Monday, December 31, 2012

"The dream of a flower is its bloom." - Juhan Liiv

The Estonian Music Council's 2012 Composition Award Acceptance Speech by Arvo Pärt
Transcription and translation from the original ETV video at
Also see the English language article at

I am very moved. Thank you.
My dear ones, wherever you may be and whoever you may be.
I want to speak to you about a secret. Actually two secrets.
The first one I know. Perhaps you do not. But the second one, I don't know either.
Juhan Liiv has said... that... "The soul rings, the soul is words."
Liiv didn't say this about music.
He is speaking about the soul and words.
He places an equal sign between those two.
And that means that they are dependent on each other.
Imagine the power, strength and purity that words must have for them to flow into a person's soul so that it starts to ring.
The same could occur with music. Do you know why?
Because each musical sound is also a word, a word in the truest sense.
This is one secret. And this secret is frequently forgotten by music makers themselves.
They discard it as if it were a useless rock. But that rock has the potential to be a cornerstone.
I'll give you an example so that this will be clearer. This is a somewhat negative example... but bear with me.
When a writer feels the need to say something obscene in every third sentence.
Then the listener or the reader may conclude that there is something wrong with his soul.
How do you say it, it creeks or it squeeks. It needs lubrication. It needs lubrication with the word.
Until it again begins to ring.
With the Word, that should be written with a capital letter.
And this soul (hinge*), that acted in this way, it doesn't belong in any door or window.
In music, this sort of thing happens as well. I know this from my own experience.
Forty years ago I began to study early music. I did this together with Kuldar Sink. We had very interesting historical books from France and England and what amazed us the most were the musical examples.
But they were all written anonymously and there were many hundreds, hundreds of examples.
It was such amazing musical material that we encountered.
These anonymous people are like a firmament of the sky that shines down on us.
But we don't even know their names.
I feel ashamed to stand in front of you and them today in this spotlight.
It would be much purer to be anonymous.
Perhaps Juhan Liiv is that sort of anonymous, if you consider his world standing, in terms of his quality he definitely is.
You know, these anonymous people exist in every realm of the arts.
Even in Keila Parish they exist. (Audience laughs) I'll tell you right away, yes, yes.
Every year, every spring, every autumn, an unknown person plants a lovely bed of flowers at my front door... which is just like a work of art.
I don't know who they are, I have never caught them at it.
I hope that perhaps they are watching the television right now.
That's the reason I came here today. Yes! (Audience and Pärt both laughing)
Or perhaps they are here in this hall. No, I don't think they would be, because anonymous people don't do that sort of thing.
That person has brought such joy to my life.
Even if I walk out the door ten times a day, I still think about them every time I walk by that flower bed and have heartfelt thanks for them.
I would like to give them a gift. If I had a flower here, I would perhaps give it to them. But what would they do with that flower?
I think that, which was awarded to me here now, is also for that person.
Because it was awarded to me because...for that... which they have enriched within me.
I thank them again from the bottom of my heart, and...
But I will give you all a... I now mean instead of a flower...
I will give you a fragment of prose from Juhan Liiv.
Who said: "The dream of a flower is its bloom."
Perhaps Juhan Liiv wrote that for all of you.

*The Estonian noun "hing" has a double meaning of "soul" and "hinge" which Pärt is using here for its effect as an analogy.
Why is the Arvo Pärt Centre in Laulasmaa and what or who is Aliina?
25th December 2012 12:00
by Keila Leht

(Original at

The Archives of the Centre with its staff member Helge Saks. 
Photo: Arvo Pärt Centre

The International Arvo Pärt Centre Foundation was founded in the summer of 2010. But the preparations for the archive and for the creation of the Centre began even before that, when 4 tons of Arvo Pärt's archive material were brought from Germany to Estonia in 2009. The Centre began to work full-time in 2011 when it was funded by the Estonian state and with the further support of the Centre's main sponsor Swedbank. The Centre's Managing Director Anu Kivilo agreed to answer questions from Keila Leht.

Why is the Arvo Pärt Centre situated in Laulasmaa and where does the property name Aliina come from?

Locating the Centre in Laulasmaa was a conscious decision made by the Arvo Pärt family. Placing the centre in a natural environment gives it an extra dimension, a uniqueness, and provides a better opportunity for people to reach their essence. Laulasmaa has been a meaningful place for Arvo Pärt - this area is associated with two of Arvo Pärt's most beloved teachers from his younger years, who, in the composer's own words, left the biggest impression on his life. His piano teacher Ille Martin had a house at Kloogarand and Heino Eller had a summer home in Laulasmaa. Pärt went for summer music lessons to both of them when he was a young man. The Centre is located on a property which is named Aliina. During the Seventies in the last century, Arvo Pärt had been seeking for his own means of expression, and in 1976, after a long period of silence, a piano miniature was composed, which had as its title "Für Alina" (Estonian: Aliinale, English: For Alina). With this work the composer had found his musical language and created his compositional technique, which he called tintinnabuli. This short work is of great importance to the composer and therefore it was decided to designate the land on which the Centre is located as Aliina.

