For Boston University – Graduate School Application
TWO TANGLED GOLDEN THREADS: ARVO PÄRT, HIS TINTINNABULATION TECHNIQUE, AND HIS BERLINER MESSE
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. Introduction Pg. 1
II. Biography Pg. 1
III. Tintinnabulation, Pandiatonicism and Liturgical Bells Pg. 6
IV. The Berliner Messe and the Mass Ordinary Pg. 12
V. Analysis Techniques of the Berliner Messe… Pg. 14
VI. The Berliner Messe Pg. 21
1. Kyrie Pg. 21
2. Gloria Pg. 24
3. Erster / Zweiter Alleluiavers Pg. 29
4. Veni Sancte Spiritus Pg. 34
5. Credo Pg. 38
6. Sanctus Pg. 42
7. Agnus Dei Pg. 45
VII. The Berliner Messe, Arvo Pärt and Minimalism Pg. 47
Example 1, Arvo Pärt, “Fur Alina”, mm.1-3 Pg. 5
Example 2, Fundamental Elements of a Liturgical Bell Pg. 7 Example 3, Comparison of shapes between Liturgical Bells Pg. 8 Example 4, André Lehr, “Hedendaagse Nederlandse Klokkengietkunst", Pg. 10
Generalized harmonics of a liturgical bell
Example 5, Comparison of Pärt’s “Berliner Messe” and the Pg. 13 Mass Ordinary of the Roman Rite
Example 6, Letter/Number Notation Pg. 15
Example 7, Cipher Notation Pg. 15
Example 8, Cipher Notation - Repeated Notes Pg. 16
Example 9, “H” chords used in tintinnabulating voices Pg. 17 Example 10, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Credo, mm.15-20 Pg. 18 Example 11, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Credo, Threshold Technique Pg. 18
(soprano and alto voices)
Example 12a, Arvo Pärt, Berliner Messe, Gloria, mm.1-4 (Unstressed syllables) Pg. 19 Example 12b, Arvo Pärt, Berliner Messe, Gloria, mm.1-4 (Stressed syllables – Pg. 19
as is written in published score)
Example 13a, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Kyrie, mm.2-4 Pg. 21 Example 13b, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Kyrie, mm.4-7 Pg. 22 Example 13c, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Kyrie, Structure of the text Pg. 24
in relation to number of voices
Example 14b, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Gloria, Organ Passages Pg. 27 Example 15a, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Erster Alleluiavers, Full Score Pg. 30 Example 15b, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Zweiter Alleluiavers, Full Score Pg. 32 Example 15c, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Erster Alleluiavers, Threshold Pg. 33
Tintinnabulation, Alto/Soprano Voices
Example 15d, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Zweiter Alleluiavers, Threshold Pg. 34 Tintinnabulation, Alto/Soprano Voices
Example 16a, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Veni Sancte Spiritus, Pg. 36 Threshold Technique
Example 16b, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Veni Sancte Spiritus, Pg. 36 Row Design mm.1-14, Bass voice
Example 16c, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Veni Sancte Spiritus, Pg. 37 Row Displacement
Example 16d, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Veni Sancte Spiritus, mm.131-143, Pg. 38 completion of incompleted row by derivative of mm.101-104
Example 17a, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Credo, Row Design Pg. 39 Example 17b, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Credo, mm.13-20, Pg. 41
Example 18a, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Sanctus, mm.1-7 Pg. 43 Example 18b, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Sanctus, Organ Passages Pg. 45 Example 19a, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Agnus Dei, page 1 Pg. 46 Example 19b, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Agnus Dei, Pg. 47
I would personally like to thank Professor Dennis Leclaire at the Berklee College of Music for his outstanding guidance with this paper. I would also like to thank Dr. Rachel Cowgill from Cardiff University for providing her dissertation, from which I gathered information for this paper.
Arvo Pärt’s “Berliner Messe” is available through Universal Edition, in the original 1990 chorus a cappella version, and the 2002 revision for chorus a cappella and string orchestra.
Arvo Pärt has often been looked to as one of the most important living composers of the last century. His compositional voice is an amalgamation of his religious foundation, a modernistic compositional thought process and a musical language that isn’t unfamiliar to the ordinary or trained ear; however, his tactical approach to manipulating tonality has been nothing short of revolutionary, and has been a factor in bringing his music to the forefront of music today. There is a dichotomy between Pärt’s music and what one would consider “modern”, as it surely references the distant past, however, in the 21st century, his music has come to the forefront of concert music,
transcended the boundaries that genres often set, and reached an international audience.
One of Pärt’s most notable works in recent years has been his Berliner Messe, a setting of the Roman Catholic Mass, which makes use of his signature compositional style and techniques, in a combination of contemporary harmonies with ancient liturgical texts. It is intended that this paper will explain these techniques in great detail, demonstrate their application in the Berliner Messe, and illustrate how Pärt’s usage of techniques are reused in numerous ways, to create his own unique sound.
Pärt, originally born in Paide, Estonia (a small urban municipality of Järva county), now resides in the capital city of Tallinn, after a period of time where he was forced to leave Estonia under Soviet occupation. When he was 3 years old, his parents divorced, and he left Paide with his mother, to move to Rakvere, Estonia. In his youth, he began to study piano at the age of 7.
“When I went to the children's school, I practiced on my piano. Not all keys produced sounds, so I sang the missing sounds. And when it got too complicated, I had to change the hammers,
taking them from the side and bringing them to the middle. The basses have big hammers, and at the top the hammers are small. The keys were all mixed up, some were heavy and some were light. In short, it was the most peculiar music. Then I tried to tune the piano myself, but I had no tuning key. I did it with pincers. You can do it only a few times, because the screws become round, and you can't get hold of them with pincers. I inflicted that piano a great deal of pain. But it kept going to the end. I really had no other option.”1
Due to only the extreme registers of the piano being available to him, his exploration of these available notes eventually led him to create his own compositional voice, showing up in smaller works in his early teenage years. In these years, he briefly studied at the Tallinn Music Middle School. This was abandoned, due to his requirement to enlist in the military, where he had played oboe and drums in a military band. While serving in the military, he fell ill and returned to the Tallinn Music Middle School, where he continued with his theory and composition lessons. Much of his compositions during this era are neo-classical in style, and an influence of such composers as Bartok, Prokofiev and Shostakovich are evident. He claims that this period of his life “may have helped him as a composer.”2
Pärt gained a large amount of experience during his years of study at the Tallinn
Conservatory, under the guidance of Heino Eller. He began to experiment with the compositional techniques of Arnold Schoenberg, such as dodecaphonic music in his first orchestral work Necrolog, or his strict serial work Perpetuum Mobile. He also experimented with aleatoric music and collage techniques in such pieces as his Second Symphony and Collage Sur B-A-C-H. At the time (and up until 1967), Pärt also worked as a recording engineer and composer at the Estonian Radio, which opened many doors for commissions; so much so, that when Pärt graduated the Tallinn
1 Arvo Pärt, “24 Preludes for a Fugue”, Juxtapositions, 2005. 2 Hillier, Paul. Arvo Pärt. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997. Print.
Conservatory in 1963, he was already considered to have enough of a foundation to be a “professional” composer.
