Magazine AM:PM
Sound and Fury Arvo Part. Illustration: Duchy Man. Arvo Part. Illustration: Duchy Man.

Arvo Pärt / The Cyclopropane Song

My grandparents' house —my house— smells of the sacristy, of religion, of the incense of the big masses. When I listen to sacred music there, ordinary objects alter their physical form. Then I return to the hallway of the house, at the age of nine, I return to the small fountain where a pink ballerina was dancing. I return, after all, to the place where the gods dwell, to a sacred and harmonious place. 

I listened to Arvo Pärt sitting on the sofa, and my friend, the biochemist, was talking about the angular strain of cyclopropane. I heard a mix of music and chemistry, a song with covalent bonds, a fearful song in their orbitals. 

“It's the most unstable cycloalkane,” he told me, “and it's everywhere. Plus, it's explosive. 

—We are a terrible formula, Gabriela.

-Yes. Instability dominates us even at subatomic levels. 

I put Lamentate E Fragile Conciliante after. An explosive fragility. A desire to say. But I suppose nothing is said while a piano plays in E minor. To speak would have been an apostasy, the breaking of the holy adorations. 

(Cyclopropane was used in the area of Anesthesia for a long time, but it was not sweet like ether or like the name of ether. It split the chest and caused terrible reactions. There are fragilities that atomize and tear). 

Tintinnabuli / Hydrogen eclipsed

Pärt's first serial composition was necrology (1960), an austere, clean composition. then they came clean slate (1977), passive (1982) and Miserere (1989).

[—Grandma, they taught me the Agnus Dei. What does it mean Miserere nobis? / —It means “Have mercy on us”].

Pärt's style is minimalist, always. The tonal language is sober, superb in its simplicity. 

—These three hydrogens face each other on each of their faces. See, they are like tiny eclipses; this increases the tension of the molecule. That's why it's so unstable.

- Even being so small?

“Mostly because of that.

Arvo Pärt's compositions are small, in the same way that the photograph of my grandfather in an overcoat is small; in the same way that the garden that lives in the painting of Santa Teresita is small; in the same way that a dream is small in wakefulness. Tremendously. Like the heart of a house. 

Part called him Tintinnabuli to the triad, for him those three notes were like bells, and they were enough to break the silence without breaking it.  

We hear For Alina then, a very tender composition that he dedicated to an 18-year-old lady, a charming girl like all charming girls who go to study in a cold country and have a symphonic name. For Alina curves outwards, decreases tension. Somewhere, the sheet music reads: “Ruhig, erhaben, in sich hineinhorchend" ("Peacefully, elevated and introspective"). The softness of this piece makes it dissonant, and it makes me want to turn into a monstrous 18-year-old thing and say Por favor and demand a ditty or a piece of eclipsed hydrogen. 

Mirror in mirror / Voltage / Molar mass: 42.8 g/mol

Before leaving Estonia, Pärt composed Spiegel im Spiegel (1978). I listened to it 42 years later, and I wasn't thinking of escaping to any country. I heard a beautiful version of Alexander Malter. 

[—There's nothing in the mirror, don't be afraid. That's you, and the one over there too. / —She imitates me. I'm not that one. / —You won't believe it, if you put the small mirror in front of the big one, there are many mirrors inside (—Look, can't you see it?, they are like tiny eclipses)].

I imagine that houses become houses when they are inhabited, and cease to be so when a presence is demanded, when those we would like are not there, when the silence is not broken without ceasing to be broken, when the triad does not make the slightest sense. Being dissonant is complex because sweetness and breaking are needed, to throw away the jars, to have the angular tension of cyclopropane, to be able to inhabit everything. [Miserere nobis, Agnus Dei; Molar mass: 42.8 g/mol; elevated and introspective. (—Look, they're like tiny eclipses)].

That afternoon, my house was more home than other times. I returned, with what sadness, to the corridor and to the dancer. He returned with his overcoat and returned to the garden of the painting. I demanded the presence of my gods, because I have nothing but chemical demands and explosive songs. There is a moment of Regret Fragile E Conciliante, around minute 4:00, which is equivalent to the instant in which someone cries and suddenly smiles in the midst of all that crying: a rictus of faith that will go away soon. ("Don't let it go, I'm going to count to 12 every day"). 

A mirror in front of the mirror, that's also what we put on sad songs when we're sad. Arvo Pärt left me speechless, because nothing can be said when a piano sounds in E minor. 

Mirror in front of the mirror. We are a replica and he realized and composed something.

Sometimes it will be necessary to demand a little song or a piece of eclipsed hydrogen.

Yes. Everything is repeated incessantly.  

[—There's nothing in the mirror, don't be afraid. That's you, and the one over there too. / —She imitates me. I'm not that one. / —You won't believe it, if you put the small mirror in front of the big one, there are many mirrors inside (—Look, can't you see it?, they're like tiny eclipses).

Molar mass: 42.8 g/mol].

Avatar photo Wendy Martinez Voyeur of chess games. I'm afraid of clowns. More posts

Leave a comment

View published comments
  1. Ángeles says:

    Wendy, I was already waiting for your text and since you write so well -I like your texts more and more- I'm waiting for you again. Is it a monthly job? Thirty days of waiting! Well, there is no other. When I read, it seems that I am in front of a work of fiction. I enjoy what you say, but also the way you say it.

  2. Gabriela says:

    When I first studied the high steric strain of cyclopropane, I was very impressed, chemically it is one of the largest in nature.
    Bella Wendy, I am even more impressed, when you can fit me your formula with Arvo. Thank you, thank you for bringing your words to those of science. My biochemical friends have been listening to Arvo for your beautiful text. We expect more. Immense hug with tremendous steric tension.

  3. Juan says:

    I love the music of Arvo Pärt…. His honesty without artifice moves me!!!!

View published comments

We also suggest