ARV0 PÄRT-Choral Music of our Time

PÄRT, A.: Choral Music (Da pacem Domine) (Latvian Radio Choir, Klava)

What are the essential design features of the music of ARVO PÄRT?  Listen to the album listed above.  It is newly released  on NAXOS An Invaluable Music Resource.  Xavier University students can access this album for free by going to the Xavier University library website/Databases/Music/Naxos.  Check with the librarian if you have difficulty navigating you way to this streaming station.  Listen to the work above and select three points you wish to make in your comment.  Specifically, address how he unifies his soundscape, how he creates contrast, how he designs his music structurally.  Incorporate into your comment what makes this a late 20th century/early 21st century music. Make your comment and then later respond to four other comments.



109 thoughts on “ARV0 PÄRT-Choral Music of our Time

  1. Listening to the album of Arvo Part I noticed several things. In most of his songs the chords build off of one voice or one section leading the rest of the choir into a sequence. This tendency stood out to me in The Woman with the Alabaster Box. Another thing I noticed is that most of the chords are traditional liturgical chords and Arvo uses a heavy influence of minor chords in all of his music. He utilizes the entire spectrum of harmonies and accent tones throughout the album. The dynamic changes swiftly and often keeping the untrained ear interested and enthralling us. The first track is just a chant and it sets the scene for this album. A theme I picked up on was Arvo keeps the voice parts very connected to the dynamic level. When the music is in a soft dynamic the voices are largely low in their range and it slowly builds up to when the dynamic is loud and the sopranos are singing high and the basses and tenors are at the top of their ranges. The Last Motif I noticed was a prominence of drone tones throughout the pieces. The sopranos will hold a high note while the whole choirs resting and it will be eerie. The album as a whole in a vague overlook is great it really catches and holds the listeners ear. To me it sounds very by the book and professional and I sometimes like to hear innovations in choral music but this album exemplified traditional choral and it was faboulous Arvo Part is a name I wish I had known sooner.

    1. Hey Christian, I really liked what you had to say. I liked that you listed motifs. I liked how you used the weird eerie.
      One of my favorite words.
      Great job!

    2. It was very traditional sounding. I noticed a particular note that the sopranos held at a half step interval while the rest of the choir sung beneath it. That was one of the most interesting parts of the piece. I wanted to listen to it multiple times

    3. I noticed similar aspects in Arvo Parts pieces, with aspects of his chords being built off of one or two voices. The sections you talk about reminded me of Gregoric chants with one section leading the chant and the other section repeating. His use of minor chords also tells the story of Latvian history and reminds us of the intangible sadness the country reflects upon throug music.

      1. It definitely had the Gergoric feel. It reminded me of sacred music I have sung at church in the past. I like how you included the composer’s use of minor chords to create a more sorrowful meaningful to the piece, in reflection of the tragic Latvian history.

    4. I agree with everything you said Christian. I loved the simplistic sound that built into a complex tone. The motifs you mentioned were what I noticed the most throughout my listening as well. I think these enhanced the beauty of the pieces like a motif can add beauty to a written text. Thank you for your thoughts!

    5. I loved the way you said, “liturgical chords.” It makes the music seem even more church-like and holy. The harmonies and accents did stand out a lot and made the piece incredibly powerful. The entirety of the album very easily attracts the ear and holds their attention because of the dynamic differences.

    6. Hey Christian, great job on your response. I completely agree with all of your points. The drone notes definitely stood out to me, and they gave the piece a medieval sound, but at the same time the music had a very modern sound as well. You made some really god points, way to go!

    7. hi christian, i liked what you said about the entire spectrum of harmonies and accent tones, that was something that i picked up too and appreciated in the music.

  2. From Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Bells”

    Hear the sledges with the bells –
    Silver bells!
    What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
    How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
    In the icy air of night!
    While the stars that oversprinkle
    All the heavens, seem to twinkle
    With a crystalline delight;
    Keeping time, time, time,
    In a sort of Runic rhyme,
    To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
    From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
    Bells, bells, bells –
    From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

    Poe is referring to the harmonies that ring after the strike and how the mix together, this is what Arvo Prát works toward creating in his voices. Timbre, color and resonance become more important in the mix than melody or rhythm.

    1. Hello Dr. Skeirik,
      I agree with you that Timbre, color, and resonance are more important than rhythm. I wrote about this in my post too!

  3. I liked how the very beginning of the Troidion starts out very slow and elongated. It gave a sense of mystery to the music. Then, as it begins to build it becomes stronger and there is a better sense of courage within the sound. Then just as quickly as it began, the momentum dies back down again into its original mysterious tone. This happens quite often, making a sort of battle scene between the different voices. It feels like the calm before the storm followed by a raging hurricane. The Magnificat: Antiphons No. 7 felt like the resolution of this battle or storm. The tone suddenly became more uplifting and happier. Then, all of a sudden, directly after this, Nunc Dimittis, is again very subtle and mysterious. The beginning of it almost sounds like the waves of the ocean gently stirring a boat. Nunc dimittis in latin means “now you send away,” so it could be thought of a person being sent away across the ocean. The ending is just as mysterious as the beginning but with a slightly happier tone. The higher voices give sense of higher feelings. I thought it was especially fascinating that the majority of the music came completely from their voices without instrumental assistance. This was entirely the work of people’s own self-instruments. Being an instrumentalist, I cannot imagine what it must have been like belting out the notes and the feelings that these people did. To make such inspiring music using just their voices is truly a work of art.

    1. Hi Mary Pat!
      I liked how you used the word mystery in your post to describe the music. I liked how you translated the Latin into English. Thank you for that !

