Magnificat, the Canticle of Mary, by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt (b.
1935) is in the tintinnabuli style invented by the composer himself
in the 1970’s. Influenced by Pärt’s mystical experiences with chant,
this compositional technique takes its name from a word describing the
sound of a struck bell. It combines voices homophonically in such a
way that one voice outlines simple, scalar melodies, while the other
leaps above and below the melodic line, always to notes within the tonic
triad. The result is a kind of sonorous tonal reverberation that is
always harmonically stable, but full of shimmering dissonances from
the melodic voices.
Pärt writes: "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.”
The texture of the Magnificat alternates between two-voices and tutti. The paired-voice passages are strikingly crystalline; in every case, they consist of a single melodic part set against a meditatively repeated note. The tutti sections provide lush contrasts to the delicate voice-pair sections.
The Magnificat contains clear demonstrations of some of the various techniques that Pärt uses to achieve the illusion of the connection of time and timelessness, as well as references to medieval discant and drones. In line with the minimalist philosophy of protracted duration, Pärt's compositions are designed to appear suspended in time. Towards this objective, Pärt explains: "Time and timelessness are connected. This instant and eternity are struggling within us. And this is the cause of all of our contradictions, our obstinacy, our narrow-mindedness, our faith and our grief.”