Thanks to Arvo Pärt (Music for Monday)

The beautiful thing about Catholic life, if you love it, is that everything streams into it: literature, music, theater and art, politics, science. Everything can remind one of the beauty of creation. Everything can be a sign of Christ’s presence. Even music you know nothing about.

I have written before about the joys of Pandora Radio, a Web service that allows you to build your own customized stations. Like a song? Make it the “seed” of a new station and Pandora will grow you a whole wildflower garden of music with similar qualities.

Thanks to my pal James, I’ve been listening to Stile Antico Radio, which features polyphony, mostly from the Renaissance. But Pandora is sneaky. It will start slipping you stuff that’s from an entirely different era or even planet just because this music has features of that music. Thus I met Arvo Pärt (pictured).

Believe me, I know nothing about the guy except what I read in Wikipedia. But I love the umlaut. And I love the music. So, presto, I asked Pandora to create another station for me, and for the past week, while out walking, I’ve been listening to Arvo Pärt Radio on my iPhone, complete with cool white ear buds.

Here are some selections from Arvo Pärt Radio (how do you pronounce that name?!), with minimal liner notes from the honestly ignorant Mr. Bull.

Arvo Pärt, “Agnus Dei”
Born Estonia 1935. Apparently still living, or was living the last time his Wiki entry was updated. Made up his own style of composition called tintinnabuli but “also finds inspiration from Gregorian chant.” Those in the know say he belongs to the school of “holy minimalism.” I say I like his stuff.

YouTube Preview Image

Eric Whitacre, “Water Night”
Now this guy is young, born 1970, yikes, 19 years younger than me. He shouldn’t even be allowed on this site. But get a load of his music. It’s beautiful.

YouTube Preview Image

Sir John Tavener, “The Lamb”
Born in England in 1944, he claims to be a direct descendant of 16th-century composer John Taverner, but I say, if so, what happened to the second r? Strikes me as a bit of a poseur, but then I hear this setting of William Blake’s “The Lamb,” and I no longer care.

YouTube Preview Image

If you read music, you’ll especially enjoy this piece by Sir John, “Funeral Ikos.”

YouTube Preview Image

Henryk Gorecki, “Totus Tuus”
Again, it was James who tipped me off to Gorecki, and I’ll close with this piece. Born in Southwest Poland in 1933, he wrote it in 1987 in honor of Pope John Paul II and one of his return trips to Poland. “Totus Tuus” was JPII’s apostolic motto, “All Yours,” an expression of his devotion to Mary. Do you have any favorite pieces by any of these modern masters?

YouTube Preview Image

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16021781602272064901 Allison

    I love the "Totus Tuus" and I love the fact artists are being commissioned for religious work. That said, the rest of what you posted does nothing for me. Maybe it's the rainy day outside, Webster but the rest of it feels dreary in an Enya sort of way.

  • Webster Bull

    Ouch! I like Enya…

  • Webster Bull

    In fact, next Monday, we're going to do an Enyapalooza, just for you, Allison.

  • Sandy

    I really like the Arvo Part. Nice stuff.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16021781602272064901 Allison

    @Webster. I am not obliged to listen, am I? just goes to show how varied we all are!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16021781602272064901 Allison

    You know webster, I wanted to like Arvo I really did. I love the name the photo and the umlaut. But his music? not so much!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01819831282677092730 Frank

    @Allison, and as junior member of the team, you'll be picking the songs and writing the commentary for next weeks Enyapalooza. Consider this one of your "stretch" goals. LOL!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16021781602272064901 Allison

    @frank: I quit! (jk)

  • Anonymous

    Webster,I think you deserve one more positive comment for the time and care you took with this post!The Arvo, by itself, is more solemn than I usually like, but with the visuals, it definitely appealed. I also liked "The Lamb" because I've been a sucker for boys' choirs ever since I saw the movie "Almost Angels," about the Vienna Boys' Choir. Does anyone else remember this? (circa 1961) And I've got quit a bit of Libera on my IPOD. Do you know about The Boston Boy Choir at St. Paul's Church in Harvard Square? My sisters and I used to enjoy their performances at the 11:00 Mass on Sundays. (I'll email the link.) They're well worth checking out. Unfortunately, they don't sing in the summer, so you'd have to miss our choir to hear them.As for Pandora Radio, I used it to get through my taxes. Set on my Beatles station, it made things much more bearable! Good tip..An earlier discussion of music in this space led me to the Tallis Scholars, which I found IPOD worthy.Good lunch break post, though I'm delayed responding.Sheila

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09158421880497827083 Athos

    I'm with Webster re: Enya … at least the early Enya (like the scores for Year of Living Dangerously and L. A. Story). I also find that Enya has become my class's music of choice for Art.Arvo Pärt would be a good alt for some serious brain-food music, IMO. That is, when I really have to concentrate (papers to write, etc.), the most serious brain-food music for me is Bach Inventions.@Allison: Watch Steve Martin's L. A. Story (above) – I'll bet you will like Enya's stuff!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16021781602272064901 Allison

    @Sheila: You are a kind soul. @Athos: I am working on keeping an open heart so I promise to watch L.A. Story and reconsider Enya.Peace to all. If you are near my neck of the woods stay dry…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08662032255136738684 Paula

    Webster, do you know Part's De Profundis ? It's an amazing setting of Psalm 130, Latin text. The version on his disc Arbos is ravishing. And thanks for your always-interesting and provocative blog.paula

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01819831282677092730 Frank

    Webster, I knew I'd like this weeks selections because Sandy likes them. Sandy and I have similar tastes. I only just had the chance to listen to them and I enjoyed them all. Not disappointed in the least. Thanks partner! Looking forward to Inyapalooza!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02327763839418228519 RC

    Another vote for Enya! Eric Whitacre got some net-fame recently for a "virtual choir" video realized via YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7o7BrlbaDsThere's a good collection of Tavener available cheap from Naxos: http://www.hbdirect.com/album_detail.php?pid=405181Music critic Robert Reilly spoke about Arvo Pärt in an ISI lecture in the '80s: he described the first movement of "Tabula Rasa" as driving out the demons of atonality with its insistent, exorcistic final E major chord. On the "Tabula Rasa" LP (yes, I am that old) is the heart-rending, exquisite "Cantus in memory of Benjamin Britten" for eight cellos. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e348n660zrA

  • Anonymous

    Gorecki's 3rd symphony is well worth getting to know…..

  • Webster Bull

    Thanks to friend Sheila, fellow Enya-lovers, and all others who "had my back" on this post! :-)

  • Luce

    I don't see that anyone answered your question about how to pronounce Pärt, it is pronounced "pear"T. He is wonderful. There is a deep spirituality and mystery in many Estonian composers, but Pärt is the master.

  • Webster Bull

    Thanks, Luce. Now I can talk about him as though I knew. I will keep listening to him, no matter what Allison writes! :-) Enya-Harrumph!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11843387370167476868 Luis Vivanco

    Well, well, since today, 15 august 2011 I have known the wonderful music of Arvo Pärt. I knew there remained some composers of religious music, but I didn't know they were so good. Now, after hearing him and Tavener (which I also never heard before) I have something to tell to my cousin who says that there are no composers now as in times of Haendel, Vivaldi or Bach.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01819831282677092730 Frank

    Luis, indeed! Check out the Hildegarde von Bingen Radio Station over in the YIMCatholic Pandora Stations in the sidebar. ========>>>


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X