During this time, Pärt wrote several pieces that garnered praise; two children’s vocal works, the cantata Meie Aed (Our Garden), and the oratorio Maailma Samm (Stride of the World), won first prize in 1962 at the All-Union Young Composers' Competition in Moscow.3 Pärt’s acceptance of
dodecaphonic and collage music did not come without a cost; Under the Khrushchev era of the Soviet Union, Soviet rule controlled all aspects of the arts, including music. His experimental phase between 1960 and 1968 may have placed him at the forefront of Soviet composers (as access to Western contemporary music was difficult), but it did come with dissatisfaction from the Soviet ministers of the Arts. Soviet censors placed a ban on performing his music, and, through the combination of this and his inability to creatively express himself any further in these idioms, he found himself at a loss. In 1967, Pärt heard the sounds of early Renaissance and Gregorian
plainchant, which had a direct impact on his following work. After his last piece in this period, his Credo (1968) was banned, Pärt fell into a deep contemplative silence.
During this silence, he met his second wife, Nora, in 1972. He also joined the Russian Orthodox Church at this time, which has played a very important factor in his life and in his musical career. Nora, Arvo’s second wife, was Jewish, and so he was led to make a decision when the
emigration of Jewish citizens began in the mid 1970’s. Coupled with the progressively growing restraint on him from attending his own performances, he made the decision to leave Estonia in 1979 with his family (his wife and two sons), and settled in Vienna for one year, only to move to Berlin in the following year.
One of the most unique aspects of Pärt’s development as a composer happens to be the close relation of his compositional voice and the contemplative periods of his life. In lieu of this
encumbrance, Pärt entered what would be one of his periods of contemplative silence.
“I can't even remember where I heard it, maybe in a Tallinn bookshop. The music was so simple, and so clear and so lucid. I was amazed. And suddenly, I realized that this was the truth. I mean this kind of musical thinking. It was a turning point. I became interested in the notes of Gregorian chant. I studied them this way and that way. For years, I played and sang but nothing helped. No drastic change happened within me. The language remained alien to me.”4
Pärt’s rediscovery of early music in 1967 (which had impacted him greatly, as evident in his Credo) led to a deep study of music from the 1300’s to the 1500’s. He found himself studying Franco-Flemish Renaissance music, from composers such as Johannes Ockeghem, Guillame de Machaut and Josquin Des Prez. After the completion of his transitional Third Symphony in 1971, he fell into another period of contemplation, delving deeper into the history of western music through the means of plainsong and organum, and finding comfort in the sounds of Gregorian chant. The connection to be made between his periods of silence, what has ultimately resulted from his musical exploration is astounding, and intensifies the underlying strength and beauty of his latter output. As Dr. Rachel Cowgill states in her dissertation of the anachronistic characteristics of Pärt’s music in relevance to the 20th and 21st centuries:
“Pärt was drawn to Renaissance and medieval isorhythmic techniques such as mensuration canon and to Baroque variation, because of the repetitive basis of these forms; the surfaces of the music seem to change perspective continually around a central core which remains essentially non-dynamic and motionless.”5
4 Arvo Pärt, “24 Preludes for a Fugue”, Juxtapositions, 2005.
This second period of Pärt’s musical life has come to be the most notable of the two, and the one with which his followers most commonly associate him. It is also the period that will be focused upon in further detail, and exemplified in his Berliner Messe.
In 1976, Pärt emerged with a new voice that was both radical, yet extremely organic; Fur Alina, written as a dedication for the daughter of a family friend (whom was moving away from home to attend college in London), is a relatively short piece of music, and on the surface, simple as well.
Example 1, Arvo Pärt, “Fur Alina”, mm.1-3
Two notes move against one another, in parallel or oblique motion, with very little or no markings of dynamic, tempo and meter. Noteheads are either filled or unfilled, to show the stressing or un-stressing of certain dyads. The phrases expand and retract over the length of the piece, which, in its entirety, lasts about 2 minutes long.6 Functional harmony gives way to a floating sense of a
post-tonal stasis, as if the listener is gently drifting through space, unable to control time or motion.
6 Recordings of Fur Alina have been considerably longer in length. (E.g., the recording on the ECM album “Alina”, performed by
Alexander Malter, was a several hour-long improvisation on the piece, which was then reduced to 3 variations picked by Arvo Pärt himself.)
This piece was the first of his to use the tintinnabulation technique that he has become known for. Pärt experienced other periods where his musical output dwindled, however, “following a lag in output during the period 1985 to 1988, Pärt began a new period of creativity that would lead into the highly productive years of 1989-1990.”7 It is during this period that Pärt completed the Berliner
III. Tintinnabulation, Pandiatonicism and Liturgical Bells
Tintinnabulation is a term coined by Arvo Pärt himself (latin for “little bells”), in reference to the correlation between the sounds of 2 melodic voices and the relation between the fundamentals and harmonics of bells. Pärt, in the annunciation of his faith in Eastern Orthodoxy, was more than likely exposed to the “tolling” of Russian Orthodox Church bells, known as zvon. Russian church bells, unlike their western counterparts, can produce “a whole scale of sounds (up to several dozen of them)”9, from the unique sculpting and alloy from which they were made. Example 2 shows the
fundamental components of a liturgical bell. Russian bell casting was perfected early in the 17th
century, and by the 20th century culminated into a religious form of art. Bells were not tuned to
specific pitches, but rather in general high-to-low sets, with timbre being the more important characteristic. The bells were played in various rhythmic patterns, depending on the application to which they were being used.10 Great emphasis is placed on the detail of the decoration of the bell,
7 Davison III, Joseph F. "Ancient Texts, New Voices." Diss. University of California, 2002. Abstract. 26. Print. 8 For a chronological list of Pärt’s works, they are available at: <http://www.arvopart.org/>.
9 "Russian Orthodox Bell Ringing." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 25 Nov. 2011.
10 Various patterns, such as the different ‘peals’ (e.g., double, triple, chain) are explained in further detail at
and the aesthetics do play a role in the overall sound, the decorative belts and intricate detailing on the outer surfaces affecting overtones and projection.
Example 2, Fundamental Elements of a Liturgical Bell
There is something unique to be found in Russian bells, both in the sound and shape of the physical bell that is different from bells of Western Europe. Example 3 shows the difference (in shape alone) between the Russian liturgical bell and it’s German and French counterparts.
Example 3, Comparison of shapes between Liturgical Bells
Notice the differentiation in the depth of the walls of the Russian bell, especially the
elongated, more gradual flare between the skirt and the mouth. Also take notice to the overall width of the walls, the shape of the shoulder of the bell and the striking similarity between the neck of the German and Russian bells, and the angling of the inner lip between these bells. The Russian bell is much more pronounced in shape, and is similar to the French bell in that regard, however it bears much more of a similarity to the German bell in construction, with overall thickness of the alloy and a rounded flare on the outside being the most notable differences.
The tolling of Russian bells is an incredible form of polyphony and rhythmic complexity, with various rhythms in the assorted sizes of the bells played against the fundamental large bell. It is inferred that there is a connection between the bells’ resonant sonorities, and the trumpets that are related to heaven. Hierodeacon Roman of the Danilov Monastery writes:
“They always have a rich timbre, a generally low tone; they are sonorous; they are tuned neither to major nor minor. The voice of a bell was thought of as exactly that: not a note, not a chord, but a voice. And that voice had to meet certain characteristics and idea both theological and aesthetic.
