Sunday Morning: Pärt and Soul

Stuart Isacoff in titled Pärt and Soul:

“You may not know the name, but you’ve heard his music. Estonian composer Arvo Pärt’s alluring, hypnotic “tintinnabuli” (“bell-like”) style has resonated with listeners world-wide—the database Bachtrack reports that Mr. Pärt is now the most performed living classical composer. The haunting music in the trailer for the film “Gravity”—a perfect complement to the image of astronauts adrift, its piano pattern suggesting a cosmic clock as floating violin tones and spacious pauses convey a sense of human frailty—is his 1978 work, “Spiegel Im Spiegel” (Mirror in the Mirror).

…”The thing that struck me when I first heard this music at age 18,” remembers Mr. Reeves, “is that I should not be sitting—I should be standing. I cried. It’s not like a Beethoven sonata, where you are on a journey, watching how a theme develops. With Pärt, it is the opposite—you are emptying everything out, accessing a space that may be cluttered because people are always talking over it.”

…the very elements of tintinnabuli style can be understood through a spiritual lens. There is, on the one hand, an unfolding melody and, on the other, a repeating pattern of notes derived from a simple triad, a three-note basic harmony. As they interact and sometimes collide, the melody can be seen as earthly suffering, and the chord arpeggio as eternal consolation. In the style’s simple, clear textures, the solitary reverberations of each ring out like church bells.

Mr. Pärt suggests alternative imagery: “Breathing in and out, crying tears of sorrow and tears of joy, falling down and rising up again—it is all life. And art can also speak in this language. This is the syntax of art—its secret. And all this is what life teaches us.”

….And yet large numbers of music lovers with no religious or cultural affiliation to the composer have embraced his music. Why is that? “I cannot explain it,” Mr. Pärt says. “Of course I am surprised. It is a mystery. Yet, when a listener recognizes in him- or herself something of a certain piece of music, it means there is something in common between the creator and the listener—that we are in some way similar, and we may be friends.” And perhaps that is why Mr. Pärt chooses not to discuss the meaning of these pieces in personal terms. As Mr. Kaljuste, the conductor, put it: “This music is like a blank piece of paper. Different people’s souls write different interpretations on it.”

Related Post: NY City Ballet at Sunrise: New Beginnings


  1. This music was so achingly beautiful, I reacted viscerally to it…I understand the comment that ‘it empties you’…


  2. just finally saw gravity last week and was struck by the music and the emotion floating all over the place. with this, i have found it and am floating with them.


  3. Reblogged this on Random Repeat.


  4. Absolutely beautiful, as always♥


  5. Mmmmmmmmm……


  6. Todd Lohenry says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever regretted clicking on one of your musical links so I try to listen to them all. How do you do it?


  7. Beautiful, David… 🙂


  8. I’m a fan of A.P. but had no idea he was so popular! I’m very happy to hear that! 🙂


  9. This music is achingly beautiful. Thanks for sharing.


  10. I don’t know why this came in today instead of Sunday, but in the melancholy of an early rainy morning, the exquisite, heart-acxhing beauty of this could not be more perfect. Thank you David!


  11. Reblogged this on Makere's Blog and commented:
    Heart-aching, exquisite beauty in every single note


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