    2. I love the way you described the piece. Words like mystery, battle, momentum, calm before the storm really brought to mind the music in a poignant and accurate way. I also noticed the way the tome shifted from dark and ominous to calm and uplifting, although it still maintained an overall mood of mystery.

    3. I also enjoyed the slower tempos produced by Arvo Part. Despite the meloncholy aspects of the music, I felt at peace when listening to harmonies and the clarity of voices moving slowly insync with one another. Also it’s interesting that all aspects of the piece were acapella with no instruments. Their ability to keep intempo and on pitch with instrumental assistence reflects the true power and beauty of Arvo Part.

    4. I agree with your statement about their voices. I used to shortchange vocalists, but after taking Aural Skills, and hearing vocal music of this caliber, I realize just how difficult of an instrument the voice truly is.

    5. Hey Mary Pat, great job on your response. I loved how you compared the music to a battle scene and the waves in the ocean. I always love when music can create a sort of imagery that not everyone can understand. its clear how much this piece impacted you, way to go!

    6. Hi Mary Pat, I absolutely love the way you describe the piece. “Battle scene between the voices” was my favorite part. Your imagery is on point. Thank you for such a thoughtful post!

    7. I felt like the acapella added to the drama of the pieces, especially with such powerful singers with such dynamic control. It really takes a different kind of ensemble to command the same power as an entire orchestra, which I feel they did and then some.

    8. I like your thought of the song possibly representing a person being sent away across the ocean. This could tell us that perhaps a text was written first and then the music was set to it! Just something interesting to think about how the process of how a work of music comes into being.

    9. Hi mary pat, I am listening to Troidion right now and I like your description of the piece as a battle scene of many voices, I see what you mean by calling it a calm before the storm, the piece instills an incredible type of tranquility

  4. As I was listening to this music, I really liked what I was listening too. I loved the “color” of the music. It is so pretty and it put me at peace. Whenever I associate peace with a color I think of the color blue. I loved the dissonance and the beautiful harmonies in the tracks. These songs made me feel like I was at my church back in Dayton.
    I thought that the first track was just a little intro of what the other tracks were going to be. What I happened to notice while listening is that dynamics were pretty interesting. When the volume was softer, everyone was at a low volume even the sopranos! As the dynamics changed the sopranos were in the “stratosphere”. I noticed this for the other parts too.
    This kind of choral piece reminds me of Eric Whitacre music. I think it was because of those harmonies and dissonances. I have always loved dissonance. My favorite kind of dissonance is a suspended chord. I am that person who sits and plays suspended chords on the piano and then resolve them because I love how they sound.
    Another thing I noticed is that rhythm is less important in this piece. It seems that timbre and how the voices blend and etc. is more important than rhythm which I thought was very cool. I feel like I am floating when I hear this music and sit back and close my eyes.
    I loved how relaxing this was to just listen to music as homework. This hardly ever happens in classes.

    1. It reminds me of Eric Whitacre, too! Part’s “Nunc Dimittus” is almost exactly the same sound as “Lux Aurumque”, even including the prolonged solo high note of a soprano one as well has having similar dissonance patterns. Maybe it’s my major obsession with his music, but I find the entirety of this work to be similar to Whitacre’s slower, more drawn out pieces.

    2. Your descriptions are great! It’s interesting that you thought it was relaxing. I had felt that it was more intense and heavy. But I realized by the way you described it that there are relaxing aspects to it. It’s always interesting to hear the different angles of varying personal opinion.

    3. I like your description of “colors of the music.” I believe the idea of colors correlating with this piece is a powerful thougtht. For example in the disonant parts of the music, the “colors” can be percieved as blue or gray. I also believe that the blend of the voices incredibly important to the messgae being produced in the music. He needs purity to represent suffering.

    4. I completely agree with your first point! The peace that I felt while listening was so amazing ( and I also associate the color blue with peace)! I think that the music was meant to bring peace to its listeners, I guess we can say mission accomplished.

    5. I agree, I loved the dynamics of the music. They did make it easier to feel at home in your own church. the timbre and the overall balance of the voices were much more important whereas the rhythm was barely noticeable.

    6. Maria,
      Strange, I also thought about the color blue when I was listening to this; it’s interesting how music can connect people in ways that we don’t always fully understand.

    7. Hey Maria, I enjoyed getting to read your blog post. It’s interesting how you are able to compare the music to something as simple as a color, that’s something I’ve not often heard of people doing, but good for you for being able to make connections like this. I also like how you mentioned the dissonance in the piece, that was something I mentioned in my post as well. Way to go!

    8. I completely agree with your comment about blend. Their blend was exquisite and the sopranos weren’t too loud compared to everyone else (goodness knows they usually struggle). I thought the choir was great and very expressive.

    9. I like how you used the word stratosphere to describe the dynamics of the sopranos! I felt like I was floating in the clouds while listening to all of the soft decrescendos and crescendos.

  5. I admittedly went into this project with some trepidation and the beginnings of a closed mind. I’m glad, for my sake, that those feelings were quickly replaced with an appreciation for this hauntingly beautiful music.
    The voices blended seamlessly together. They flowed into one another in an effortless chant. I particularly enjoyed the use of the lower register. At times those deep voices droned together and sounded like the bass section of an orchestra. In part one of, “Triodion,” the voices did a syncopated call and response that I really liked.
    Out of all the pieces I enjoyed the, “7 Magnificat Antiphons.” Each piece was unique in it’s feeling, but as a whole they take you on a journey from lamentation in 1 & 2, into a scary, demented place in 3. In part 4 I heard, directly or indirectly, the composer’s influence on modern popular music. One band in particular is My Morning Jacket. Part 5 brings a calm and a decompression. In the 6th part it feels like someone finally making sense of the journey through the previous sections. Finally in the 7th there’s a sense of peace and joy.
    I’m glad I was introduced to this composer. This assignment reminded me to avoid contempt prior to investigation.

