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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

Isabel Bayrakdarian chooses Brahms for her final mortal moments

Glenn Gould: The CBC legacy

Composer Arvo Pärt: Behind the beard

 

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Arvo Pärt builds a sonic stairway to heaven

This blog posed a rather uncomfortable question recently to some respected musicians: “What music wou…

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hwarne
#1 posted by
hwarne
on Feb 16, 2012

i am just wondering why i can not hear any music?  I tried all sections and nothing is working.. any ideas?

saareman
#2 posted by
saareman
on Feb 16, 2012

Great post! But 'rhymes with "shared"' is mis-leading. It is more like rhymes with "cat" or rhymes with "pat" (and add the "r") and pronounce the "P" as if it were a "B" i.e. it is a soft p sound. This is as close as I can get to describing the Estonian pronunciation anyway.

As for how Pärt's music touches me. There is just something about its simplicity and purity that makes it totally unique. As a bonus, several pieces (e.g. Tabula Rasa 2nd movement) induce ASMR brain tingles (you can google it) for me. Those who have ASMR are extremely obsessive about it and will search out all sorts of music and sounds that induce it. There is a whole subculture on YouTube about it for instance.

Michael Juk
#3 posted by
Michael Juk
on Feb 16, 2012

Hi hwarne, Thanks for your feedback. I'll investigate on this side about the absence of audio. In the meantime you may want to try a different browser and check your audio path to your speakers/headphones.

I hope this gets sorted out soon, there are lots of good sound to enjoy at CBC Music!

MJ

Michael Juk
#4 posted by
Michael Juk
on Feb 16, 2012

Hi saareman, Thank you for the coaching on Estonian pronunciation. Pärt's a tough one to rhyme. Is it possible we've found a challenge equal to "rhymes with orang?"

I've never heard of ASMR. Sounds intriguing!

What other composers do you find create these brain tingles?

MJ

alexkillby
#5 posted by
alexkillby
on Feb 17, 2012

Arvo Pärt has been a long time favourite of mine, and the blog post got it perfectly right, it's an escape from what seems to be a cluttered soundscape. Jónsi & Alex's Riceboy Sleeps provides a similar escape, but Pärt gives me a more historical context.

yaFred
#6 posted by
yaFred
on Feb 17, 2012

Yes, certainly Arvo Pärt in those last moments. Especially the recording by Angèle Dubeau (Portrait). In the event that doesn’t suffice I would also suggest Henryk Górecki (Symphony No.3 with Dawn Upshaw) or Zbigniew Preisner (Requiem for a friend) or ….. All of which were discovered thanks to the much missed “previous version” of CBC 2.

Robert Rowat
#7 posted by
Robert Rowat
on Feb 17, 2012

@yaFred: Couldn't agree more about the Gorecki Symphony No. 3.

Ash Mishra
#8 posted by
Ash Mishra
on Feb 17, 2012

Can I just say that it is awesome to have Classical streams and blogs on CBC Music.  I've always enjoyed it casually, but now am learning alot more from blog posts highlighting content like this.  Same applies to the Jazz and Blues content.  The site is opening up new types of music to alot of people.  Great work!

saareman
#9 posted by
saareman
on Feb 17, 2012

Hi Michael,

Re: ASMR. It is hard to predict exactly, but quiet ambient music is most likely to trigger it. But I've had it happen while listening to something loud like "Starless" by King Crimson (there is a moment in the climax where the oboe just pierces through the music of the other instruments that has triggered it several times for me). The description below about when "a solo instrument steps in front of a softer background" is pretty accurate. Usually it has to happen involuntarily, I can't just listen to a specific piece and wait for it to happen. I've also had it occur in nature esp. with wind in the trees and wind chimes. If you look at the ASMR videos on youtube, you'll see a lot of gentle friction noises and whispering being used as well.

Alex Ross at his The Rest is Noise blog mentions ASMR (but calls it "musical chills") in the last paragraph of this posting:http://www.therestisnoise.com/2004/06/breakthroughs.htmlRoss unfortunately misspells researcher Jaak Panksepp's (interestingly, another Estonian) name but otherwise this description is quite good: "an article by Jaak Panskepp, who has investigated the phenomenon of the “musical chill,” in which listeners are suddenly overcome by a physical tremor that runs down the body and raises the hairs on the skin. Panskepp says that music in which a solo instrument steps in front of a softer background is especially prone to cause this effect."

There is another more current blog "The Unnamed Feeling" at http://theunnam3df33ling.blogspot.com/ that is trying to document as much as possible about ASMR. As the Unnamed Feeling writer mentions, the phenomenon seems to be quite rare. Most people who have it have never physically met anyone else who does. This is why the internet is perfect for sharing information about it.There was a gadget on sale this past Christmas that I saw at Chapters Indigo stores that was marketed as a "head tingler". It had 12 blunt edged metal prongs on a stick that you could rub on your skull to artificially induce the effect. It is not the same, but as close an artificial equivalent as possible.Also, I polled a few more of my Estonian friends and another very good Estonian pronunciation guide for Pärt is the word "brat", but reverse the "r" and the "a" sounds.Best regards,alan 
saareman
#10 posted by
saareman
on Feb 17, 2012

Michael,

Sorry about the blacked out font above. I wrote it offline and pasted it in but not all of it turned white. I can't find a way to delete it but hopefully it is still readable if you mouse over it. 

Best,

Alan

Michael Juk
#11 posted by
Michael Juk
on Feb 18, 2012

Hi Alan,

Interesting follow up detail on ASMR. I think many people have experienced a frisson while listening to great music, but what you describe seems different. Panskepp's theory made me think of this piece by Alan Hovhanness, The Prayer of Saint Gregory.

Michael

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8TvZdnv6VI&feature=fvwrel

 

saareman
#12 posted by
saareman
on Feb 18, 2012

Hi Michael,

The Hovhanness clip is *exactly* the type of thing that Panksepp is talking about! And I can already tell it would likely induce the "musical chill" for me as well. I just have to queue it up somehow through a Hovhanness YouTube mix so I'm not expecting it :)

btw Another Pärt that does it for me is in the 7 Magnificat-Antiphons, especially when the voices break out louder such as at the "O Immanuel" words at 0'58" in No. 7 here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkMS8zrlTvY

Much thanks again for the Hovhanness!

best, Alan 

chambermusic
#13 posted by
chambermusic
on Feb 19, 2012

No question -- what I'd like to hear on my deathbed, and to have played after I die if anyone wants to remember me, is the second movement of the Brahms c minor piano trio.  This is the most intensely comforting music that I've ever heard/played.

And if I'm still alive when the Brahms has finished playing (it's short), I'll listen the the Heinrich Schutz Musikalische Exequien -- nothing more appropriate to send me into the non-afterlife.

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