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Quote of the Week: Arvo Pärt’s comfort in the moment of silence

July 26, 2011 , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

From Mostly Noise Cach

“I have discovered that it is enough when a single note is beautifully played. This one note, or a silent beat, or a moment of silence, comforts me.”
-Arvo Pärt

One of my favorite composers is Arvo Pärt. Born in 1935, he is perhaps the best known Estonian composer and the most prominent living composer of sacred music.

Since the 1970’s, Pärt has been a “recovering-serialist” (my words) composing with the self-invented-technique “tintinabuli”. Tintinnabular music is built from two voices: the first, the “tintinnabular voice” arpeggiates a tonic triad, and the second moves diatonically in stepwise motion.

These works often have a slow and meditative tempo, and the effect is of suspended time.

The track embedded above is Pärt’s “Beatitudes”. The core of the piece is an ascending diatonic scale around which the tintinabuli voice is built. Consequently, consonance and dissonance reside side by side as a symbol of good and evil. There is a tonal center at all times, but the traditional harmonic relationships are unprepared.

Each statement of the choir Begins with “Blessed”, creating a structure in the text that is inextricably married to the structure of the music. This is the expression! In some ways, the act of singing this work is to express it.


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