    1. Hey Bryan, I agree with you about having a closed mind when I had to listen to this for homework… Turns out, I really loved the music that we had to listen to. I liked how you wrote about senses. Like peace and joy etc.. made it very interesting to read! Great post!

    2. I think most pieces of music are enjoyable when you can tap into the correct mindset. There are so many different ways to appreciate music, sometimes you just have to change the way you look at it. I’ve noticed this a lot.

    3. I like how you said they “flowed in to an effortless chant.” It makes the music sound like the building of waves. Also, the ending did leave a sense of piece and happiness. It was very eye opening and reminded me as well to keep my mind and ears open to different types of music.

    4. First of all, very impressive post!
      Second, I completely agree with you on how each piece holds its own unique rhythm and feel, and yet still connects with the rest of the music, creating a full length story and establishing different emotions.

    5. I am really glad you overcame being a little closed-minded because the way you describe the music was beautiful. I really like how you said each music piece had its own feeling to make it different.

    6. I completely agree with the feeling of flow throughout the piece. I felt as though I was floating through Part’s world and being able to go on this journey through his music was such a wonderful experience.

    7. I couldn’t stop thinking about how seamlessly the voices joined to create such a beautiful combination. You talked about the voices forming a bass section, I thought the same thing they just integrate so well that it becomes one sound.

    8. I really liked your response, you’re clearly listening with the meticulous ear of a skilled musician. To hear that I was not alone in having a closed mind coming into this assignment is pretty comforting and I think a lot of people relate when facing something as foreign to the modern ear as this collection.

  6. I wish I could say, after listening to Arvo Part’s alluring and moving music, I now feel elevated or in some ways “joyful”. Rather, as I listened to the recording, while watching the sun slowly set in the distance, I suddenly had flashes of remembrance from my trip to Krakow, Poland–specifically, the day my group and I visited the still-existing remains of the Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz. As the choir singers shifted their notes from long, drawn out syllables, to escalating chords with pitches rising and dropping dramatically, I thought of how I felt when I walked past the barbed-wired walls, stepped over the rusty old railroad tracks, and entered the massive prison that was the execution place of millions of innocent lives long lost. Being at Auschwitz overwhelmed me with grief, as I pictured thousands of men and women unknowingly marching to their deaths.
    When Arvo Part’s Tridion starts out, it is soft and subtle, I think of the stories of heroic men and women who struggled to survive, and how they kept their faith alive even throughout their turmoil. Our tour guide explained to us that as the Jewish people awaited for their arrival to the concentration camps, crammed inside the cattle trains, they would continue to pray together, despite their fear. And as the music grew in volume and in emotion, I thought about the images presented at the camp of the crowds of hundreds people moving throughout the camp, the desperation in their faces, and the evil that had brought them there.
    At one point during our tour of the camp, we walked through the forests that surrounded the barracks and work stations. At the edge of the forest, there was a small pond with several headstones placed in front of it. Each of the headstones had stones scattered around them, as it is Jewish custom to bring a stone from one’s homeland to their relative’s grave. Part’s The Magnificat is the peaceful and calm resolution that reminded me paying homage to those lost souls, at the bank of the lovely pond, and feeling the gentle breeze on my skin.
    I was blown away by the tranquility, vibrancy, and beauty of Arvo Part’s music, even though, for me, it recreated the sense of sorrow and loss I felt there, in Auschwitz. I will never forget what I saw there, and listening to Part’s music reminded me of how important is never to forget the tragedy humanity has endured over the years, and the unfortunate losses that continue to occur.

    1. It always amazes me how music affects everyone differently. What one person hears as triumph, another hears as tragedy. That’s one aspect of music I enjoy. Each listener gets to have his, or her, own experience.

    2. The same thing will happen to me, music can transport you to somewhere else. Even somewhere in your memory. Some of the only things that do this are smell and sound I believe, maybe even taste. What a different take on the music, I liked how you explained what you saw and felt while in Poland. Arvo Part’s music as you said had a deeper meaning that you took, and it is interesting to see how we all interpret pieces differently.

    3. I enjoy how this music relates to the memories in your life, just as it tells a story of a nation’s history. The correlation you have between your trip to Krakow and the music is very indepth and I can invision how this music can also relate to polish history.

    4. What a nice connection you made with your own experiences. Tranquility in Arvo Part’s music, I believe, is the most powerful emotion there is

    5. Firstly, wow, what an awesome and life changing experience that must have been! And it’s very interesting that this piece brought you back to that place. It’s incredible how powerful music can be in bringing back memories and evoking strong emotion,and how the same piece can affect everyone so differently. Thank you for sharing.

    6. That was really beautiful, and I’m glad you shared it. The thing about music is that it can mean so many different things to so many different people, and I’m glad I got to read about what it meant to you. The mean for what I felt when listening can be best described as melancholy; which is honestly sort of an odd adjective to use, but there were times I felt great joy, and also great sadness.

    7. Thank you for sharing your experience and relating it to music! I think this speaks to how certain elements of music can create a mood and that has meaning to certain people. This might be something to consider if ever composing a piece in the future.

    8. I think its awesome that you can connect your visual and auditory experience of Avro to a personal/spiritual experience that you have had in your life. It made me think of some experiences I have had in the past that relate to the mood and tone of the songs.

    9. That’s a pretty nice way of thinking about it, like a few people have already noted, everyone has their own though process when viewing or listening to any art, let alone something as intellectual as this. I believe that it’s impossible to over think when observing art, which is why your response is inspiring.

