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Pärt-ing The Waters 

   
 

Arvo Pärt's Sacred Minimalism!

   

 

  

 

Listening to composer Arvo Pärt's mélange of modernism and mysticism is a sublime aesthetic experience.  Pärt's pared down, enchantingly minimalist compositions rely on counterpoint as well as subtle Renaissance harmonies and medieval melodic techniques and chants.  His work moves from the dark and haunting to delightfully light and shimmering.

Born in Estonia in 1935, Pärt spent his early years as a composer in the USSR, where he periodically fought Soviet censors who objected to the religious content of some of his work.  He immigrated to Austria in 1980.  His music has acquired a devoted following among Western choruses and contemporary choreographers. 

Pärt created a distinctive compositional style called tintinnabulation that was influenced by chant music and recalls the pealing of bells.  Pärt says of his technique: "Tintinnabulation is an area I sometimes wander into when I am searching for answers - in my life, my music, my work.  In my dark hours, I have the certain feeling that everything outside this one thing has no meaning.  The complex and many-faceted only confuses me, and I must search for unity. What is it, this one thing, and how do I find my way to it?  Traces of this perfect thing appear in many guises - and everything that is unimportant falls away. Tintinnabulation is like this . . . The three notes of a triad are like bells.  And that is why I call it tintinnabulation."  The technique is used to particularly beautiful effect, for example, in the composer's The Beatitudes

Festina Lente, a chamber music piece for string orchestra and harp is all about, as the title says, making haste slowly!  As the tempo alternates between fast and slow, the work as a whole accelerates in a wonderfully contained and restrained manner.  Pärt's delicate compositions and conflation of ancient chants and modern minimalist techniques create a strangely beautiful and meditative mood.  

 

Listen:  Arvo Pärt, Arbos.

 

 

       
 

 
       
     

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