Saturday, June 5, 2010

Playing today" Arvo Part: Tabula Rasa and Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten

This Saturday morning my teenage son has gone away with friends for the weekend so I can avoid sporting responsibilities and listen to music early on Saturday.

Playing on the CD is Arvo Part's remarkable works Cantus in memorian Benjamin Britten. This is music of such haunting beauty and melancholia. I find the use of silence and bells and the repetitive flow of the piece quite mesmerizing.

I understand the piece is about death and read this analysis of the piece
"Pärt's biographer, Paul Hillier, suggests that "how we live depends on our relationship with death: how we make music depends on our relationship to silence." It is significant that the piece begins and ends with silence—that the silence is written in the score. What this means is that although the various instruments appear to enter progressively, they are actually "playing" right from the start. This silence creates a frame around the piece and can be seen as having a religious or spiritual significance. It suggests that we come from silence, and return to silence; it reminds us that before we were born and after we die we are silent with respect to this world.

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