SPIRITUALITY: Composer Arvo Part is among the most popular ‘sacred music’ composers today.
TALLINN - A lot of music has been composed to complement religion, and many composers have derived inspiration from their own religion. Many forms of traditional music have been adapted to fit religions’ purposes or have descended from religious music. Religious music often changes to fit the times.
Arvo Part is an Estonian classical composer and one of the most prominent living composers of sacred music, also called ‘religious music.’ Part, a cult figure revered for the mystical aura of his meditative music, gives the impression of being a man not of this world. He is a composer of international stature whose music is characterized by strong compositional logic and sacral atmosphere.
These days the whole country has begun the celebration of the world famous composer’s 75th birthday, which takes place from Aug. 17 to Sept. 19, with numerous concerts throughout the year.
Part’s festival focuses on his birth and childhood cities Paide, Rakvere and Tallinn. His music is also a focal point of this year’s Nargen Festival, which was launched from Aug. 17 to Sept. 26.
The Nargen Festival draws people to various seaside areas and joins together the audiences both from overseas and the mainland in a common enjoyment of opera, drama and concerts. The Nargen Festival events offer a true cultural experience for the most demanding audiences. The goal is to produce a varied cultural program every year and, in the longer run, grow into a summer-long event that encompasses all of the Nordic countries.
Since the late 1970s, Part has worked in a minimalist style that employs a self-made compositional technique called tintinnabuli (a compositional style created by Part himself). His music also finds its inspiration and influence from Gregorian chants.
To celebrate Part’s 75th birthday (born Sept. 11, 1935), Boston University in March hosted a conference entitled “Arvo Part and Contemporary Spirituality.” The conference examined Part’s music using and developing cross-disciplinary methodologies drawing on media studies, theological studies and different analytical approaches to music. By working on issues of interpretation, it endeavors to bridge the traditional gap between scholars and performers, and it directly addresses the largest group of people who come across Part’s music - the audience.
Part was born in Paide, Estonia, a small town near Tallinn. Living in the old Soviet Union, Part had little access to what was happening in contemporary Western music but, despite such isolation, the early 1960s in Estonia saw many new methods of composition being brought into use and Part was at the forefront.
Part’s achievements were honored in his 61st year by his election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was nominated as 14th International Composer for 2000 by the Royal Academy of Music in London. He also received the “Contemporary Music Award” at the Classical Brit Awards ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
Arvo Part, whose meditative, spiritually-themed music has made him among the most popular and recorded of living classical composers, has been named the winner of the 2008 Leonie Sonning Music Prize, Denmark’s top award in the field. Part also holds an honorary doctorate from many universities (Estonian Academy of Music and Theater, University of Tartu, University of Sydney (Australia), University of Durham (Great Britain), Universidad Nacional de General San Martin (Germany), Universite de Liege (Belgium) and many others.
The music of Part is performed all over the world. Most of his works have been commissioned by renowned soloists, choirs and orchestras. He is the permanent guest of great festivals and there have also been organized several festivals in honor of the master, including Arvo Part Festival in Stockholm (1995), International Composer Festival “Part in Profile” in Royal Academy of Music in London (2000), Arvo Part Festival in Copenhagen (2002), “Arvo Part – Person of the Borderland” in Poland (2003), and more.
This year Part’s music debuted at the Birgitta Festival with a ballet night on Aug. 14, performed by the Modern Ballet Theater of Kiev.
All those who are a devotee of Part’s music, or are fans of sacred music, have a great opportunity to enjoy Da Pacem by Vox Clamantis, Cello Octet Amsterdam and Arianna Savall at Tallinn St. John’s Church on Aug. 31, within the framework of the festival as well as Adam’s Lament, premiere in Estonia by Salzburg Camerata, Eric Ericson chamber music choir on Sept. 3 at Estonia Concert Hall.