November 12, 2005


A milestone for semplice's master: Arvo Pärt's 70th birthday spawns a flurry of releases that celebrate his strains. (Mark Swed, October 30, 2005, LA Times)

Last month, the universe executed another of its capricious yin-yang maneuvers. Although now a black date on the calendar, 9/11 also happens to be the birthday of Arvo Pärt, that otherworldly composer and spiritually wholesome presence on the musical scene. This year he turned 70. [...]

Pärt has caught on because of the luminous beauty of his sound. It seems to come from somewhere beyond our normal experience and expectations. It haunts the ear. But just about every tribute to him I've read lately begins defensively, explaining that musical simplicity does not necessarily equal triviality. No, we are reminded, Arvo Pärt is not New Age. He isn't a Minimalist, as such. He's neither this nor that.

We need no such reminders. Maybe he's not to everyone's taste, but he's loved and admired by a following that is wide and that breaks through categories.

The reason for so strong a fan base is, no doubt, the outward simplicity of Pärt's music. He is religious, and he often sets Christian texts with mystical fervor. But he transcends dogma. What his music is really about is the religion of sound. He worships it, and he worships its surrounding silences. There is only one way to listen to Pärt, and that is in a state of awe.

Such worship is dogmatic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 12, 2005 10:24 AM
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