Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Most of the composers I've profiled up to this point wrote music that was either "heavy" (see Stravinsky, Shostakovich) or extremely dissonant i.e. "spooky" (see Penderecki, Schönberg).
Estonian born composer, Arvo Pärt, wrote his fair share of creepy, dissonant music early on but found the confines of serialism to be limiting. He opted to pursue more of a minimalist aesthetic and has continued to write in this way for 40 years. While he is sometimes compared to the minimalist composers, his music is distinct. Most music that is associated with minimalism is very rhythmic, that is to say there is a distinct pulse throughout it.
Pärt's music is closer to Gregorian chant than to African music (which minimalism music is often compared to). A lot of my favorite music by him is choral (written for a choir).
Arvo Pärt writes music inspired by the roots of the western classical tradition but reinterprets it, making it his own. Most of his compositions are very simple harmonically, using only one chord throughout an entire piece. He developed a style of composition called "Tintinnabuli" which he uses to write in this way. Don't think that this translates to boring music though. While it is peaceful and slow moving, it still is interesting to listen to. Its incredible how much he is able to do within the self imposed limitations.
Its possible you've heard some of Arvo's music before without realizing it. One of his better known pieces Spiegle im Spiegle (Mirror in the Mirror) has been used several times in movies and TV.
Here's another one of his well known pieces, Cantus in Memoriam of Benjamin Britten...
The above video is obviously instrumental. Check out some of his choral music below...
The above piece as well as the Berlin Mass are available for download here and purchase here.