22 Aug 2010

Arvo Part

From Composer of the Week, 9:00 am on 22 August 2010
Arvo Pärt

Arvo Pärt Photo: Estonian Foreign Ministry

Ryan Smith presents an overview of the life and music of Arvo Pärt, a musical time traveller and unlikely hero with a quiet but rebellious spirit. Pärt was born in Estonia in 1935. At that time the country, which had a long history of colonisation, was an independent republic. But after just 20 years of independence, when Pärt was 5, Estonia was occupied once again. Despite his obvious gift for composition - his teacher at Tallinn Conservatory said: "he just seemed to shake his sleeves and notes would fall out" -Soviet Union control made it hard for Pärt to access music from the wider world. Artistic restrictions also meant Pärt's early attempts to embrace Schoenberg's serialism were met with derision from the establishment. But as it turned out, for Pärt, serialism was not creatively stimulating. Instead, he turned to early music; to plainsong; and to the beginnings of polyphony. This music has its roots in religion and Pärt was also drawn to join the Russian Orthodox Church. Minimalist and meditative are two words used by others to describe his music, but Pärt preferred to say it is like light going through a prism - each listener having the opportunity to interpret the sound, together creating a rainbow-like spectrum of musical experience.