The ring of a bell must be clear, loud, melodious, harmonious, low, sonorous and resonant. 'God is calling the faithful: this call must remind them of God, and the sound of the call must touch their hearts' writes one scholar specializing in the study of heavy Russian bells. The voices of the bells represented what the craftsman understood the thunderous voice of God to be, a sound image, and a sound interpretation of all the qualities of God’s voice in Russian Orthodox belief. In that voice speaking to us we can hear compassion, all-encompassing mercy, and such is the deep, rich timbre of the great Russian bells: there is might, there is nobility, there is constancy in the volume, in the sonority, in the depth.”11
Although many of the bells were destroyed during the Soviet Union (for fear of a possible uprising that they could inspire), it is more than likely that these Russian church bells had made their way to Estonia at some point, and it can be inferred through Pärt’s delicate approach to melodic, harmonic, timbral and rhythmic gestures that the Russian zvon played a particular
influence. Pärt himself often mentions the correlation between his music and the tolling of bells, and how he sees that his unique blend of 2 melodic voices is a direct connection to the ringing of church bells.
“Tintinnabulation is an area I sometimes wander into when I am searching for answers - in my life, my music, my work. In my dark hours, I have the certain feeling that everything outside this one thing has no meaning. The complex and many-faceted only confuses me, and I must search for unity. What is it, this one thing, and how do I find my way to it? Traces of this perfect thing appear in many guises - and everything that is unimportant falls away. Tintinnabulation is like this. . . The three notes of a triad are like bells. And that is why I call it tintinnabulation."12
In the following example, André Lehr, a Dutch expert on liturgical bells, created a diagram showing the decay of a bell’s harmonics (and fundamental pitch) over time.
11 Roman, Hierodeacon. "The Phenomenon of Russian Church Bell Ringing /zvon/ / Returning of the Bells." Returning of the
Bells. Web. 25 Nov. 2011.
12 "Tintinnabulation." David Pinkerton's Arvo Pärt Information Archive. Web. 25 Nov. 2011.
Example 4, André Lehr, “Hedendaagse Nederlandse Klokkengietkunst", Generalized harmonics of a liturgical bell
The example depicts a fundamental pitch at the very top, and it’s resonance is shown as a horizontal line extending outward. Harmonics are shown with roman numerals and numbers to the left hand side, and their decay times are also depicted as similar horizontal lines. It is interesting to see how several of the harmonics extend far beyond the fundamental pitch, and, as shown in the earlier diagram, how the harmonics are often much stronger in volume than the fundamental. We will find that Pärt makes great use of this, perhaps not so literally as to measure the acoustical properties and translate them into notation, but to not take such aspects as dissonant tones, overtones and resonance in music for granted.
Pärt’s translation of the harmonic content found in the ringing of bells to his music is quite extraordinary; he often utilizes 2 voices in parallel and oblique motion. One voice will only move by the notes of a given triad, whereas the other voice will move by diatonic step, usually in the form of a scale. The blends of these two voices often result in rich sonorities, thick with buzzing overtones and
dissonances. His consideration of rhythmic and timbral possibilities reflects his desire to stress particular simultaneities. This places a great deal of importance on phrasing, so as not to lose the feelings of development or cadence in the music. Pandiatonicism plays a key role in Pärt’s music. While being tonal, dissonances often will not completely resolve as expected, nor will functional analysis serve any purpose in understanding his compositional language. The gravitational forces of functional harmony no longer suffice in this new medium. Melodic voices now function both independently and yet seemingly co-exist, with less of an emphasis on such tonal urges as cadence and development, and more so on process and interaction within melodic lines and a modal context.
It is important to keep in mind that the process of tintinnabulation is not a single voice, but rather a pair of voices that, by means of octave displacement, voice exchange and stepwise motion, create a harmonic sound-world akin to that of Pärt’s inspirational “tolling of bells”. As Dr. Graeme Langager states in his dissertation of Pärt’s tintinnabulation technique, “the two elements (in reference to the scalar and triadic voices) are isolated, stripped of their “functional” roles, and then superimposed one on top of the other. By this superimposition, they exist as independent entities yet possess a symbiotic relationship necessary for creating the sound.” 13In some sections of the Berliner
Messe, I have chosen to place a higher emphasis on the diatonic, stepwise voice as opposed to this tintinnabulating voice; I do this because of the extreme importance Pärt places on this particular voice. The tintinnabulating voice is a voice created out of a mathematical absolute (as the reader will see in the analysis), whereas the stepwise voice can be created in a similar fashion, but is often much more musical and through-composed. While this may seem highly mechanical in analysis, the true compositional aspect of the music lies in the interaction between these voices, and the ultimate result is extremely organic. To the listener, it is equally important to weigh these two lines against one
another, as one without the other does not complete the compositional technique we know as “tintinnabulation.” As Pärt himself appropriately says, “It's not the tune that matters so much here. It's the combination with this triad. It makes such a heart-rending union, that the soul yearns to sing it endlessly.”14
For this thesis, I have chosen to analyze his Berlin Mass (1990 version, for organ and SATB chorus). The ultimate goal of this thesis is to make evident the use of tintinnabulation in this composition, and to expose tintinnabulation as a valid compositional style, as noted by not only the melodic content of the music, but its relation to text setting, phrasing, color, and performance practice.
IV. The Berliner Messe and the Mass Ordinary
The Ordinary of the Mass is a form of sacred composition, based around 5 liturgical texts of the Roman Catholic Rite. The 5 texts are the “Kyrie”, “Gloria”, “Credo”, “Sanctus”, and “Agnus Dei”. Pärt deviates from the standard Mass structure in his Berliner Messe by interpolating a Pentecost sequence (consisting of 3 separate liturgical texts based upon a celebration fifty days after Easter) into the Mass: an “Erster Alleluiavers”, “Zweiter Alleluiavers”, and “Veni Sancte Spiritus”. These 3 texts are used during Pentecost, a celebration of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Disciples of Christ after the resurrection of Jesus. Pärt’s intention was for the Berliner Messe to serve a dual purpose of being either a concert or liturgical Mass. This was done for practical purposes, as he places the 3 liturgical texts in between the Gloria and the Credo, and takes this into consideration when planning a key scheme for the overall Mass.
Pärt – Berliner Messe
Kyrie Gloria Erster
Alleluiavers Zweiter Alleluiavers Veni Sancte Spiritus
Credo Sanctus Agnus
Typical Mass Ordinary
Kyrie Gloria - - - Credo Sanctus Agnus
Dei Key Scheme (Pärt) G Aeolian G Aeolian
G Ionian E Aeolian E Aeolian E Ionian
Example 5, Comparison of Pärt’s “Berliner Messe” and the Mass Ordinary of the Roman Rite
The key scheme that Pärt has chosen for each liturgical text directly relates to the groupings that would take place in a traditional Mass setting. The groupings are separated by keys moving to their parallel Ionian/Aeolian modes (or major/minor, in a tonal context), while each group of
liturgical texts are linked together either by the same key or by relative Ionian/Aeolian (major/minor) functionality.
