Analysis of Summa by Arvo Pärt

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This study presents a musical analysis using a process of pitch mapping. Pitch rows are presented graphically to demonstrate the visual design of the music. Description of the process is preceded by a discussion of some of the historical, and philosophical factors that are relevant to the development of Pärt’s tintinnabuli music. The musical and political history of Estonia and some of its other composers are presented as an important resource for understanding Pärt’s music. The use of proportions and formulas in the music is presented as being connected to a long line of similar practice in the fields of music, mathematics, physics and astronomy that has been used in the pursuit of an understanding of the Universe. Although informed by an extensive depth of spirituality, research and construction, the music remains an intensely personal expression of the composer. In this combination of structure and intuition it is able to resonate with people across many different cultures, and across many visible and invisible boundaries. Through the establishment of tonal stability in tintinnabuli music, extra-musical codes and symbols can be placed within its structure. This is achieved through a compositional process that includes both highly organized proportional formulas and creative intuition. The process of pitch mapping as a method of musical analysis demonstrates how this can be done. Pitch mapping is presented as a creative process of musical analysis. Visual images and animated visual images are used to add to an understanding of the music.

Includes bibliographical references.