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.

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