The Mass Ordinary referred to in Pärt’s Berliner Messe is in fact the liturgical texts of the Roman Rite, although his personal faith is in eastern Russian Orthodoxy. It is also worth noting the influence of Gregorian Chant (a predominantly Western European form of plainchant, which replaced the Beneventan, Gallican, Ambrosian, Mozarabic and Beneventan chants of Spain, Italy and Gaul) in his studies prior to the time when the Berliner Messe was composed, and that a majority of his other sacred a cappella works are set to texts of Roman Catholic background.
As the Eastern Orthodox Church does not use instruments in their service, this may have a relation to Pärt’s decision to set the music to texts for the Roman Rite as opposed to Orthodox texts. Pärt’s use of the organ is sparse in the Berliner Messe, and is similar to the aforementioned Russian bell ringing (the only “instruments” used in an Orthodox service), and so Pärt’s use of the organ may
be to disguise it as a “set of bells”, rather than an organ with an idiomatic purpose. In addition, Pärt’s 2002 revision of the Berliner Messe is scored for strings and chorus a cappella, which reinforces this claim.
In order to make sense of Pärt’s compositional approach, it is important to be aware of the Mass texts and the musical vernacular to which they are often related. Pärt takes great caution to pay respect and detail to traditional forms and development, but does not sacrifice his compositional voice for the sake of tradition, and finds new methods to explore old concepts.
V. Analysis Techniques of the Berliner Messe and Tintinnabulation
In the Berliner Messe, Pärt explores a variety of ways to convey his tintinnabulation technique, borrowing from functional relationships in harmony, pandiatonicism, pulsitive and process music, and modality.15 The melodic voices are created through various methods, such as row
construction and repeating melodic gestures (e.g., the Veni Sancte Spiritus), stepwise diatonic motion (e.g., the Kyrie), pitch centricity and pitch axes (e.g., the Gloria), and the expansion and contraction of a melodic figure (also to be seen in the Gloria). Similarly, he creates tintinnabulating voices by 2 important major methods: Set classes (which I will label as H135 and H153) and what I will label as the
“threshold technique”, first appearing in his Erster and Zweiter Alleluiavers, and further explored in the last movements of the Mass.
15 I am aware of the analyzation techniques that Hillier refers to in his 1995 text “Arvo Pärt (Oxford Studies of Composers)”,
however I have opted for slightly different terminology to reflect a different aspect of Pärt’s compositional technique. Hillier’s “T-voice” and “M-voice”, in short, are the tintinnabulating and melodic voices that I discuss in this thesis. Where I differentiate from Hillier’s text is in the definitive roles of the T-voice; Hillier talks about the T-voice in alternating, superior or inferior manners, and in positions relative to those (for more detail, please reference the Hillier text.) I have chosen to opt out this approach in exchange for what I will label as
“H-class” and “threshold” technique. These essentially serve the same purpose, however are looked at different than Hillier approaches Pärt’s tintinnabulation technique.
The culmination of these techniques is found in the final movement of the Mass, the Agnus Dei, where an exclusive combination of stepwise motion is fused together with the threshold technique.
For explanation of both the tintinnabulating and melodic lines, I will use a combination of traditional notation language (e.g., D4, E3), graphics and a form of cipher notation, using the numbers one through seven.
The letter/number notation is used as follows:
Example 6, Letter/Number Notation
This combination of letter and number notation is used for analysis as it demonstrates the octave displacement that is important to the timbre of Pärt’s voice. In some cases, he will break the melodic line in a voice, and continue to finish the line one octave below. This is often to create clusters of notes and dissonances in a different register (with other voices,) to create different overarching timbres within a piece, and also for practical purposes. Should a line continue on the path that it was, it may fall outside of the practical range of the particular voice that it is in.
The cipher notation is demonstrated as follows:
It is essentially the diatonic scale, with each number representing the corresponding pitch. The reason I chose this type of analysis over a more traditional analysis is that the cipher notation helps to understand how and where Pärt moves the tintinnabulating line, without the issues of dealing with octave displacement and rhythmic notation. As I said before, octave displacement is a very important factor of the overall sound of Pärt’s music, however in analysis, it sometimes may be best to strip down the notes to their most bare form, and by doing so, motifs and melodic gestures become much more apparent. I will use the letter/number notation to show melodic phrasing, motivic exchange between voices and timbral characteristics of a piece, whereas I will use the cipher notation to show motivic development and tintinnabulating characteristics of melodic voices. I will use parentheses to show a repeated note, as they do often occur in the melodic lines of Pärt’s writing. As an example, a line such as follows would be notated as “3-5-(5)-1-3-5”:
Example 8, Cipher Notation - Repeated Notes
Closely related to the cipher notation that I have used to analyze Pärt’s writing are the chord structures that I have labeled for the tintinnabulating voices. I have named each possible
construction of the tintinnabulating voice either H135 or H153. The “H” represents the German letter
for “B”, which I derived from the relation between the tintinnabulating voice and the relation to liturgical “Bells”. The numbers in subscript are derived from the sequence in which the 3 notes of the outlined triad are struck (or in this case, sung.)
Example 9, “H” chords used in tintinnabulating voices
Of course, with the above two chords, you can have 3 different inversions of each, with them being 1-3-5/3-5-1/5-1-3 and 1-5-3/5-3-1/3-1-5, respectively. Pärt seemingly picks and chooses a note with which to begin a line, out of interest to preserve consonance at key points in phrasing and syllables, and to create dissonances between tintinnabulating voices and melodic voices through intervals of 2nds, 4ths, and 7ths. Dissonant intervals above the octave are usually continuations of previous melodic lines, and are products of octave displacement or register changes.
The “threshold technique” that I use to analyze such sections as the Veni Sancte Spiritus and Credo is a mathematical approach of outlining the melodic voice with specific tintinnabulating notes that relate directly to what note is in the melodic voice. As the melodic voice rises and falls in
register, the tintinnabulating voice follows the same rise and fall in parallel motion, but rises and falls by the notes of the tintinnabulating triad as opposed to the diatonic notes of the scale. For instance, in mm.15-20 in the Credo, Pärt has all 4 voices singing in canon with one another. The soprano and alto voices are coupled together as tintinnabulating and melodic voices, and the tenor and bass voices are also coupled together in a similar fashion.
Example 10, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Credo, mm.15-20
If the alto and soprano voices’ melodic material is reduced down to the range that they span over the course of the Credo, we are left with this scale (in the alto voice), and the corresponding tintinnabulating notes in the soprano voice.