  7. When I was listening to this CD of Arvo Part’s choral works, one thing that particularly struck me was how it possessed incredibly spare textures.bMost of the pieces, such as Trioridon, primarily based on only one, two,or even three chords. This leads to expressive it you of color without being elaborate. This notion makes Part’s music seem so simple yet also hauntingly and starkly beautiful at the same time

    1. I think the simplicity of the pieces is what made them so beautiful as well. Your use of “hauntingly and starkly beautiful at the same time,” is exactly how I would put it. Every piece had an almost ghostlike quality that was simply gorgeous.

    2. Hey Connor, I liked how you talked about the simplicity of the music. That was something I noticed pretty quickly as well, and I loved that even though it was simply, it still was so expressive and beautiful. I just think it comes to show that it does not take an elaborate piece of work to be influential and powerful. Great job!

    3. I completely agree. It’s amazing how such simplicity can create so much art and expression. The fact that just a few chords can impact an audience is amazing.

    4. Interesting to read your comment on the simplicity of the work! I think this points out how a composer can really expansively build on simple chords to make a masterpiece that is magical and communicates a lot of emotion.

  8. In the album I really enjoyed the layers of the music and how a voice part on top of one another. In the Dopo la Vittoria, the men would kind of chant or repeat the the women’s part causing contrast and color that sounded like chimes or an organ and as the song slowed down the women followed the men who came first and then eventually both came together into a big collaboration of beauty and sound. Separating the men and women made the contrast in the songs in the odes all the way to the Da pace Domine. A lot of the contrast came from when the chanting went to a big full chord allowing for a complete change in the feeling of the music. I really enjoyed doing this assignment because I had to close my eyes and sit down and listen to these and I was not very excited for that at first but when you hear the music come together and you can analyze every aspect of it; the music can the inspire a creation or allow for a whole new view point to occur towards music.

    1. I like your wording- “layers” is a very good word to describe this album. It seems like each song is just building on each other, and the voices are all building on each other but not necessarily drowning anyone out- each part remains relevant and unchanged, but the addition of all the other voices and textures really makes the sound more rich than one can imagine.

    2. I also wrote about how layered the piece felt. I liked how contrasted the mens and womens voices were. Im glad you pointed it out. I too liked the assignment and was happy to analyze it.

  9. I enjoyed listening to this album. At first I saw the length of the songs and thought that it would be hard to sit through it all, but I was engaged in the compositions. One of the essential parts of these pieces is layering. That’s the first word that came to my mind when I began the first couple of songs. Not only are different words sung at times, but the voice and dynamic really helps reinforce the layered feel to his compositions. Secondly, I honesty felt like I was transported to a ornate cathedral somewhere. The way music can take you somehwere else and change your emotions is spectacular. I could clearly and quickly imagine the walls and décor inside a cathedral. The words seemed to almost echo off the walls as if it were an empty room, so beautiful. Thirdly, the music was both bright and dark. It almost begged for your attention, pulling you in to hear the next note. Then, some parts were a little more bright, like at the beginning of “Dopo la vittoria.”

    I believe that structurally, he gets his message across by tempo. Although I cannot understand most of the words, I know when the song turns from appreciative, to sad, to happy, and to cheerful because of speed and voice choice. This is another aspect that deepens my respect for music, how one must comprehend to understand the message.

    1. I like your comment about how the composer was able to clearly relay the emotional feel of each piece by the use of tempo. I take tempo for granted in the grand scheme of feel, timbre, mode, etc…

    2. I, too, thought it was going to be hard to sit through the music, and how it gradually evolved made the whole experience very intriguing. I think the best composers know how to draw their audiences in, subtly, but building up the layers, like you said. That is what makes music so moving and powerful is it’s unpredictability.

    3. I agree that it was a lot easier to listen to the songs then I thought it would be just because how long they were. And the layers of music were also amazing

    4. I agree with you that layering is one of the primary aspects of the work and part of what makes it so awesome. The different textures of the voices working together gives it the haunting sound. I like how you said the music transported you into the cathedral as well. Beautiful imagery.

  10. When I found out I had to listen to over an hour of choral music on a soundtrack without doing anything else to preoccupy my time, anyone would cringe at the thought of doing so. I, along with many of my fellow classmates, were dreading listening to this album while not being able to do anything else that they had to do. Once I began listening to the album, my eyes were closed, my body relaxed, and my mind open to anything I was about to hear. When I heard the first note come out of a soprano’s mouth, I was in awe. The purity of her voice in that solo really took my breath away, the simplicity of it amazing. It was amazing how the album just builded and builded. The Latvian Radio choir had such an amazing blend that all choirs would wish they could have the sound that that choir produced. They all moved their sound as one unit, rather than multiple singers singing a piece. They were able to go to different dynamics with such grace, rather than sitting on the dynamic. Arvo Part did an amazing job with this album and I would recommend it to any music enthusiast of our time. It makes you feel something that most music of today on the radio can’t. Even if it is in a different language, doesn’t mean you can’t feel the emotions portrayed in this genius music.

    1. I agree Violet. I completely agree. The music was so relaxing and beautiful. Even though I never knew what was said, I was still struck by the beauty of the music. It takes a good composer to be able to portray emotion to anyone who listens, even if they have no cultural connection to the language or origin of the piece.

    2. I agree with you on being apprehensive at first. I thought it would be hard, but as I began to listen, it wasn’t too difficult to be amazed. I also agree that his music can make you feel things that todays radio cannot. Sometimes you have to search for meaning and music, this is a great piece.

    3. I like what you said about the purity of the voices; all of the singers within their parts blended so well with each other that they sound like one voice. I think that the purity of the voices makes the piece more emotionally powerful.

