Date of Completion
Sieben Magnificat Antiphonen, Arvo Part, Sacred Music, tintinnabuli, golden mean, Credo
Dr. Alain Frogley
Prof. Julie Rosenfeld
Dr. Katie Schlaikjer
Field of Study
Doctor of Musical Arts
Composer Arvo Pärt was born in 1935 in Paide, Estonia. Following its occupation by the Soviet Union at the conclusion of the Second World War, Estonia was incorporated as a Soviet Socialist Republic and subjected to the same strident anti-religious Marxism as the rest of the USSR. Furthermore, restrictions were placed on composers regarding the publication and performance of sacred music, and use of twentieth-century compositional techniques that were widely known in Western Europe and the United States. Labeled “formalism,” the use of serialism, aleatory and collage techniques was forbidden throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, just as Pärt was emerging as a composer. Though the latter part of the 1960s saw a loosening of these restrictions throughout the Soviet Union, Pärt’s 1968 Credo brought official condemnation and a ban on its performance by Soviet authorities.
During the eight years that followed, Arvo Pärt undertook a study of medieval and early Renaissance music that culminated in the development of his tintinnabuli style of composition. His conversion to Russian Orthodoxy during this period also impacted his approach to composition. Sometimes referred to as icons of sound, his tintinnabuli works are largely sacred in their conception and texts. The presence of a tonic triad throughout each composition is intended to reflect the bells used in Orthodox worship, and the frequent use of drones can be traced to the Ison that accompanies Orthodox chant. The slow and often minimal melodic and harmonic changes create a sense of stasis reflective of the hesychast tradition that seeks to create a state of contemplative union with the Divine.
While tintinnabulation involves the application of set compositional principles, the ways in which Pärt employs variations of these principles often defines the unique characteristics of his works. His Sieben Magnificat-Antiphonen provides a rich array of such variation, and the analysis of this important work provides an important contribution to understanding the composer’s compositional technique and the ways in which he seeks to convey a sense of the sacred in his works.
Ballinger, Allan J. DMA, "In Quest of the Sacred: Arvo Pärt and Sieben Magnificat-Antiphonen" (2013). Doctoral Dissertations. 64.