New books on Arvo Pärt

In the second half of 2017, three scientific studies have been written on Arvo Pärt’s work and its reception: Arvo Pärt’s White Light, a collection of articles edited by Laura Dolp, Arvo Pärt’s Tabula Rasa, a monograph by Kevin Karnes, and Arvo Pärt’s Resonant Texts, a monograph by Andrew Shenton to be published in November. All three books were published by the prestigious publishing houses of the universities of Cambridge and Oxford.

The collection of eight articles, Arvo Pärt’s White Light (Cambridge University Press), edited by Laura Dolp, Associate Professor at Montclair State University, focuses on questions related to the reception of Pärt’s music. Pärt as a creator remains in the background here, while attention is focused on the social aspects of his work. Among other things, articles published in this compilation study the use of Pärt’s name and music in marketing, the way his music relates to contemporary politics, the role of technology in the mediation of his compositions, the aspirations of filmmakers in featuring Pärt’s music as well as the reception of filmgoers. The contributing authors include musicologists Andrew D. Shenton, Robert Sholl, Sander van Maas and C. J. May among others.

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Kevin C. Karnes, Professor at the Emory University, on the other hand, focuses in his monograph Arvo Pärt’s Tabula Rasa (Oxford University Press) on the person of Arvo Pärt and his creative work. Using Pärt’s Tabula rasa as the central axis of his study and partly drawing on archive materials, which had not yet been worked through, he is telling the story of the discovery and development of the tintinnabuli style. Karnes analyses Tabula rasa in various contexts: through contemporary studies of the structure of the music, the ascetic practices of Orthodox Christianity, post-war experiments with electronic music and the polystylism that was common in Soviet compositions from the 1970s. It is the first comprehensive study entirely dedicated to Tabula rasa.

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Andrew D. Shenton, Associate Professor at the Boston University, organist and prolific researcher of Pärt’s work, does not limit himself to only one composition, but studies in his monograph Arvo Pärt’s Resonant Texts (Cambridge University Press) the choral and organ music by the composer from 1956 to 2015. Shenton analyses and describes certain works and techniques characteristic of Pärt, including the tintinnabuli style. As the title of the book hints, he is especially interested in text-based compositions. Shenton situates Pärt’s work in a wider spiritual and theological context and also pays attention to the specific complexities related to performing his music.

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It is our hope that these freshly published studies will provide new opportunities to reflect on Pärt’s music.