    4. I, too, enjoyed the experience of listening to the music, and being completely lost in it’s beauty and tranquility. Arvo Part was truly a creative genius, but he was also very capable of adding the necessary amount of emotion to his music. It indeed stood out against any popular music of our generation.
      Great post!

  11. While listening to this music I could feel the tension Arvo placed in his music before he made the release at the end. That tension kept me engaged with the music because it made me want to reach a resolution within the music. The dissonance and chords used throughout the music keep the listener interested to see where Arvo was taking us on his journey through music. Especially in his use of minor chords for example in O Most Holy Birth-giver of God, Save us, the anguish used with the minor chords gives you the feeling of the people crying out to God to be saved from the treachery and destruction that has fallen upon them. But his constant use of one voice leading the others like a canon but not because each voice had its own feeling with the text especially in the Triodion. He expansion of the high and low voices also adds to the quality of anguish. What I feel when I listen to this is the pain and suffering people go through until the reach salvation and God which shows in Triodion: Coda. The message I hear is that the pain we go through is worldly and that everyone equally goes through it nad I could see that when he use a unison at peaks of the music to emphasize that equality movement. Overall I believe Arvo Part wrote beautiful music which I wish I knew about sooner because it brought many emotions out of me in such a short amount of time. This whole set of music was beyond compare.

    1. This is really powerful and thoughtful, Danielle. You’re right in that his method of tension and release was extremely effective. I like your choice in using the word “anguish” because it’s not something I thought of, but I totally agree. I also really appreciate the message you got from this. That’s such a deep and powerful concept to portray through music but it obviously got through to you, which is wonderful.

  12. Honestly, even as a singer, I don’t particularly enjoy listening to choral music; my ear just generally prefers the blend that comes when vocalists and instrumentalists play together. I can appreciate a lot of choral music for it’s artistic value as a piece, but I just don’t ‘enjoy’ listening to it. However, I am happy to say that this was an incredible exception to my typical musical tendencies. What really made the musical enjoyable to listen to, in my opinion, was the unique chord progression that took place throughout the album. I don’t know quite how to describe it, but when I heard the way that each individual chord shifted throughout the piece, you wouldn’t initially think that it would work; but it does. I guess it’s kind of the musical equivalent of eating caramel corn with cheese on top; when someone suggests that you should try it, you probably would think to yourself “gross, that can’t possibly be good together.” But, when you actually try it, the flavors combine in such away that creates a whole new kind deliciousness.

    Not only was the music itself hauntingly beautiful, but I really enjoyed how the unique musical methods throughout the piece were used to tell a story. For example, take “The Women with the Alabaster Box;” this title is referring to the bible story in which Mary of Bethany washes the feet of Jesus and pours her most expensive bottle of perfumes over him. However, instead of being praised for her act of love toward’s Jesus, Jesus’s followers criticize her for not selling the perfumes and using the money to help the poor instead. It was only after Jesus told them that it these acts of love and devotion towards God are truly good that his followers finally left her alone. The music perfectly captures this moment in time; the sadness professed in this song reflects how devastated Mary must have felt after Jesus’s followers scolded her for ‘wasting’ such a precious item. However, the music leaves the listener with a feeling of peace and tranquility, as Jesus resolves the conflict within the group.

    1. Such a powerful response. I do think with every piece on the album, except for maybe “Dopo la vittoria”, an air of sadness is present. Could you also think a choir a capella is its own instrumentalist or orchestra? That’s how I sometimes like to look at it.

    2. I had much of the same reaction, and I feel like most of us did as well; no one really expected to enjoy this as much as we did. I saw it as a chore that had to get accomplished, but it ended up giving me a thirst for more. Also, caramel corn with cheese sounds gross.

  13. I have to start out by saying that it’s art like this that makes me glad I chose to spend my life doing sacred music. I felt mesmerized by the striking beauty of the album. There’s so much power. I almost forgot I was listening for an assignment.

    One of the first things that really stood out to me was the use of drone notes. That’s not something we get much of in more modern music, but I love how it adds a strong supporting line for the upper voices, while also giving the piece a dark color. I was also impressed with the effective use of dissonance; it was done in such a way that added a haunting intensity without making it sound like it belongs in the sad funeral scene of an indie horror film. I think the dissonance is a big part of what marks this as a 20th/21st century work.
    I’m intrigued with the chant sound that this has and the rhythm. I have a tendency to identify time signatures when I’m listening to music, but I had trouble finding it while listening to the Arvo Part. I did notice a triple feel, but I couldn’t actually identify what it was. I’m wondering if this was just me, or if it was written in a way to sound like it doesn’t have a set time signature. Just a thought.

    1. I had the same experience listening to this album, I forgot I had to do it for an assignment as well and I simply sat there and enjoyed it. It was very soothing and almost like a spiritual experience. I agree that the drone notes were very impactful, because they really set the stage for what’s to come, but uphold the key of each piece and keep it together.

    2. Good stuff, Ruthie. I respect anyone who has the intellectual capacity to go out of their way to find complex music, which it seems you do. You seem to know what you’re talking about when it comes to analyzing the music, and making ties to film was somewhat eye-opening to me. And all the stuff about drone notes makes me want to go back and listen again just to hear and recognize that.