Example 11, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Credo, Threshold Technique (soprano and alto voices)
In regards to rhythmic analysis, I have not placed a great deal of emphasis on Pärt’s rhythmic writing. This is not because it is lacking in musicality or in any other way, which it is certainly not, however melody, harmony and tintinnabulation are first and foremost the most interesting and unique aspects of Pärt’s compositional style. The majority of the Berliner Messe is homorhythmic in texture (aside from the strict canonic writing in the Credo.) The most important part about the rhythm in this piece is not so much a constant motor rhythm like one would see in Bach, or perhaps
the canonic or contrapuntal development that one might see in Franco-Flemish Renaissance music, but his use of constantly changing time signatures (to create a more open, free feel reminiscent of early chant, as well as to show phrasing in a clearer fashion), and his emphasis on stressing syllables by augmentation of rhythm. For example, in the following phrase, I removed the rhythmic aspect of Pärt’s writing and focused solely on the notes:
Example 12a, Arvo Pärt, Berliner Messe, Gloria, mm.1-4 (Unstressed syllables)
Pärt then takes these notes, and by stretching the rhythm of specific syllables, creates this new phrase:
Example 12b, Arvo Pärt, Berliner Messe, Gloria, mm.1-4 (Stressed syllables – as is written in published score)
Pärt places emphasis on weak syllables through augmentation to create a sense of “leaning”, forward motion. It also often happens where there are dissonances between voices, as opposed to
consonant intervals. While Pärt’s music is pandiatonic by nature, the combination of augmentation in rhythm on weaker beats, combined with dissonant intervals between tintinnabulating and melodic voices creates a post-tonal sense of cadence and phrasing in his music. The fact that this inclination towards cadential material through stressed syllables is compounded with an overall homorhythmic texture only emphasizes the sense of tension and release more so.
There is an argument to be made about the worth of analyzing Pärt’s music from a functional, “tonal” perspective, versus a modal perspective. Key schemes and the overarching development of keys in the piece do come from a tonal background (e.g., the parallel minor/major relationship between the Veni Sancte Spiritus and the Credo, or the relative major/minor relationship between the Erster and Zweiter Alleluiavers.) However, Pärt’s use of a leading-tone (outside of the Gloria), and lack of any statement of a functional cadence leaves a big question to one that analyzes his piece: Does Pärt view his music from a tonal perspective? Pärt’s harmonic language is rather modal in characteristic, and the influence of early chant in both melodic and harmonic gestures seem to hint at modality as opposed to tonality. However, for the sake of clarity in this thesis, I have included the parallel and relative major/minor relationships when discussing key-schemes, and the relative modes when discussing harmonic relationships.
VI. The Berliner Messe (Berlin Mass) 1. Kyrie
The Latin text of the Kyrie is as follows:
Kyrie Eleison / Christe Eleison / Kyrie Eleison. In English translation:
Lord, have mercy. / Christ, have mercy. / Lord, have mercy.
It is important to note that the Christe Eleison is a later addition in the Roman Rite, and, much like the initial Kyrie Eleison, is a direct translation of a Greek counterpart from the Divine Liturgy (which was originally advocated in early Rome, yet was pushed out with the acceptance of Latin as a popular language.) It is also important to note that popular settings of the text often follow a ternary form, with the Christie Eleison acting as a contrasting section.
The Kyrie opens with a subtle “G” pedal in the organ, in the lower register. The alto opens the movement with a descending line, starting on “G4” (which we will call “1”, as the tonal centricity of the Kyrie is around “G”).
Example 13a, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Kyrie, mm.2-4
Of mentionable importance is the first use of the tintinnabulating chord H135 in the soprano
voice. Utilizing cipher notation, the line goes as follows: “3-5-1-3-5”. Similar to the usage of octave displacement in the altos as a means of transitioning into the 2nd measure (for reasons that will be
discussed), Pärt brings the tintinnabulating line into the organ through octave displacement here in mm.3, and by continuing the process started in the soprano voice. It is duly noted that the process that began in the soprano voice has now completed, and so Pärt pivots on the “D” in the organ, and brings in the chord H153 by a pivot note. The complete tintinnabulating passage in mm.2-4 (between
the soprano voice and organ) goes as follows (with the pivot note underlined to be clear):
Pärt continues this passage by displacing it into the tenor voice, and in similar fashion, retrogrades the melodic line in the alto voice. As opposed to the first phrase of the Kyrie, the altos are now singing a rising figure as opposed to a falling one. The line is still an octave span between two “G” notes, however the “break-point” between octaves changes from the note “D” to “C.” As the tintinnabulating line moves from voice to voice, this alto voice will serve as a guide for all other notes in other voices to create dissonance and consonance against. Example 13b shows mm.4-7, where Pärt pivots to H153 in the organ, and moves the line into the tenor voices, only to conclude the
phrase with a second gesture in the organ.
The organ line that had ended on the “B6” (it is notated 8va), is now moved into the tenor voice to continue the tintinnabulation, to create the line as follows:
In measures 4-7, it can be argued that the tintinnabulating line continues in the soprano voice (who is also singing a tintinnabulating line of their own), but I assume Pärt’s intention was to move it to the tenor voice for two reasons: The tenors hold over the “3”, which acts more like a method to continue a line through octave displacement, more so than a fresh new line altogether. In addition, the soprano voice, if combined with the previous organ passage, create this line:
One’s concern might be the two consecutive underlined notes, “D4” and “Bb4”, in the soprano voice (mm. 5). Would they sincerely function as pivot notes, or does the tenor better communicate Pärt’s desire to continue the line? With the argument that the tintinnabulating line is moved into the tenor voice, we find ourselves with one pivot note in the organ. With the argument that the line does not break, and continues in the soprano voice, we are left with not one, but two consecutive pivot notes that do not fall within the H153 pattern, and an additional re-struck “D”. It is
therefore assumed that the tenors continue the line, and the soprano voices take on the role of a supporting tintinnabuli voice. This method of octave displacement continues throughout the Kyrie.
Now that we have brought in all 4 voices, we can see how their functions serve in the context of the opening section of the Mass:
Sopranos – tintinnabulation
Altos – Main voice, diatonic motion (stepwise) Tenors – tintinnabulation
As functional harmony ceases to serve a purpose in this context, Pärt finds an ingenious way of creating a sense of structure and form; by expanding and contracting the amount of voices used in a given section. The Kyrie, because of its naturally ternary shape, lends itself well to the shape created by adding and subtracting voices. The table below (example 13c) depicts the addition and
subtraction of voices over the length of the Kyrie. Keep in mind that the Kyrie ends with all of the 4 voices singing, and the Gloria seamlessly picks up from where the Kyrie leaves off, with the entire choir singing powerfully at forte.
Kyrie eleison K e Christe eleison C e Kyrie eleison K e
1 2 3 4 4 3 2 1 1 2 3 4
Example 13c, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Kyrie, Structure of the text in relation to number of voices
The Gloria of the Berliner Messe continues in the same key (G minor/Aeolian) as the Kyrie left off. The Berliner Messe differs from a traditional mass in that it can be performed as a continuous piece of music. Each section serves as what a single movement is to a sonata or symphony. Pärt’s music has been often considered to be “simple” in it’s nature, and that he often leaves out important factors (to leave it up to performance practice); While this is true in some regards (e.g., the notation of dynamics are far more sparse than most works in standard repertory), Pärt is not oblivious to what message he is trying to convey. It can be inferred that there is a direct correlation between the chant music that he had studied (in between his transitional Third Symphony and his Fur Alina) and his notational preferences.
