Since I’ve been rock­ing the house the last cou­ple of days, let’s do seren­i­ty in­stead. Specif­i­cal­ly, Can­tus in Me­mo­ri­am Ben­jamin Brit­ten, for string or­ches­tra and bel­l, by Ar­vo Pärt, one of my mu­si­cal heroes. Here’s how good this is: It just about got me killed, the first time I heard it. Which was on a rent­ed car’s ra­dio in Eng­land, head­ing up the M3, where they drive fast; I was jet-lagged and I caught my­self clos­ing my eyes at 85mph to sa­vor the fad­ing tones of the church bel­l.

Arvo Pärt

Ar­vo Pärt is an Es­to­ni­an, el­der­ly but still ac­tive. He Believes In God, big-time, and know­ing this may help you en­joy his mu­sic. I find that Not Believ­ing In God Or The Easter Bun­ny doesn’t get in the way of en­joy­ing it. But it’s most­ly all-serenity-all-the-time; ex­cept when it isn’t, and Pärt gets good mu­si­cal mileage out of the shock val­ue on those oc­ca­sion­s. But the Can­tus, Pärt’s biggest hit, stays in Calmsville. On first lis­ten, it’s an end­less sweet-sounding de­scend­ing line that gets low­er and load­er for six-ish min­utes, with a churchy-sounding bell float­ing its chimes soft­ly over the de­scen­t.

But lis­ten close­ly. There’s plen­ty hap­pen­ing un­der the sur­face of that phat de­scend­ing line. A vis­it to this YouTube is rec­om­mend­ed for those who can read an or­ches­tral but you can hear it if you lis­ten; Pärt is go­ing to a lot of work to paint a sim­ple pic­ture. I’m pret­ty sure that lis­ten­ing to this is a good in­vest­ment for six min­utes of your life.

There’s a lot of mu­si­cal mileage in that de­scend­ing line; Bach used it all the time, and so did a guy I bet you haven’t heard of named Jake Holmes, who wrote a song called Dazed and Con­fused, which I bet you have.

The Can­tus is in­clud­ed in a beau­ti­ful all-Pärt record called Tab­u­la Rasa which I hearti­ly rec­om­mend and ded­i­cat­ed a whole blog piece to..

Pärt is an in­ter­est­ing guy; there have been any num­ber of doc­u­men­taries, all good, and some in­ter­mit­tent­ly avail­able on YouTube. There’s al­so an in­ter­view by Bjork that’s worth hear­ing - starts a cou­ple min­utes in­to the clip. In Es­to­ni­a, there’s an Ar­vo Pärt Cen­tre, with con­cert list­ings and an in­ter­est­ing Twit­ter feed.

This is part of the Song of the Day se­ries (back­ground).

Links · iTunes, Ama­zon, Spotiry. As for live video, it seems like ev­ery or­ches­tra in the world has post­ed one to YouTube. As a ser­vice to you, dear read­er, I watched lots of them, and these stuck in my mem­o­ry: Järvi with the Orchestre de Paris (watch the conductor’s arms shak­ing as he tries to pull more and more out of the vi­o­lin sec­tion) and the Baltic Sea Orches­tra, whose string play­ers are al­most all wom­en.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Michael (Jan 17 2018, at 13:00)

Easily one of the best pieces of modern classical music, and it pairs/contrasts so well with Fratres for Violin and Piano.


author · Dad · software · colophon · rights

January 17, 2018
· Song of the Day (17 more)
· Arts (11 fragments)
· · Music (95 fragments)
· · · 5 Stars (51 more)

By .

I am an employee
of, but
the opinions expressed here
are my own, and no other party
necessarily agrees with them.

A full disclosure of my
professional interests is
on the author page.