  14. Something I noticed almost immediately upon listening to this work is the similarities this music shares with modern music, but also with older, even medieval music. The music almost sounds chant like, as if it’s apart of medieval organum, but also carries harmonies and dissonances that gives the music a modern spin, giving it a more 20th/21st century sound. Also, the mixture of this chant style with the bone chilling dissonances and harmonies creates a a contrast, which helps to make this music so appealing to the listener.
    Another aspect I found while listening to this is the simplicity I found in the voice parts. That is not to say the music is simple, but the singers are able to perform in a way where the music sounds so beautiful and peaceful that it sounds effortless. I think this is what the composer was trying to do with his soundscape in this piece. He creates an atmosphere that is so pure and perfect, and even when there are moments in the music the are “breaches of contract,” the music is still so pure and beautiful.
    Going off of the previous comment, the structure of the music appears to be rather undefined, in that the meter of the music is not easy to define. Also, the music appears to be in normal 4 voice harmony throughout, often with a drone note in the base while the upper voices sing the melodies and more intricate harmonies.
    The composer truly makes a quality piece of music, through intricate harmonies, dissonances and chords, but with a soundscape that comes across as so simple and pure.

    1. I like what you said about this piece’s connection to modern music; to me, I felt like the music was more relatable emotionally to modern audiences.

    2. I completely agree with your comment about simplicity, especially seeing as each singer incorporates a clarity in their singing. It is also a very fluid melody, so I also agree with the structure of the music appearing undefined.

  15. I thoroughly enjoyed sitting down listening to this magnificent work. It was very soothing and like a breath of fresh air. The richness and the fullness of the sound expressed was breathtaking, and I could feel the passion from all of the singers, even when it was quiet. This album is full of beautiful songs with powerful words, but none of it means anything until a voice is put to it. The choir did an excellent job of putting themselves into the music and singing with passion and emotion. For me, at least, it is difficult to tell how many people are in this choir, because they do such an excellent job of cutting off phrases together and sounding like one voice. The blend of voices is wonderful and very picturesque.
    I did not grow up in a large church, and we always had a smaller congregation, but the worship was still always powerful. I think that when those who sing are focused on the words and the message and unity of voices, the sound production is the most “pure” of its form. This is what I hear throughout the album, and it is very refreshing. To maintain the fullness and consistency of sound, he seems to stack chords and keep them at similar intervals throughout each song. The choir does a wonderful job of complimenting each other’s voices in each chord by adjusting their pitch to each other to produce the most likable and pleasant sound.
    I personally do not know what words they are singing and what exactly they mean, but one can tell the importance of what the are saying by listening to the dynamic contrast and how the choir projects a given part of the song. The notes and dynamics play a large role in determining the message of a song. Typically, in minor pieces, the message is more solemn, sad, mellow, etc. while a major key is typically happy, light, and cheery. The tempo of a piece also says a lot about its message- slower music tends to be more serious and sad, as if it were telling a sad story. Quicker music typically conveys something like a gallop and a story with excitement.

  16. In these pieces, Arvo Part uses many different techniques to make his music beautiful and enthralling. He keeps the sound varied in intervals, dynamic, tone and color. The intervals are sometimes soft, sometimes dissonant. The dynamic is used in a powerful way, rising in volume and strength with the pitch, and falling into piano, creating a captivating contrast that keeps the audience listening. The tone is a variation of parts and unity, full and soft. The different voice parts sing together and solo, allowing the listeners to explore different sounds, and the different emotions and moods that this music invokes. Although there are many varying chords, colors, and moods, the feeling of the music is overall unified by a prevailing dark and heavy mood. It brings to mind deep passageways or medieval candlelit cathedrals. This assignment was an interesting exploration of modern music. It caused me to consider the different elements that keep a piece of music varied and interesting. The music was beautiful and captivating, and a pleasure to listen to.

    1. I love how you captured the opposites of expression that Pärt uses in his writing. There are, like you said, many different elements that goes into writing such a dynamic piece.

  17. Arvo Pärt is the most performed living composer on the planet, and continues to compose to this day. Pärt’s musical styling is that of many composers before him combined. In his latest compositions, he exemplifies the true meaning of his own “tintinnabuli” style music. The ringing of bells embody the notes within the music, and all text is more stressful on vowels than consonants. The melodies that make up most of his choral works are strongly Western-influenced and don’t measure very far when it comes to difficulty.
    “Da pacem Domine” is quite special for its real-life history and story behind the piece. Written just in the days following the 2004 Madrid Train Bombings, this peace is still sung in Spain annually to commemorate those affected. Its original voicing was in four parts, one voice to a part. Pärt later wrote voicings for full choir and many orchestral arrangements.
    The hidden complexity of Pärt’s musical texture and style is not that of technical complication, rather that of great history and influence piling on top of one another. The simple voicing and close harmonies are an obvious cameo of Gregorian chant, and repetitiveness and lack or real rhythmic drive are an homage to Philip Glass-esque 20th century minimalism. Pärt’s occasional added-tone sonorities in the upper register resemble that of an orchestra piece from the neo-classical era’s Stravinsky and young Shostakovich. All of these things then combined with his own personal comfort of the ringing of bells, results in a beautiful, calming, serenity that many of the students above have explained.

  18. This music is very surreal and ethereal. The intervals between voices sound hollow when consonant, but full when dissonant. The composer, Pärt, wrote very strong voicing so that the listener could differentiate between voices, even when there is a full texture. The music is so incredibly present, however, that it is hard to recognize the absence of instrumental accompaniment. There are also times when the balance is skewed so that a voice part, such as the tenors, is much louder than the other parts in order to carry a melody line.

    The music is so intense that one cannot help but recognize that it is conveying a powerful message. Each note is saturated with conviction, especially in the pieces that sound despairing and somber. Obviously appealing to a higher and/or divine power, these pieces reminisce on older chant music. It is almost as if the only place to sing this music is in a cathedral, the most appropriate atmosphere for choral music such as this.

