Arvo Pärt Centre aims to preserve and present the creative heritage of the composer Arvo Pärt

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Creative Periods (2/3)

II. 1968 to the present

Crisis: 1968–1976

The “triumph” of the musical quotations in Credo marked a decisive turning-point in Pärt’s development. From that point on, he regarded all his previous compositional techniques as meaningless. Pärt’s quest for his own musical voice drove him into a creative crisis that dragged on for eight years, with the composer unable to predict when he might once again emerge. During this period, Pärt had to “learn how to walk all over again” (Pärt). In the wake of this artistic turning point, Pärt withdrew completely and stopped composing. In search of a new musical language, he studied Gregorian chant, the Notre Dame School and classic vocal polyphony. Pärt’s intensive study of these eras was essential to his new outlook on music, a fact best illustrated by his statement that “…hidden behind the art of connecting two or three notes lies a cosmic mystery.” The composer’s eight years of silence were steeped in the intense desire to comprehend precisely this. Pärt’s long silence was broken only by the Symphony No. 3 (1971), his sole authorized transitional work from this period.

1976: Tintinnabuli

In 1976, the long silence finally gave birth to music – to the piano miniature Für Alina. It is clear that, with this piece, Pärt had found himself, and the compositional technique he used then for the first time inspires his oeuvre to this day. The technique, upon which Pärt has bestowed the name Tintinnabuli (Latin for “bells”), is achieved not through a progressive increase in complexity, but much rather results from an extreme reduction of the sonic material and from the discipline of limiting oneself solely to that which is essential. The Tintinnabuli technique of composition is a process by which a form of polyphony is built out of tonal material drawn from beyond the paradigms of functional harmony. In vocal works, structure and form are additionally subject to all parameters of the text (syllables, words, accents, grammar, punctuation).