This blog posed a rather uncomfortable question recently to some respected musicians: “What music would you choose to listen to on your death bed?” A number of people responded, with considerable conviction, “Arvo Pärt.”

Estonian composer Arvo Pärt (rhymes with “shared”) writes music that can sound deceptively simple, but for many listeners it provides a serene antidote to the emotional and physical clutter of our daily lives. The effect of listening to this music can be both comforting and hypnotic.

Bradshaw Pack finds kindred soul in Pärt

Sanctus from Berliner Messe by Arvo Pärt.

“I did not even have to think for a moment of my response,” said composer Bradshaw Pack without missing a beat. “If I am aware of what is going on, then Pärt’s Sanctus is the piece I’d like to hear. It is ineffably beautiful, and matches my aesthetic ideal.”

 

Mariatersa Magisano hypnotized by Pärt

Spiegel im Spiegel, by Arvo Pärt.

Soprano Mariteresa Magisano said Spiegel im Spiegel (literally “mirror in the mirror”) gives her a feeling of release. “As simple as this music is, I feel it does the job of bringing a sense of calm. It is quite hypnotic, and as a result creates the feeling of a soul soaring freely throughout space with great ease.”

 

Rita Costanzi finds solace in Pärt’s silences

Für Alina, by Arvo Pärt

“When I play for the dying, the silences are as important as the tone – they become so full of presence,” said harpist Rita Costanzi, who is often asked to perform for the terminally ill and in the palliative wards of hospitals.  She said Pärt’s Alina works well in those settings. “One can feel the experience of time and space," Costanzi said. "This is what I also love in this work: the mantra-like repetitions and eternity in the held tones. The spirituality of Pärt in this work speaks to my own mystical outlook and experiences of trying to build a musical bridge to the heavenly world.”

 

Has Arvo Pärt's music touched you? Let us know in the comments below, or contact us at classical@cbc.ca.

Related links

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posted by Michael Juk on Feb 16, 2012