    1. I agree that the music has an intensity that obviously shows that it is trying to convey some sort of message. It is so powerful that, yes, it is hard to realize that there is no instrumental accompaniment. It is so full that it does not even need the extra help.

    2. I love your observation about the hollow sounding voices when consonant and full sounding when dissonant. I certainly felt the fullness of their voices on these certain pitches and felt the intensity of the sounds all at once. A cathedral is certainly an appropriate place for such a production of sound!

    3. I agree it was a very power full message and I like how you highlighted that he brought out certain parts to bring some contrast

    4. Arvo Part was obviously trying to convey a powerful message with his music. Even though the music isn’t in the language we understand, the notes are so beautiful and expressed so well that you can tell that the message being conveyed is very important.

  19. When listening to the music of Arvo Part, I noticed several aspects of his music that produce pure sounds. His music is made using chord progressions. Holistically, his music is reflective of a bittersweet beauty. The tones and harmonies of his music are hollow and distinct. The rhythm of Arvo Part’s music appears to be unmetered with tempos constantly changing to reflect intense, versatile instances in each piece. At the beginning of his album, the choral pieces are short and meloncholy with disnonance in the chords, utlimately representing the Latvian history of war and suffering. They remind us of the war fought in Europe and the wars currently being fought around the world. Tonal images are produced with the movement of voices, reflecting moments of saddness and pain. However, not all aspects of the choral compilation are bleak. There are moments where the voice dynamics change and the music becomes more upbeat, representing hopeful moments or in the Latvian history, moments where war subsided. These moments typically are built around less disonant chords, with slower peacful tempos and piano dynamics. Another major aspect of Arvo Part’s music is how the chord progression are built; they are built around a singular voice holding a solitary note. The music is extremely clean and reflective of Gregoric chant, yet theses chants can create contrast when built around disonant chords. Finally, a prominant aspect of the pieces is the way voices sing, using even-tone sound to create movement/blend rather than vibrato. In this way, the music of Arvo Part tells a story of a historic suffering through the unique blend of contrast, unmetered tempo, vocal even-tone, disonance, and chord progression.

  20. I noticed that the style of music was similar to organum and motet. I noticed at points that there are low droning notes while the top voices have a chant like melody. I noticed that the lower droning notes (when they happened) were often a fifth apart. I always noticed clear, consonant intervals and could differentiate between them and the dissonant intervals. While there was dissonance, it was clear that the dissonance was clean and distinct. The choir did a phenomenal job with blending and making sure their dissonance was perfectly clean. I also noticed that there wasn’t a specific meter throughout. I felt a triple meter a few times but I also think that a lot of it changed throughout. One other aspect of the music I’d like to point out was the choir’s ability to adjust to the space they were singing in. You can clearly hear a good amount of echoing in the space the choir was singing. The choir also did a great job at creating suspension. There were silent points in the music where I thought it was over but the choir came back together at the exact same time as one voice. They were able to stay one voice throughout. The composer clearly wanted his music to be performed in a space like this where the sound could easily carry. Minimal vibrato was needed in this and it made the music much more expressive and dense. This sounds more modern because of the clear parts of dissonance in it. To conclude, this music had much space in it and was perfectly sung. I would recommend this to any person wanting to listen to good music from a good choir.

    1. I didn’t even notice the droning notes until I read your comment. You analyzed the pieces very well, and were able to pick out some of their defining aspects. The part about the sound carrying speaks to the clarity of the tone of the singers.

  21. Arvo Part uses space frequently, using rests as punctuation. Rhythmic variety with emphasis on syncopation and dissonance is also present, which I feel makes these pieces very modern. All of the voices have something to say, and they are all very clear in saying it; they all add SOMEthing, and they all support each other at the same time. Very often do you hear building of chords with huge crecendos, both up and down. The silence in between only adds to the drama of these parts, as you can’t get much quieter than complete silence. Part uses huge dynamic contrast very frequently. His bases are more like a cello section than actual voices. All of the different voices sound as one, and this adds greatly to the singularity of the rhythm. He often just has whole phrases of quarter and half notes, which are only exciting because of the timbre of all the voices, unified as one.

    1. I appreciate how you were able to see the modern twist on this grand album. Your observations about syncopation and dissonance are very interesting, as I had not thought about these characteristics making it modern. I agree that each voice is singing as if they all have their own voice, but would also say that they do an excellent job of staying compact and in unison as a choir and essentially one voice.

    2. I thought the way you explained the space in the music was spot on. I never thought of it like being punctuation. The voices and what they are saying is also very clear.

    3. I liked what you said about how the pauses in the music add to the piece as a whole; we think a lot about how to make music, but we don’t always think about when to use it.

    4. I like how analytical you were of the pieces. It does seem like the choir put a special emphasis on the rhythmic integrity of Pärt’s compositions. Nice emphasis on the dynamism of the pieces as well.

  22. Arvo Part was very different from what I was expecting. The compositions were so beautiful yet simple. Oftentimes Arvo Part used a single voice that was then built upon by other vocal parts. It was almost surreal listening to some of the pieces because of the sheer depth the amount of voices created. Every vocal had a reason for being there and everything worked together, sometimes in apparent chaos, in order to convey a beautiful message. Minor chords were used in discord and harmony in order to show a fluidity in the emotion of the compositions. Silence was seamlessly added, almost as if silence had its own voice and part in the piece. This simply conveys the great importance of silence and how even in the absence of music there is still sound (a metaphor for emotion).

    1. It was really different from what I was expecting, too. I expected to not enjoy it much, but I ended up wanting to listen to more. I like how you mentioned how the silence has its own voice, and I totally agree. The way he orchestrated everything including the silence was absolutely beautiful.