In the Gloria, Pärt takes a different compositional approach than in the Kyrie. Tonal centricity plays a key role in the development of this movement, where he uses the stepwise line (again voiced in the altos), and moves around a specific pitch-axis to create movement in the voices. The basses couple along with the altos exactly one major 6th below, so that if the alto voice
“cadences” on a note of the tintinnabulating chord (“1”, “3”, or “5”), there will be no discrepancies as to the tonality of the cadence; One finds themselves to have arrived at the tonic chord in any of the 3 possible inversions. Of course, if the altos resolve on “1”, we will be in 1st inversion. Note “3”
will place us in 2nd inversion, and note “5” will place us in root position.
Pärt decides to use note “G4” as the pitch-axis for the alto voice. Since the basses double what the altos sing (one major 6th below), their voice is mathematically pre-conceived. The only
concern now lays within the two tintinnabulating voices, which are as they were in the Kyrie, the soprano and tenor voices.
The opening measures give a clear indication of how Pärt is using a pitch-axis to move smoothly through chord clusters, utilizing the two tintinnabulating lines as dissonant and consonant tones. The tintinnabulating voices are much more free here than in the Kyrie, utilizing pivot notes much more frequently to both follow along with the alto/bass voices, and to create more unique voicing combinations.
Example 14a, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Gloria, mm.1-12
The alto voice, in the opening two lines, creates a melody as follows (referencing measures 1-4):
The pivot note, “G4”, is reinforced on all single-beat measures, as well as all cadential material at the end of any phrase (which seemingly end before any organ passage.) Interesting to note would be the fact that, the greater the size of the measure (which often directly correlate to the number of syllables in the text, with the exception of stressed syllables receiving a longer rhythmic value), the larger the distance that the outside interval between the axis note “G4” and the beginning of the phrase is. Take measures 7, 9, and 11 as examples. Each measure reinforces its ultimate goal towards axis note G4 by re-stating it as the very last note of the measure. Each note prior to this note proceeds stepwise towards it, either from above or below. Depending on the number of syllables in the text, and whether or not Pärt desired to stress a particular voicing or syllable, the outside interval
(in measure 11, D5 to G4) expands in size. Pärt’s inflection of stressed syllables in the melodic and rhythmic writing aids to break up the monotony of the text, and this slight tearing away from the steady quarter-note pulsation helps the listener achieve a feeling of cadence. Pärt will further develop this method of expansion and contraction of a melodic gesture in the Veni Sancte Spiritus, however in a much different method.
The organ plays a special role in the Gloria, as from first glance, it does not seem to be as intricately involved in the motion of the tintinnabulating line as it was in the Kyrie. The organ plays the following passages:
Example 14b, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Gloria, Organ Passages
The organ, as it did in the Kyrie, has two voices moving in parallel and oblique motion. Upon further inspection, we will see that there are tintinnabulating lines built into these two voices, crossing paths between themselves to create intricate clusters. I have connected the tintinnabulating voices, and labeled the notes (in their cipher notation) beneath the voicings. It is clearly visible that the organ passage makes use of both possible tintinnabulating voicings, H153 being used in measures
60 and 68, and H135 being used in measures 12 and 35. It is also worth noting that the other voice is
moving in a fashion similar to the alto voice’s axis/centricity concept; in measures 12 and 35, the stepwise voice is moving as “5-6-7-1-2”, and in measures 60 and 68, it is moving as “6-5-4”. This may not seem to have much connection, until we visit the measures following each passage, and see that these stepwise lines are intricately connected with the alto voice, reusing motivic patterns. The
“5-6-7-1-2” motif is then followed by “1-7-6-5-1-2” in the alto, reincorporating the “1-2” as a
means of creating what feels akin to a post-tonal “half-cadence.” Interestingly enough, this happens to be a section where Pärt breaks away from the centric concept he was using up until now, and instead inverts the concept. The “1-7-6-5” motif moves away from G4 instead of towards it, as we have seen so commonly before (and will see afterwards.) Likewise, the “1-2” motif is unique in that it has been reinforced in our ears before that it should be the other way around, “2-1”. Pärt then creates development by bringing back the original axis-centric concept as before, and then reversing it, and bringing it back once more, all the while adding and subtracting extra pitches to compensate for the syllables.
Lastly, Pärt introduces a concept into the Gloria that we did not hear in the Kyrie; the leading-tone. Pärt incorporates the leading-tone (F#) sparingly, so as not to stray too far from the modality of the music. One may hear this leading-tone and consider that Pärt is looking backward to his previous periods (or perhaps forward in time!), however, the leading-tone does not conflict with the processes involved in the Gloria’s overall scheme (such as the pitch-axis concept), but instead offer a foreshadowing of what is to come in the movements of the Berliner Messe. Pärt is not
breaking away from modality, but embracing it, by using the leading tone as a means to branch out to other modalities that involve “G” as a pitch center.
3. Erster and Zweiter Alleluiavers
Pärt’s Erster Alleluiavers and Zweiter Alleluiavers are two of the most significant sections of the Berliner Messe. While being the shortest (recorded versions of these two sections often happen to be only about 1 minute each in length), they encompass all aspects of Pärt’s mysterious, enchanting sound, not to mention all of his techniques of compositional approach that are recycled throughout the Mass. They also serve as the turning point in the overall key scheme of the mass. Whereas the Kyrie and Gloria were set in what we perceive as a “G Aeolian” area, Pärt’s usage of the leading-tone in the Gloria sets the stage for the listener to move to the “G Ionian” realm in the Erster Alleluiavers. This tonality is later moved to an “E Aeolian” area in the Zweiter Alleluiavers (or G major moving to the relative E minor.) This gives the listener a sense of spiritual uplifting, only to coincide with the text:
Alleluia. Emitte Spiritum tuum, et creabuntur et renovabis faciem terrae. Alleluia.
In English translation:
Alleluia. Send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be created, and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth. Alleluia.
The liturgical text in the Erster Alleluiavers alludes to the sense of a “renewal” (in the text itself, a renewal of the “face of the Earth.”) A correlation can be made between the textual description of renewal, and the movement to a new modal area that had previously not been explored in the Berliner Messe.
Example 15a, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Erster Alleluiavers, Full Score
The Erster Alleluiavers, depicted above, utilizes homorhythmic passages of 4-part writing for the “Alleluia” text. In the alto voice, the motif heard consists of “3-2-1-7-1”, which is then referred to in the solo tenor passage. The solo tenor passage happens to be unique in several ways, in that it is no longer functioning as a tintinnabulating voice. In fact, it functions as the opposite; the tenor voice is now moving in a stepwise, diatonic manner, a role similar to the one played by the alto and bass voices in the previous two sections. There is a sonorous, chant-like quality to Pärt’s single voice writing, hovering around a centric “G” pitch, but not functioning as an axis as it did in the Gloria; this writing is much more focused on the concept of recycling motivic ideas. For the text “et creabuntur”, Pärt re-uses the “3-2-1-7-1” motif heard in the altos, and foreshadows the soprano’s
motif of “3-4-5-6-5”, heard in the last measure. Perhaps there can be a connection made between the texts “creabuntur (creation) and renovabis (renewal)” and the shift of harmonic design that Pärt happens to create in the very last measure: By reassigning the tintinnabulating roles to the alto and bass voices, and giving the stepwise, diatonic lines to the soprano and tenor voices. It is, in fact, a renewal of Pärt’s signature melodic writing.
