Arvo Part "Spiegel Im Spiegel"

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  • Topic: Chord, Arvo Pärt, Root
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Addam Farmer
Materials of Modern Music
12/7/2011
Research Paper Final
Arvo Part
Spiegel im Spiegel
Spiegel im Spiegel, originally written for violin and piano, is one of Arvo Part’s most influential compositions. At first listen, the composition sounds like a standard minimalist piece: it is in F Major, written in 6/4 time, and over 8 minutes long. The most important aspect of the piece lies not in the musical content itself, but in the way that Part uses that content.

Arvo Part was an extremely spiritual human being, devoting even his music-making to his spirituality. His “tintinnabuli” style was created with the intent to mirror the Biblical portrayal of Jesus Christ. “On the surface it is calm, as was Christ’s external acceptance of his inevitable role in the salvation of all humanity. Yet it bears an undercurrent of turmoil and desperation…” (Langager, pg. 61) Described in a practical manner, Part’s method of composing in the tintinnabuli style involves hovering around the tonic triad in order to create a “bell-like” quality. In fact, the term tintinnabuli is the literal reference to the ringing of bells in Latin. Futhermore, the tintinnabular style of Part creates an effect “in which a chord lingers in time until all of the elements of the triad have sounded.” (Langager, pg. 29) Part goes on to explain another important aspect of his tintinnabuli style in an interview with the BBC: Tintinnabuli is the mathematically exact connection from one line to another…tintinnabuli is the rule where the melody and the accompaniment [or accompanying voice]…is one. One plus one, it is one – it is not two. This is the secret of this technique.” It is clear that Part’s ultimate goal was to do as much as he can with as little as he had. His “one plus one” equals one philosophy can be blatantly heard in Spiegel im Spiegel.

The literal German translation for Spiegel im Spiegel is “mirror in the mirror.” When listening to the piece with this knowledge, we can hear...
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