  23. Silence is golden. I had the same thought as I listened. The composer’s use of rests really gave the music depth. Sometimes a beat of rest is more powerful than a flurry of notes.

  24. For the pop music part, I believe pop music is moving from Rap and Hip Hop to a more danceable form and easy to sing to. Some people are tired of hearing lyrics that are vulgar. For the classical side, I believe there are artist such as Yo Yo Ma who try very hard to incorporate other ethnic rythmns into their music to enhance classical performance. In addition, I believe that in the area of classical music, the original sounds of Bach and Beethoven will be preserved. As for contemporary music, I believe that there is growth for in the contemporary field; artist from many genres including Gospel and Adult cotemporary have moved in are doing well to fill the need of those who something different from Pop and Classical. For the second part of this question, it has been very difficult for me answer because, the second part of is vague. What do you mean by designs? For the final question, the picture above represents that music like life is not always smooth and easy. It is sometimes broken or syncopated. It can be soft or rough.

  25. For the pop music part, I believe pop music is moving from Rap and Hip Hop to a more danceable form and easy to sing to. Some people are tired of hearing lyrics that are vulgar. For the classical side, I believe there are artist such as Yo Yo Ma who try very hard to incorporate other ethnic rythmns into their music to enhance classical performance. In addition, I believe that in the area of classical music, the original sounds of Bach and Beethoven will be preserved. As for contemporary music, I believe that there is growth for in the contemporary field; artist from many genres including Gospel and Adult cotemporary have moved in are doing well to fill the need of those who something different from Pop and Classical. For the second part of this question, it has been very difficult for me answer because, the second part of is vague. What do you mean by designs? For the final question, the picture above represents that music like life is not always smooth and easy. It is sometimes broken or syncopated. It can be soft or rough.

  26. Pärt unifies the soundscape by keeping a theme or mood throughout every movement and song on the album. That is a reverent mood of solemnness and seriousness. The chords he uses, as well as the slow tempos help this.
    The use of tintinnabulation also unifies the music with repeating patterns (especially vocal) of bell tones. The use of contrast works especially well with dynamic contrasts. His use of rests and de/crescendos makes the music interesting to the ear and makes the listener attentive to these changes.

  27. This album was extremely beautiful. It has an enveloping quality that makes it seem to surround and draw in the listener. The thing that stood out to me most about the structure of the music was that there was very little internal movement in the chords. What I mean is that most of the parts would stay the same, with only one or two parts moving. This gave the it a very grounded feeling. The music seemed primarily minor, making great use of dissonance and dynamics. Arvo Part made great use of quiet, to emphasize the few moments where the volume and intensity soared. I really liked it.

  28. ARV0 PÄRT’s music in this collection is unlike most, if not all choral music we hear today. The expression and meticulous placement of pitches in every piece made me think about more than just the music. I’d compare it to a 3D movie, it exists in more area than you’d expect. While each tune had its own melody and mood, they all shared the common theme of that light, angelic choral spark that flows, kinetically through every note. Its understandable if one were to find the music fairly simple, its slow, there aren’t that many voices at any given moment, etc. What really should stand out to the listener is the responsibility and importance of each voice and its role in every sound that you hear. It’s pretty slick.

  29. Before listening to this album I had had no preconception of what style of music Arvo Part actually composed. To be completely honest, I had no Idea just who Arvo Part was. Now I listen to his music every night before bed, while studying, and just on my free time. So already, his music has changed the way I live. But the reason I think his music is so influential to me is because of this album. My first experience with Arvo Part’s music was this album, and now every time I listen to him, I find my mind experiencing the same tranquillity that I innately found while listening to him for the first time. The harmony, resonance, and power of each phrase complement each other to form an inescapable bliss that touches on the creative side of your brain, and you feel sparks of inspiration run through your skin. This is why I find it so easy to dream, study, and create on my free time while listening to Arvo Part’s music. It is inspiring to say the least, and creates a hue of sound that tranquilizes a befuddled mind.

  30. I found this music to be absolutely enrapturing. It reminded me of my favorite modern composer Eric Whitacre due to the dissonance often found throughout. I’m a big fan of dissonance because it never fails to create a dark, haunting resonance with the sound, as if it is coming from anywhere but your speakers…kind of like a ghostly voice. While dynamics are a favorite in terms of creating contrast, I think Part’s chords are his strength. Having such cold dissonance magnifies the beautiful warmth of the consonant intervals.

    The harmonies are really wonderful and jarring and I’m beside myself imagining how difficult these pieces might actually be although the melodies aren’t deeply intricate. I know from past experience that slower and simpler doesn’t always mean easier: I played the cello line of “Ases Tod” by Grieg and the slow, calculated nature of it made it one of the hardest pieces we played, among challenging baroque music…the conductor of course led us as she should, but a lot of our success came from the fact that we were hyper aware of the other parts of the song and we only moved along the phrases when the others did. As I listen to it, I have to note that while rhythm exists as a necessary part of composition, the pace fluctuates, almost as if there is no rhythm at all and the choir is simply singing as one collective voice on the same brain waves, just as I did in the orchestra.

    This floating, effortless sound is characteristic of the genre of sacred music and this follows suit as a modern piece that could be lost among the expanse of Gregorian chant pieces…yet after listening extensively to both Part’s modern sacred music compared to that of the past, I do believe there is a stark difference. Modern choral pieces of this style have the free will to experiment with strange intervals where back in the early 10th centuries, it was blasphemous to even conceive the thought of writing such harmonies. Dissonances to the extent of Part’s “Da pacem Domine” would be sacrilegious were it to be played to the Catholic church in the past. Thank God we are allowed to listen to notes like those now! This music really is a blessing.

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