Oct 13, 2014

Divine rhythm: composer Anastasia Pahos

The music I write embodies the faith I aspire to experience every second of my life. Whilst relatively short, the life I have lived has been filled with an intensity of joys, challenges, soul-stripping, and truth-seeking that has granted me with the maturity and, dare I say, insight of a life much longer lived. To get to where I am today – musically, emotionally, spiritually – I needed to reach a point where my faith was all that I had left to cling on to in life. I have not done the factual, theological, and historical research into Orthodoxy to the extent that many converts to the faith have so bravely (and thankfully) pursued. My experience – the change that truly made and continues to make the biggest difference – comes from the heart or, perhaps more accurately, the nous that has rightfully placed my mind within my heart.

I think it is fair to say that composers are troubled souls; especially those who yearn for a spiritual dimension within their music. Whether I’m composing a symphony, chamber music, or music for voices, it is my way of reaching out passionately to Heaven – for comfort, enlightenment, peace, forgiveness, strength, love; the list goes on. With each piece that I compose, it is almost as if what I’ve written on the page is an embodiment of my spiritual progress thus far; tangible descriptive evidence of the struggles I’ve faced on my journey toward God…and a reminder of the path I pray to keep following. Before I embark on composing a piece, I endure days of self-inflicted inner turmoil through doubting my ability, through lingering on the knowledge of the time, effort, and exhaustion that come with writing sacred or spiritually-inspired music...and fear. Thinking about writing music is frightening. Frightening because I must meet and converse with my deepest thoughts and emotions, and because I don’t know where the music comes from; how it comes about. And sadly, it is only until I go through this stressful momentum, time and time again, where I reach this point of acknowledging the unknown that I am able to recognise the need to let go of relying on myself. I realise that my ability is not my own. It is a gift. And I have once more been foolish enough to attempt to use this gift without treading down the path and using the method provided for me by my faith: prayer.

Before embarking on composing a sacred work, I need to dedicate a few days to prayer, contemplation, and reading material by spiritual fathers, monastics, or other Orthodox Christian laypeople. A compositional concept itself may be inspired by something as simple as a hand gesture or a thought, an emotion or even an inanimate object, however my music is generally brought to life through prayer and contemplation. Yes, composition and prayer…they’re quite inseparable, really. Composition is my expression of divine experience and, at the same time, that yearning for such an experience.

Being blessed with the gift of composing music has brought me success after success. Part of this, I think, is due to the unique sound-world my music creates. Being infused with or inspired by Christian Orthodoxy, as well as my Eastern European musical heritage, my compositions that are grounded in Western harmonic practice are given a dimension very rarely heard in both the past and current Western musical landscapes. Epic yet at the same time achieving an almost painful intimacy with its listeners, my music is also influenced by the Australian natural landscape and composers Arvo Pärt, John Tavener, and Ross Edwards.

As my website – www.anastasiapahos.com – shows, my focus is on classical rather than electroacoustic composition, having written several works for orchestra, choir, as well as a wide variety of other chamber ensembles. I do encourage you to peruse this website, which contains information regarding my musical training, professional activity, achievements, list of compositions, audio samples of my work, list of performances, and contact details.

With or without faith, a composer’s life may indeed be bittersweet. With the Faith, however, a composer’s life has the potential to be a foretaste of Heaven. To be near Our Heavenly Father; to possibly bring others close to Him also…well, what greater motivation to compose music is there than that?

To visit Anastasia’s site, click photo


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