Pio Grooves: Jerry Harp

Illustration by Fiona Kuzmack


By Iris Shanks /// Staff Writer

This week’s Pio is English professor Jerry Harp, who is bringing a new genre of music to the column with Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. Pärt, who Harp describes as being “similar to Philip Glass, but not as heavily repetitive,” is one of the most widely-performed contemporary composers in the world.

Harp first discovered the music of Arvo Pärt after a friend recommendation him in graduate school.  Pärt’s music tends to be minimalist and is associated with holy minimalism, a movement associated with many late-20th century composers whose music focuses on religious or spiritual topics.

Harp takes advantage of this meditative quality: “I’ll listen to those late at night, when it’s very quiet. It seems like the same time I would read Yeats; the moonlight is streaming through the window, and maybe it just feels a little closer to the other realm.”

Harp’s music profile extends much further than Pärt though: “The people I always go back to are Beethoven, Mozart, and Led Zeppelin.” His two theme songs are: R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” and Beck’s “Loser” both combine utterly helpless subjects with distinctively powerfully sounds.

Lately, Harp’s “poppier” tastes are on the other end of the spectrum entirely: “I also really like Mumford and Sons. I’ll listen to them in the car whenever I can catch them, and I’ll seek them out online. They’re fun to watch.” The London-based band is probably familiar to most of you, and has likely made its way into your life after “Little Lion Man” was released in 2009, as happened with Jerry Harp. Mumford & Sons catches a lot of flack for sounding repetitive, but one man’s repetitive sound is another man’s excitement.

Maybe it’s time to reprise the old Mumford classics, or, if that’s not your cup of folk, check out their lesser known collaboration, “Dharohar Project, Laura Marling & Mumford & Sons” (they chose the punctuation, not me.)

Seriously consider looking into Arvo Pärt. Even if you just need some new study music, Pärt is well worth the listen.


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