, my first move is to reduce it to its fundaments. I ask questions. I slash out the irrelevancies, the minor issues, the nonessentials. I get brutal.
Over complication embroils us in things that really don’t matter. Many studies have demonstrated that for our health and happiness a downsized, simplified lifestyle is beneficial. Less is more. It may not be easy, but it couldn’t be simpler.