Monday, December 31, 2012

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.

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