The Centre's mission is to preserve and to promote Arvo Pärt's creative legacy. When will it be open to the public?

There is still much work to be done before the Centre will be able to open its doors to the public. Over the past few years, a massive digital archive has been created and very soon the work on the information system will be complete, which will allow for the utilization of the digitized material. In order to do this it is necessary to create descriptions of the archival materials in the system and to create the necessary links and so on. This is not a mechanical process, but enormous painstaking work that will require a few years to complete.

How big is the early interest about the Arvo Pärt Centre? Are many people surprised that it operates out of a small coastal village, and not in Tallinn?

Interest is actually quite high, but because we are not yet open to the public, many may not even realize that we are not located in Tallinn, but in Laulasmaa. People in Estonia and abroad have sought us out through personal contacts, our website or with projects for the general public. For example, we have organized Arvo Pärt Centre movie nights for two summers at the St. Catherine's Church in Tallinn and have released the DVD set of "Playing Pärt", which was distributed to all Estonian music schools. There has been a steady increase in our website visitors and newsletter subscribers.

How large is the composer's archive at the present time? How much of it is sheet music, manuscripts, publications, etc.?

The archive consists of handwritten musical diaries, the scores of compositions, photos, documents, recordings of the performances of works, etc. There are also prizes, awards, gifts, and publications. For example, there are approximately 15,000 photos. Our aim is to systematize the physical archive and to digitize it.
At present about 230 musical diaries have been scanned (approximately 13,800 pages), 480 scores, a large number of program notes, etc. In total, approximately 20 TB of material has been digitized. A great deal of work with the scores, letters, and other documents remains to be done.

Is the work of the centre exciting?

Well, exciting means different things to different people. You certainly wouldn't find the suspense of an adventure film at the Centre, but quite often it happens that we find something, the existence of which we previously knew nothing about, or we come upon some interesting discovery or event, which had been otherwise forgotten - in this sense the work at the centre is very exciting. We have an unique opportunity to work side by side with a living legend, whose life and work have been a part of Estonia's and the world's cultural history. There is a great sense that, even though on a daily basis we are among the peaceful pine trees of Laulasmaa, our activities and relations are very international.

How large is the workforce at the Centre?

The Centre currently has a permanent workforce of six people. Depending on the current work in hand, we also hire temporary contract workers.

Can you describe an average workday at the Centre?

It is a bit difficult to give a generalization: the workdays of the music scholars are very different from those of the digitizers and for all of us the workday depends on whether it is a normal archival production day or whether a special project is in hand. In the coming years, the most important task is to record Arvo and Nora Pärt's clarifications and memories, and to systematize them.

What is it like to go to work in Laulasmaa from the city, when most people are travelling in the opposite direction?

I guess it has a bit of a strange feeling, but not all jobs have to be in the capital city. For some reason we are not surprised that people drive many kilometres to work in the city, and yet it becomes somewhat odd when the direction is reversed. The travel time to get to work at Laulasmaa is like a buffer during which you can attune yourself to the day ahead. You perceive the living natural world around you, and it gives you a charge for the diversified day. It may seem that Laulasmaa is far away, but in the greater world sense it is not a great distance at all.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Review of "Arvo Pärt - A Portrait" eBook by Nick Kimberley

This is an enhanced ebook edition of "Arvo Pärt: A Portrait" which was previously released in 2005 by Naxos Records as a 2CD set with CD booklet to mark Pärt's 70th birthday year . This ebook edition takes the earlier CD booklet text by Nick Kimberley and enhances it by embedding the audio tracks as clickable links throughout the ebook.
Nick Kimberley's essay (about 10,000 words) is still an excellent overview of Pärt's life and work up to 2005. Having the music tracks directly available (when they worked) did also bring up the shortcomings of the Naxos compilation as there are many compositions or additional movements discussed by Kimberley which were not included in the 2CD set. This becomes more obvious when you are reading on for pages and pages and no related music tracks are available.
For the budget price of $3.99 on ITunes though, this is still a very economical introduction to Arvo Pärt's music which will hopefully encourage your further reading and listening. 

The idea of sound elements embedded in your books is extremely exciting and will hopefully be used in future ebooks as well. However, the actual iBooks software seemed to be very buggy and glitchy when I was using it. Tracks would sometimes not start to play or would only play for a few seconds or a few minutes. Because the play button was on the left side of the screen, I often found myself accidentally going backwards in the book when I was trying to play a track. If you exited the program to investigate outside links to iTunes to purchase further recordings the iBooks screen froze up when you returned to the ebook and required a hard reboot of the device (I was testing this on an iPod Touch) to work properly again. So the overall experience was often frustrating.