Laudatio Presentedby Toomas Siitan at the Event Hommage für Arvo Pärt, organized by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in 19 January 2011 in Berlin (1/4)

"Sounds of silence", "most beautiful music after silence", "journey into silence" – comparing the music of Arvo Pärt with silence has virtually become a cliché. Indeed, his music seems to have a lot in common with the most valuable treasure in our world today – the rarest conservation, namely the audible silence – which, by the way, needs far more protection.

Rarely are we aware of the fact that the absolute majority of people have to endure the most severe noise contamination. Pärt's music has even more in common with the silence within us, the silence that is so essential to hear ourselves.

However paradoxical it might be, silence seems to be the essential purpose of Pärt's music: he does not consider the notes or musical sounds as the essence of music. For him, the sounds only point towards the essential, in the same way as words always only serve as a hint towards something more. The essential will always remain hidden between the sounds. Often, Pärt's creative method is compared with fasting, with voluntary asceticism: for him, reduction is far more important than enlargement. He has always been frugal with his means of expression, even parsimonious – and yet his music is benevolent.

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Arvo Pärt was born 1935 in Estonia and is part of the generation who came of age after World War II and after the Stalinist period of repression. Whether it was illusory or not, at the end of the 1950s some people believed for some time that they could modernize Soviet society. The courageous – perhaps at times overly courageous – modern style of the young composers of that time symbolized the radical desire for renewal, but this was soon defeated by a new period of stagnation.

From the beginning of the 1960s, Arvo Pärt was known as an avant-gardist in both Estonian and Soviet music. From the very beginning he searched for the systematic in his composition techniques: he was one of the first in the Soviet Union to deal with twelve-tone music and the serial technique. At the same time, Pärt also attempted to solve a contradictory and fundamental problem of composition: the ability of his music to communicate has always mattered to him, and in the serial works from that time he not only relied on the inner logic, but also on the clarity and beauty of the structure. His creative work at that time also touched a much less known field, where music communicated in an entirely different way: atypical for a modern composer, he created songs for children in the early 1960s, piano pieces, a cantata for children – and all of these are still popular in Estonia today. In addition, he composed plenty of film music during this time, especially music for cartoons, puppet movies and children's theatre.