Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Arvo Pärt & His Music (Part II)


In my understanding, tintinnabulation, a method of composition devised by Arvo Pärt, is a method of composing a sort of counterpoint by which one voice sings or plays a melody, usually in stepwise motion, while the other voice or voices maintain the harmonies by simply outlining the chords.
Several Pärt pieces utilize this method. I believe it is most easily heard in his Magnificat, a 4-part choral piece in which a single voice, usually in a lower register, sings the melody, while the other parts outline the harmonies, singing only those pitches found in the chord. This results in a continuous stream of dissonances and resolutions, many of which are minor seconds, perhaps the most dissonant intervals. The Magnificat's opening displays a similar effect with two voices singing in unison before one branches off to sing a melody that sort of encircles the droned pitch.


This leads me to another musical thread that seems to be extremely common in the music of Arvo Pärt: Dissonance. In his online paper, Music, Emotion and the Brain states,, Geetanjali Vaidya states, "It was found that the varying degrees of dissonance caused increased activity in the paralimbic regions of the brain, which are associated with emotional processes." This seems to support the already natural feeling of emotion expressed through dissonance. Music known for its dissonance and resolution, like Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, seems to elicit a certain emotional response that is even felt physically in the body. Arvo Pärt takes advantage of this psychological connection and includes a wide variety of dissonance in all of his music, some of which ends the piece and is never resolved.

-Taylor Baldwin

1 comment:

The Bon Vivant said...

"encircles the droned pitch" yes! I hear that! Magnificat is amazing! It's...numinous. ;) Do you think having such a cool name like "Arvo Part" helped him along? ;)