The Arvo Pärt Centre was founded in 2010 by Arvo Pärt and his family with the aim of creating opportunities for preserving and researching the creative heritage of the composer in his native land, Estonia, and in the context of the Estonian language. The centre is situated in Laulasmaa, 35 km from Tallinn, on a peninsula with magnificent natural surroundings – within a pine forest near the sea.
Building the Archive
The core of the Arvo Pärt centre is the archive, which brings together the entire creative heritage of the composer and related information and documents, both in physical and digital form. It is an exceptional undertaking in terms of the volume and diversity of the material, considering how active the composer is, the number of times his work is being performed and its influence around the world. What makes the personal archive of Arvo Pärt truly unique is the fact that the composer himself participates in compiling it. In all their versatility, the composer’s comments to his musical diaries and other archival documents are invaluable. Organising his abundant creative heritage is intensive and time consuming, yet an inventive process. Handling the material is particularly sensitive due to the fact that the composer is still using much of it in his current work. Arvo Pärt is working actively – composing new pieces and correcting and arranging his earlier work – so his personal archive must be dynamic, flexible and open to change, which makes constructing such structure a great challenge for us. To manage the digitised data, a database is being developed. It is being custom-built for the composer’s archive and the development continues even during the process of entering new data. In the future, APIS (the Arvo Pärt Infosystem) will not only provide a complete overview of the archival materials but will also make it possible to map links between events and documents. Part of APIS will be available online.
Activities of the Centre
Besides the archival work, the Centre has also released publications. The Estonian translation of the collection of articles by the Austrian musicologist Leopold Brauneiss, Arvo Pärt’s tintinnabuli style: archetypes and geometry, was published in 2017. It is so far the most comprehensive analysis of Pärt’s original compositional technique. The Arvo Pärt Centre has also published the book In principio: The Word in Arvo Pärt’s Music (2014), where all the handwritten material used in the design of the book was selected from composer’s sketches and manuscripts stored in the archive. A CD with a selection of children’s songs composed by Arvo Pärt between 1956 and 1970, Songs from Childhood, was released as a joint project by the Arvo Pärt Centre, Estonian Public Broadcasting and the Children’s Music Studio of Estonian Radio. The choral arrangements of the songs featured on this album, with lyrics in Estonian, German and English, were published in collaboration with the publishing company Universal Edition. The film studio Minor Film has released two documentaries in collaboration with the Centre: Playing Pärt (2012) and Arvo Pärt – Even if I lose everything (2015) by Dorian Supin. From 2011 the Centre has been organising annual film nights showing films that feature Arvo Pärt’s music.
Up until now the Centre’s activities have mainly focused on the work with the archive. Our journey will continue towards becoming an open meeting place where the content of our activities will harmonise with an architectural form that suits the local natural environment.
The architects of the new building for the Arvo Pärt Centre are Fuensanta Nieto and Enrique Sobejano from the Spanish architecture firm NietoSobejano Arquitectos, S.L.P. The building will cover an area of 2348 m2 and will accommodate an archive, a library, a 140-seat chamber hall, an exhibition area, a video hall, and classrooms as well as employee’s work spaces. The new builing is planned to be opened to the public in autumn 2018, the year that Estonia celebrates its 100th anniversary.
In the future, the centre will include different activities involving Arvo Pärt’s work and function as a memory institution and information centre. Nevertheless, its primary function will be providing a research and learning environment with the archive at its heart.