The Zweiter Alleluiavers functions quite similar to the Erster Alleluiavers, only that it serves an equally opposite role: by the end of the Zweiter Alleluiavers, Pärt returns the assigned roles of
stepwise motion or tintinnabulating lines to their original voices. He accomplishes this flawlessly by reusing the “3-4-5-6-5” and “3-2-1-7-1” motifs, by transposition, in the soprano and tenor voices. Pärt also visits “E Aeolian”, a new modal area not previously explored yet in the Berliner Messe, however directly linked to G Ionian, as it is the relative minor scale.
Example 15b, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Zweiter Alleluiavers, Full Score
The latin text of the Zweiter Alleluiavers is as follows:
Alleluia. Veni Sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium: et tui amoris in ei ignem accende. Alleluia.
In English translation:
Alleluia. Come, O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful: and kindle in them the fire of Thy love. Alleluia.
Pärt makes use of the “3-4-5-6-5” and “3-2-1-7-1” motifs, however mostly in truncated form. The only exception to this is the completion of the “3-4-5-6-5” motif is over the text
“fidelium”. There might be a connection between the inferred “faithfulness” of completing the
to text setting and creating a feeling of cadence by ending on a note of the tintinnabulating triad, as opposed to a less strong note. Pärt does begin to end phrases on weaker notes, such as the constant use of “7” as a cadential note (“Spiritus” and “accende” both end on “7”), and the lingering feeling of irresolution with the final “Alleluia”.
In both of the Erster and Zweiter passages, Pärt incorporates a new approach to the tintinnabulation technique not seen previously in the Mass. In the 2nd and 3rd “Alleluias” of each
section, Pärt breaks away from the H135 / H153 tintinnabulation, and reaches for the threshold
technique as described earlier. This creates a specific scale of dyads (if we are looking at only two voices; 3 or 4 voices would create other options), which Pärt uses to create stressed and unstressed syllables, or tension and release.
Example 15c, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Erster Alleluiavers, Threshold Tintinnabulation, Alto/Soprano Voices
This creates tension upon the stressed 2nd note of the syllable “lu” in “Alleluia”, as the listener
hears the “F” in the altos against the “G” in the sopranos (or in the final “Alleluia”, the “D” against the “E” respectively.) If the harmony of all 4 voices is fleshed out, we find that this particular voicing yields (from bottom to top): “A/B/F/G” (which resolves to “B/D/G/B” in the second “Alleluia”), or “D/G/D/E” to “D/F/B/D” in the 3rd and final “Alleluia”. These stressed voicings, in the realm of
post-tonal analysis, can be analyzed as having a tonal function by voice leading (or perhaps added notes to dominant and tonic chords), but it is far more important to interpret them from a broader,
psychological tension/release perspective. In that sense, they are merely clusters of particular notes, derivative of a given process, that resolve according to this process, and create a feeling of cadence.
Pärt re-uses this technique in the Zweiter Alleluiavers, however due to the modal change and the octave displacement and re-voicing of the SATB voices, the process yields completely different harmonies.
Example 15d, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Zweiter Alleluiavers, Threshold Tintinnabulation, Alto/Soprano Voices
This new approach to tintinnabulation sets the stage for the next sections of the Berliner Messe to explore. From a broader scope, one could say that both the H135 / H153 approach and the
“threshold” approach are simply different processes of a larger minimalist stream of thought, but this is arguable, and subjectively, one may feel that Pärt is much more detailed than that in his line of thinking. However, Pärt is not naïve to this principle, and perhaps has considered it on a much more grand scale of compositional technique. Regardless, the results are unbelievably beautiful to hear.
4. Veni Sancte Spiritus
The Veni Sancte Spiritus continues in the “E Aeolian” modality. Pärt, now having introduced his cadenza-like approach to single-voice writing, reuses this rhythmic and melodic concept to open the movement, using the bass voices to outline the E minor triad, with the exception of some upper and lower neighbor tones. Upon first viewing the score, one would see that the writing is far
different from where we began in the Kyrie: It is much more sparse, and focuses upon pairings of two voices (tintinnabulation at it’s purest form.) However, it appears that Pärt is utilizing the second voice (which only uses notes of the tintinnabulating triad) far more sparsely, and as a means to create emphasis on particular words of the liturgical text. Although this seems simple in approach, and rather random, we should not dismiss it as so. As we have seen before, what appear to be the simplest concepts in his music often are the most complex.
The liturgical text of the Veni Sancte Spiritus in latin is as follows (with the bold text being that which has been emphasized):
Veni, Sancte Spiritus, et emitte caelitus lucis tuae radium. Veni, pater pauperum, veni, dator munerum, veni, lumen cordium. Consolator optime, dulcis hospes animae, dulce refrigerium. In labore requies, in
aestu temperies in fletu solatium.
O lux beatissima, reple cordis intima tuorum fidelium. Sine tuo numine, nihil est in homine, nihil est innoxium. Lava quod est sordidum, riga quod est arium, sana quod est saucium. Flecte quod est
rigidum, fove quod est frigidum, rege quod est devium. Da tuis fidelibus, in te confidentibus, sacrum septenarium. Da virtutis meritum, da salutis exitum, da perenne gaudium, Amen, Alleluia.
In English translation:
Come, Holy Spirit, send forth the heavenly radiance of your light. Come, father of the poor,
come giver of gifts, come, light of the heart. Greatest comforter, sweet guest of the soul, sweet consolation. In labor, rest, in heat, temperance, in tears, solace. O most blessed light,
fill the inmost heart of your faithful. Without your divine will, there is nothing in man,
nothing is harmless. Wash that which is unclean, water that which is dry, heal that which is wounded. Bend that which is inflexible, warm that which is chilled, make right that which is wrong. Give to your
faithful, who rely on you, the sevenfold gifts. Give reward to virtue,
By analyzing Pärt’s interpretation of the text, it is clear that his emphasis lies on the key words of each phrase. He places a great emphasis on such things as “poor” in “father of the poor”, or the superlative adjective “inmost” in “fill the inmost heart of your faithful.” In addition, by placing the emphasis on “that which”, it is clear that the unknown that the liturgical text refers to (e.g., the “unclean”, “wounded”, and “inflexible”) matters a great deal to Pärt in reference to text-setting.
In regards to the pairings of voices, each pair of voices is preceded by a solo passage of whichever voice takes the dominant role. For example, the piece opens with a solo bass voice, which leads into a passage where the bass takes the dominant role, and the sopranos outline the
tintinnabulating chord using the “threshold technique” discussed in the Erster and Zweiter Alleluiavers.
Example 16a, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Veni Sancte Spiritus, Threshold Technique
Pärt now incorporates a new compositional method: the concept of row design, which may perhaps be a reference back to his past relationship involving serialism. Pärt develops a row,
beginning in the bass voice, which extends from mm.1-14.
Pärt develops a melodic idea based around a centric note. The row can be divided into two halves; One half with a pitch axis based around “B”, and the other half based around the pitch axis “E”, the two outer notes of the prime form of the tintinnabulating triad. The inner 3rd of this triad,
which is an extremely important note, is not taken for granted; In both halves of the row, it is reinforced through repetition. These two halves are connected by a pivot note (“D”), which moves stepwise to the nearest tintinnabulating note, “E”. Likewise, at the end of the row, we find ourselves with another pivot note (“C”), that brings us back to the “B” that we began the row with.
