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Arvo Part (Composer)

Arvo Part (born 11 September 1935 in Paide), is an Estonian composer, often identified with the school of minimalism and more specifically, that of "mystic minimalism" or "sacred minimalism". He is considered a pioneer of this style, along with contemporaries Henryk Gуrecki and John Tavener. Arvo Part is best known for his choral works.


Even in Estonia, Arvo was getting the same feeling that we were all getting. I love his music, and I love the fact that he is such a brave, talented man. He‘s completely out of step with the zeitgeist and yet he‘s enormously popular, which is so inspiring. His music fulfills a deep human need that has nothing to do with fashion. —Steve Reich
Part‘s musical education began at age 7, while he began attending music school in Rakvere (his family lived there at the time) and by 14 or 15 he was writing his own compositions. While studying composition (with teacher Heino Eller) at the Tallinn Conservatory it was said of him that: "he just seemed to shake his sleeves and notes would fall out". There were very few influences from outside the Soviet Union at this time, just a few illegal tapes and scores.

Although at the time of Part‘s birth Estonia was an independent state, the Soviet Union occupied it in 1940 as a result of the Soviet-Nazi Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and the country remained under Soviet control (except for a 3-year period of German occupation), for the next 51 years.

Part‘s oeuvre is generally divided into two periods. His early works range from rather severe neo-classical styles influenced by Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Bartуk. He then began to compose using Schoenberg‘s twelve-tone technique and serialism. This, however, not only earned the ire of the Soviet establishment, but also proved to be a creative dead end. Part‘s biographer, Paul Hillier, says:

"... he had reached a position of complete despair in which the composition of music appeared to be the most futile of gestures, and he lacked the musical faith and will-power to write even a single note"
This may be an overstatement since the transitional third symphony (1971) was composed during this time. However, it is clear that Part experienced a deep personal crisis. His response to this impasse was to immerse himself in early music — to go, in effect, back to the roots of western music. He studied plainsong, Gregorian chant, and the emergence of polyphony in the Renaissance. At the same time he began to explore religion and joined the Russian Orthodox Church, perhaps indicating that his crisis was partly spiritual in nature, rather than exclusively musical.

The music that began to emerge after this period was radically different. Part describes it as tintinnabuli - like the ringing of bells. The music is characterised by simple harmonies, often single unadorned notes, or triad chords which form the basis of western harmony. These are reminiscent of ringing bells, hence the name. Tintinnabuli works are rhythmically simple, and do not change tempo. The influence of early music is clear. Another characteristic of Part‘s later works is that they are frequently settings for sacred texts, although he mostly chooses Latin or the Church Slavonic language used in Orthodox liturgy instead of his native Estonian language.

He moved to Berlin in 1980 and has lived there ever since.

It is for these latter works that Part is best known, and he is unusual for a modern composer in that he is very popular in his own lifetime. Arvo Part‘s music came to public attention in the West, largely thanks to Manfred Eicher who recorded several of Part‘s compositions for ECM Records starting in 1984.

Part has said that his music is similar to light going through a prism: the music may have a slightly different meaning for each listener, thus creating a spectrum of musical experience, similar to the rainbow of light.

His music has been used in over 50 films, from "Vдike motoroller" (1962) to "Promised Land" (2004). The Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten was used in Lйos Carax‘s Les Amants du Pont-Neuf (1991) and in Michael Moore‘s Fahrenheit 9/11 while showing the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City. Spiegel im Spiegel was prominently used in Mike Nichols‘ Wit (2001), the mountain climbing documentary Touching the Void (2003), and Gus van Sant‘s Gerry (2003), which also used Fьr Alina.

A new composition, For Lennart, written for the memory of the Estonian President Lennart Meri, was being played in his funeral service on 2 April 2006.

In response to the murder of the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya in Moscow on 7 October 2006, Arvo Part has declared that all his works performed in the 2006-2007 would be commemorating her death.

"Anna Politkovskaya staked her entire talent, energy and – in the end – even her life on saving people who had become victims of the abuses prevailing in Russia."

Provided by Wikipedia - Arvo Part

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