Monday, April 26, 2010

Thanks to Arvo Pärt (Music for Monday)

The beautiful thing about Catholic life, if you love it, is that everything streams into it: literature, music, theater and art, politics, science. Everything can remind one of the beauty of creation. Everything can be a sign of Christ's presence. Even music you know nothing about.

I have written before about the joys of Pandora Radio, a Web service that allows you to build your own customized stations. Like a song? Make it the "seed" of a new station and Pandora will grow you a whole wildflower garden of music with similar qualities.

Thanks to my pal James, I've been listening to Stile Antico Radio, which features polyphony, mostly from the Renaissance. But Pandora is sneaky. It will start slipping you stuff that's from an entirely different era or even planet just because this music has features of that music. Thus I met Arvo Pärt (pictured).

Believe me, I know nothing about the guy except what I read in Wikipedia. But I love the umlaut. And I love the music. So, presto, I asked Pandora to create another station for me, and for the past week, while out walking, I've been listening to Arvo Pärt Radio on my iPhone, complete with cool white ear buds.

Here are some selections from Arvo Pärt Radio (how do you pronounce that name?!), with minimal liner notes from the honestly ignorant Mr. Bull.

Arvo Pärt, "Agnus Dei"
Born Estonia 1935. Apparently still living, or was living the last time his Wiki entry was updated. Made up his own style of composition called tintinnabuli but "also finds inspiration from Gregorian chant." Those in the know say he belongs to the school of "holy minimalism." I say I like his stuff.

Eric Whitacre, "Water Night"
Now this guy is young, born 1970, yikes, 19 years younger than me. He shouldn't even be allowed on this site. But get a load of his music. It's beautiful.

Sir John Tavener, "The Lamb"
Born in England in 1944, he claims to be a direct descendant of 16th-century composer John Taverner, but I say, if so, what happened to the second r? Strikes me as a bit of a poseur, but then I hear this setting of William Blake's "The Lamb," and I no longer care.

If you read music, you'll especially enjoy this piece by Sir John, "Funeral Ikos."

Henryk Gorecki, "Totus Tuus"
Again, it was James who tipped me off to Gorecki, and I'll close with this piece. Born in Southwest Poland in 1933, he wrote it in 1987 in honor of Pope John Paul II and one of his return trips to Poland. "Totus Tuus" was JPII's apostolic motto, "All Yours," an expression of his devotion to Mary. Do you have any favorite pieces by any of these modern masters?