It is surprising that there has been almost no academic engagement with the music of Arvo Pärt (born 11 September, 1935), given that he has written music in a wide variety of styles and genres and that his music is so popular. There is currently only one book in English devoted exclusively to Pärt’s music, Paul Hillier’s short but comprehensive monograph entitled Arvo Pärt, in the ‘Oxford Studies of Composers’ series published by OUP in 1997. It is truly extraordinary that the only other information and critical discussion of Pärt’s music comes from short articles and some unofficial websites (see for example <arvopart.info> and <arvopart.org>).
This project aims to redress the balance and is pioneering on five counts: first, it will make an important addition to Pärt studies, providing much needed perspective on the composer and his music; second, it will make a significant contribution to discussions about spirituality in music; third, it will be using and developing cross-disciplinary methodologies drawing on cultural studies, theological studies and analytical and musicological approaches to music; fourth, by working on issues of interpretation, it aims to unite scholars and performers in discussion of his music; and fifth, it directly addresses the audiences for Pärt’s music by encouraging them to engage critically with music of profound beauty. The conference will specifically address how we define spirituality in music and how music with Christian texts might be transformative to non-Christians. By providing an event that includes performances, lectures, presentations and conversations, the conference will endeavor to help people listen to Pärt’s music with spirit and understanding.