“Simplicity”, the essay by Maria Norseth Garli

Photo: Maria Norseth Garli

“The word itself appeals to me: Simplicity. In it are layers of confidement. Layers, countless layers. Hidden meanings, those small details you hardly see but which makes all the difference. Simplicity, as I perceive it, is rich and complex – and magical. For as long as I can remember I have been drawn to simplicity. In music, in art and in life. I used to think I was an alien left on earth by mistake (sometimes I still do), because it all seemed to be different to me. The colours, the sounds. They meant something different to me than to others. The other kids didn’t really get me, or it. I spent years, many years, searching for a way to express the amazement, the wondering, and the despair that I experience in everyday life. I knew it was through music I had to do it, but it took quite some time to carve out the exact form. Even so, it is a form that shifts from day to day. An undisputable fact for everyone, not only for artists, but for humans of any kind – the fact that life shifts and takes on different forms every day in the most subtle ways. It is not constant. It slowly changes timbre, lingers for a fraction longer, shines a shade darker or brighter than the day before.

Simplicity has always spoken to me in its very own language. It was whispering my name when I was asleep, waking me with a gentle breeze, but also giving me a punch in the stomach every now and then. I seek to thrive and evolve in that language, to embrace it and let myself be embraced by it, where listening and being present are the key ingredients for succeeding – in really grasping the sense of a slow melody, a repeating cycle of chords or sounds, the transparency of that almost wordless song. In the end all that matters is giving the listener an experience of belonging, being present in something for a moment, away from a life where you spend your waking hours gasping for air and keeping your senses sharpened at all times so not to miss out on anything.

Simplicity versus complexity. Simple, crystal clear moon beams of emotions, impressions and sounds in a lavish, overcomplicated, and busy world. When lockdown was a fact, the diametricality of these two realities hit me hard. I, the hypocrite, chanting for simplicity in music and in life, but failing at living up to it when forced to live by it. Life seemed so easy when everything around me stayed more or less the same, when everything was predictable, safe and in a way – boring. Hectic, fast, yet boring. Then, on the other hand, when the pandemic made the world stop for a minute, it became nearly impossible to stay true to this longing for, and praising of, simplicity. When I had a chance to achieve it, I didn’t want it anymore. That’s not really true though. What I realised after a while was that we still live our lives as if we never can make it in time, as if we can’t make enough of our lives. As if climbing a hundred mountains, reading five hundred books, building our houses with our bare hands while our kids grow up and our spouses fade away, or doing a master’s degree on top of a full-time job still seems to be what matters the most. We are so restless in our couches while we divert ourselves from real life, distracted by our blue screens we just have to check in case something new has happened in the past five minutes. I know this, because I live this way too. Luckily, I have music to remind me otherwise. It reminds me to just be. To be present for a while, digging deeper into myself. Here is your chance to break through and reach behind the story on display. Your own story, into your own self. What are you really doing? Who do you want to be? How do you want this life, this world, to be like? This is what simplicity in music, in art and in life is to me. It is hard, most of the time. To live by simplicity is hard, even when forced to do so, when forced to slow down, stay put, make something out of what’s right in front of you. To truly, really, look into your kid’s or your kin’s eyes and see, listen to all the wonderful things that surround you every day.

Share simplicity.

It sings to me.”