Interestingly enough, this row, when repeated, is rhythmically displaced a certain growing number of beats. The chart below explains the re-statements of the row and their relative
Statement # 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Displacement 2 3 5 6 8 10 13 13 15 Inc.
Example 16c, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Veni Sancte Spiritus, Row Displacement
Statement #10 reads “Inc.”, as it is an incomplete statement. However, if we derive the
“5-3-5-3” from “quod (est) devium” in the tenor voice (mm.101-104), we find that this can complete the
Example 16d, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Veni Sancte Spiritus, mm.131-143, completion of incompleted row by derivative of mm.101-104
The Credo follows shortly after where the Veni Sancte Spiritus left off. In the row that Pärt used in the Veni, we examined how he pivoted around the “D” to move to “E” in the second half. Take into consideration how Pärt ends the Veni Sancte Spiritus; He ends on a lingering “D” note, in a unison, homorhythmic texture utilizing the full SATB choir. This “D” is, in fact, the pivot note that will move us into the opening “E” found in the bass voice of the Credo. However, Pärt, in the interest of changing the color of the Credo, decides to move into the parallel major mode, E Ionian. As another link between the Veni and the Credo, Pärt decides to reinterpret his row to fit around the
new modality. The example below is the row design for the Credo, the bottom numbers showing the cipher notation, and the top numbers showing the ordered pitch intervals (coinciding with the set-class theory analysis used by Straus, 2005.) Motifs and their development in the row are labeled, and shown with brackets.
Example 17a, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Credo, Row Design
As notated in the example 17a above, the row of the Credo is made up of 3 separate motivic ideas, developed through retrograde and inversion. The 26-note row concludes with a low “B” that falls outside of the motivic analysis, but instead serves as a linking note to begin the row once more.
Unlike the use of a repeating row in the Veni Sancte Spiritus, Pärt creates development in the composition by dropping notes out of the row systematically, and adding them to the end of the row. For instance, the 1st and 2nd statements of the row, in cipher notation, are as follows:
“1-2-3-4-3-2-1-5-4-1-3-2-1-5-7-6-5-6-7-1-4-5-6-7-1-5” – Statement 1 “1-4-3-2-1-5-4-1-3-2-1-5-7-6-5-6-7-1-4-5-6-7-1-5-2-3” – Statement 2
The unique approach to Pärt’s canonic writing in the Credo is his method of restating the row in the same voice that finishes last. In the first row, Pärt begins the Credo in the tenor and bass voices, with the tenors tintinnabulating and the basses singing the melodic line (in this case, the row.) The altos and sopranos enter 9 beats later, in strict canonic writing at the octave, however slightly changing rhythmically so that the rests at the end of each phrase happen simultaneously. He creates this by changing where the augmented rhythms are in the text. Continuing on, the tenor/bass
canon ends at mm.10, while the soprano/alto canon ends 2 measures later. Unlike some canonic writing, where the tenor and bass voices would’ve began the next motivic gesture while the soprano/alto voices were still singing (to create a constant stream of ideas), Pärt places the next installment of the row directly after the first row in the soprano/alto voices end. This allows him to reverse the leader/follower roles in the canon, and now the truncated row (with the added notes at the end) begins in the soprano/alto voices, with the tenor/bass following 9 beats afterwards.
The melodic row is stated 12 times, with 2 pitches dropping each time (in the appropriate order of the row) and reappearing at the very end of the row. The first and last statements of the row are complete statements, with zero notes dropped, which leads even the most astute listener to believe the piece has come to a close. Pärt ends the Credo with a restatement of “1-2-3-4-3-2-1”. (It is important to note that, while Pärt adheres very strictly to the compositional processes in the Credo, he does drop some notes from the row that are not coinciding with the 2-note rule. The notes that he does drop, however, are tintinnabuli notes, which may be related to the idea that the notes that we clearly hear are those that are not of the underlying triad.)
The Credo makes an interesting use of silence and pause: similar to Pärt’s other pieces, all 4 voices will pause at the same moment in time, to create these sonic gaps where the harmonics (usually created by the reverberation in the performance hall) has a chance to breathe. It is not complete silence, but the sound that exists within this gap in and of itself that creates such a dramatic effect. The sounds that exist around these pauses are much more pronounced as a result, and the outcome is a very musical silence, not to be disregarded. However, Pärt does sacrifice some canonic rule for the sake of these pauses in the music. In the second statement of the row, between notes “5-4-1” and “3-2-1”, there exists a pause in the soprano/alto voices. This same pause,
regardless of augmentations in rhythm or stressed syllabification, does not exist at the same position in the row in the tenor/bass voices.
Example 17b, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Credo, mm.13-20, Canonic Writing
He instead moves this pause in between notes “1-5-7” and “6-5-6” of the row, so that the pause in the tenor/bass voices happens to land exactly with the pause in the soprano/alto voices, who are at a later point in the row from the canon. Had he placed the pause where it would have been according to canonic rule, the harmonic vocabulary of the composition would completely change due to a displacement of melodic and rhythmic figures.
The Sanctus of the Roman Catholic Mass is as follows:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua. Hosanna in excelsis.
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini. Hosanna in excelsis.
In English translation:
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.
In the Sanctus of the Berliner Messe, Pärt completely drops the soprano voice from the
texture. This leaves the three lower voices, with the altos singing in their lower register, allowing for a greater amount of voice exchange between the tenor and alto voices, and therefore a tighter sense of chord structure and harmony. Pärt, similar to the Kyrie, uses the H135/H153 classes to outline the
melodic voice, which is broken up into fragments with a centricity that leans towards C-sharp (the perceived key is C-sharp minor, or Aeolian.)
Example 18a, Arvo Pärt, “Berliner Messe”, Sanctus, mm.1-7
Pitch centricity plays a key role in the melodic setting of the text. Phrases such as
“5-6-7-1-1-(1)-4-3-2-1” (the cipher notation used for “Hosanna in excelsis”, mm.16-18) show a rising and falling
tendency towards C# as a gravitational constant. However, to create tension and “motion” in the development of the Sanctus, Pärt will occasionally invert the gestures to move away from the target note, as the Gloria had earlier done. The Sanctus is of considerably shorter length than the previous texts, and the somber harmonic language, lower registers of each voice, and more sparse feel give the listener a feeling of calm tranquility. The organ, similar to how it had served a purpose in the Kyrie, outlines the H-classes in a similar function.
Although the highest pitch in the Sanctus is found in the text “Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini”, it should be noted that, in performance practice, many quality recordings of the Berliner Messe feature the line “Hosanna in excelsis” as the loudest in volume and intensity (mm.16-18, directly preceding the “Benedictus”.)16 Although dynamics are not marked in the piece, from a
performance perspective, there is an inclination to follow the text “Hosanna in the highest” in a literal translation of dynamics.
16 Example recordings may be found by Noel Edison with the Elora Festival Orchestra (Naxos), a recording with Tonu Kaljuste and
the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir & Tallinn Chamber Orchestra (ECM Records), and Stephen Layton with Polyphony (Hyperion UK).