Arvo Part
Tabula Rasa


4.5
superb

Review

by Alex Robertson STAFF
December 21st, 2009 | 122 replies


Release Date: 1977 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Music for every time.

In a way, Arvo Pärt's Tabula Rasa has become a little lost over the years. The collection's cinematic nature makes it perfect for movies, car commercials, slideshows, montages; so in it goes. Rightfully so, however: each of the four pieces featured on this collection are eerily beautiful, bold, and move swiftly; just the kind of backdrop necessary for the final touch in a climactic film scene, or to sell your product as sophisticated, elegant, and hard-working, or to illustrate a troubled life biographically. Whatever the purpose, the entirety of Tabula Rasa seems to document just about any moment of solemnity, despondency, and yes, hope, near-flawlessly. But what of an environment separate from the world of the visual aesthetics of commercials and film? Does Tabula Rasa hold up when not being used as austere background music? Even if it will forever be linked to the newest brand of Lexus vehicles or grave drama movies (There Will Be Blood used the first track, "Fratres"), can it support itself free of these subjects?

The answer is undoubtedly a resounding "yes". Starting with "Fratres" and ending with the titular "Tabula Rasa", these four tracks keep an enduring, beautiful sense of loss and longing that few other modern composers can attempt to match. Being a pioneer of the minimalist school, many of these pieces (especially the achingly beautiful "Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten") are simple at their core, but upon further listening present the listener with sounds so intricate and deep that they come out with something new every time. "Fratres", the first track, sets an effective tension via a rapid violin line, which, about a minute in, is seemingly slammed down by a frighteningly deep piano chord. However, after a slow, reflective section where the piano and violin seemingly work together, the violin is off again, this time backed up by the piano, only to be obstructed again. There's a sense of persistent hopefulness here, as if the piece is trying again and again to accomplish an impossible task; its own Sisyphus and the stone. By the end, the piece ends on the piano in its lowest register, and whether or not the task was accomplished is left up to the listener.

In comparison to the 11-minute "Fratres", "Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten" (written for an English composer whom, surprisingly, Pärt never met) is considerably condensed, barely reaching over the 5-minute mark. Featuring a much fuller string ensemble than "Fratres", "Cantus" has a deceptively simple compositional motif (strings descend the A minor scale at different starting points), but has a sort of sonic richness to it that provides much more than its arrangement would suggest.

"Cantus" best represents what Arvo Pärt does best on Tabula Rasa: make a lot out of seemingly little. Whether it be the decision to stay in a relative lull for the latter half of the 26-minute "Tabula Rasa", or to utilize his own tintinnabuli technique on "Cantus", Arvo Pärt realizes the importance of letting each and every musical motif and concept blossom, and Tabula Rasa illustrates this realization in full. Does Tabula Rasa deserve to be heard outside of its "normal" environment as a backdrop to film and visual media? Absolutely. But don't take my word for it. The proof is in the music.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
robertsona
Staff Reviewer
December 21st 2009


15050 Comments


blargh

klap
Staff Reviewer
December 21st 2009


10492 Comments


blurgah

Digging: Caribou - Our Love

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
December 21st 2009


15743 Comments


i like arvo part

Digging: Flying Lotus - You're Dead!

YouAreMySilence
December 21st 2009


3727 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Stoked to give this a listen, it's on my ipod and ready to go.
It just feels this is going to be so amazing Ill need to be in the exact right mood. Its alittle intimidating ahah.

qwe3
December 21st 2009


21362 Comments


arvo part rules

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
December 21st 2009


15050 Comments


"Stoked to give this a listen, it's on my ipod and ready to go.
It just feels this is going to be so amazing Ill need to be in the exact right mood. Its alittle intimidating ahah."

haha, just kinda take it as it comes. did you download this because of me?

Zion
December 21st 2009


812 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I love Arvo Part - wasn't there a review for this up at some point? I found about about it through Sputnik anyway. Good stuff.

YouAreMySilence
January 18th 2010


3727 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Finally listened through this, if the impact it had on my first listen through remains constent, this will get a 5 rating fo sho.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
January 18th 2010


15050 Comments


oh sheeit

Spare
June 10th 2010


5313 Comments


this is insanely good

liledman
June 10th 2010


3826 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

want to check this out, i enjoyed alina

Lucid
Contributing Reviewer
December 28th 2010


7026 Comments


love this

KILL
May 10th 2011


71957 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

rules

Digging: Exodus - Blood In, Blood Out

porch
May 10th 2011


8459 Comments


agreed

AngelofDeath
Staff Reviewer
May 10th 2011


16137 Comments


Yeah, pretty amazing stuff.

MO
May 10th 2011


18854 Comments


so good

KILL
May 10th 2011


71957 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

alinda rules too i gota get more

AngelofDeath
Staff Reviewer
May 10th 2011


16137 Comments


Check my list from yesterday.

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
May 10th 2011


23900 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"Cantus In Memory of Benjamin Britten" is one of my favourite pieces of classical music. I don't listen to nearly enough of it, I should change that. Maybe I should start by getting the rest of this album...

Digging: RATKING - So It Goes

AngelofDeath
Staff Reviewer
May 10th 2011


16137 Comments


Yeah, you really need the whole thing. Fratres and Cantus are absolutely incredible.



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