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Arvo Part’s Alina and Yitzak’s Niggun


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Arvo Part’s compositions draw us into the space between dynamic intervals with grace and beauty, reaching far beyond the notes themselves. He builds a jewel-like tapestry of sound in which we can abide and simply feel. Alina is the seminal work in Part’s original style of composition, called “tintinabuli,” or little bells, chimes. In one of his notations he suggests that the music be played as if…  “listening to one’s inner self.” My interest in inner-listening , or somatic attunement, relies upon music as a medium for self-awareness. This is quite different than listening to the performer or the composer. Part writes: “I compare my music to white light which produces all colors. Only a prism can divide the colors and make them appear; this prism could be the spirit of the listener.”

My own musicality developed not by studying complete works, but only short vignettes, or themes from music that touched my heart.  Alina was the first piece I played just as the composer intended; all the notes, but without prescribed meter, at my own pace, and my own dynamics. And listening for what might appear.

Alina is built on the notes B and F#, which are also the main tones in my composition, Yitzak’s Niggun. My niggun feels like a flowery dance from somewhere beneath us. It surfaces from below a watery melody of an ancient forgiveness prayer, Avinu Malkenu, in the Middle Eastern-sounding key of “B fraggish” (with a flatted second). Alina constructs an intricate web of spiraling connections, which becomes a platform upon which I can dance to my drummer and walk with the spirit of my ancestors. 

Copyright 2009 Greener Mediations