“In the beginning was the Word”… so begins the 2014 publication In Principio. The Word in Arvo Pärt’s Music. As Michael Pärt, the composer’s son and Chairman of the Arvo Pärt Centre, which published the book, explains, this quote from John 1:1 in the King James Biblewas chosen because, “Arvo Pärt’s music is text driven. The choice of text is very important, as well as how Arvo lives with the text in order to digest it and understand it. Each word in itself has a shape and rhythm, which, combined with its position within the verse or sentence creates context. The word dictates music.”

Arvo Pärt Arvo Pärt. Photo © Birgit Püve

“Arvo’s tintinnabuli(Latin for ‘little bells’), refers to a set of rules and equations which bring the melodic and accompanying counterpoint into a particular relationship with each other. It’s all mathematical and at the same time intuitive,” says Michael Pärt. “Even instrumental pieces without a sung part have written texts, which you could sing in theory. For example, in the case of the score of Für Lennart in memoriam,text is written into the orchestral score in order for the...

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