Inspiration Through Music: Arvo Pärt

(image borrowed from Orthodox Arts Journal)

In my opinion, the most moving of music is always the music that contains no lyrics. Unless they are vague, lyrics tend to force a certain set of images into one’s mind when listening to a song. They set a theme, they set a story, and a character and really put walls up. They box in your ideas for what this song could be about and who it’s written for. Instrumental music is freer. There’s no male or female vocalist, there is no particular story being told other than the one the instruments tell, and you can feel anything from pain to pleasure as you listen. While I’ve had inspiration from a handful of songs with lyrics while working on books, I primarily listen to instrumental, soundtrack, or ambient music and can dive into a story so much deeper this way. As of late while working on my apocalyptic novel, The Wild Dark, I have fallen in love with a particular composer who I had not had the pleasure of listening to before: the wonderful Arvo Pärt.

Arvo Pärt is an Estonian composer of classical and religious music. I watched a film a few nights ago called “Heaven” starring Cate Blanchett and Giovanni Ribisi. Not only was it romantic and dark, it was a rather quiet film that told a fascinating and beautiful story. It was simple, too. I like simplicity in stories just as much as I enjoy complexity. There were layers to each character that made it richer and more believable but it didn’t become too overwrought with action or back-stories. The soundtrack, of which several pieces were composed by Arvo Pärt, mirrored this beautifully. I’d have to say it’s one of my favorite romantic films, right behind The English Patient and Cairo Time.

The Wild Dark contains a dark and romantic plot that drives the protagonist on her journey. More than anything, I want to be able to convey her humanness, that she’s made mistakes, that she acknowledges them but is still haunted by them. This really is the driving force of the book, what keeps her going. The apocalyptic setting is merely that; a setting. It isn’t about what’s happening to the world as much as what is happening to the protagonist while the world is changing rapidly. As I’ve listened to Pärt’s music, I’ve found it easier to focus on this story in the midst of the confusion and all of the extra layers of character development for the side characters. Today, I’m going to share a piece by Arvo Pärt and describe to you what I see when I listen to it. Enjoy.

Fur Alina:  The air is a whisper on her skin that warm afternoon and is loud. She almost can’t hear the sounds of her children laughing in the field, aglow from the setting sun. They exist in a strange living memory, one without perfect detail, an outline with blurred colors at its center. She took a breath and let tranquility tumble through her, however reluctant the feeling was. This was the first time in weeks she’d truly felt at home, the first time she’d truly felt safe. And they were safe, despite their innocence. They hadn’t understood the danger. They were children. But she knew. And it gnawed away at her in the night as she watched the candle flicker on her bedside table. There was just something waiting to go wrong. The laundry flapped on the line beside her and pulled her out of her thoughts. The light was burning off into blue. Soon it would be night and soon those fears would return. She inhaled once more and held it, as if she could somehow inhale and keep this moment forever. She opened her mouth and let it go.

Want to learn more about Arvo Pärt? You can learn everything you want to know at David Pinkerton’s Arvo Pärt Information Archive!

Stay tuned for more Inspiration Through Music!


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