The other day a friend posted on Facebook this YouTube video of Björk interviewing Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. It’s a beautiful interview, and I highly recommend it.
It was about ten years ago that I was introduced to Arvo Pärt’s music, and I have been captivated ever since.
What Pärt says about needing space for himself in the music resonated with me. I have to confess that one of the reasons I don’t listen to much music is not because I can’t appreciate it, but simply because I prefer silence. I always have done, and even more so as I grow older. In the past, while music might have helped me to still myself and enter a place of worship and reverence, now I need to begin by stripping back the distractions to enter into a deeper stillness. More often than not, music is a hindrance, not a help in that process. The notes can so often add to the feeling of clutter in my life.
But Pärt’s music is different. It is different because of its spaciousness.
I still remember the first time I heard Spiegel im Spiegel. It reminded me of the sound of soft raindrops falling after an angry thunderous downpour, or the gentle, exhausted tears which come after great gulping sobs. It’s the deep, uneven, guttering inhale after all the emotion has been spent. It’s the calm after the storm.
So it was interesting to hear Pärt himself say that his music is a form of call and response, the complexity of our sinfulness answered by the simplicity of God’s forgiveness. This comes across so strongly in his work. So much of his music has been for me the sound of sheer grace, the sound of grace descending, drop by cleansing drop, making all things new, bringing life where before there was only dust and dryness. After the earthquake, wind and fire, it is the still small voice.