For London Design Festival 2018, composer Arvo Pärt and Arup present “Memory & Light”, curated by Clare Farrow, in the V&A’s Norfolk House Music Room: a unique meeting of music and design, inspired by Arvo Pärt’s words.
Date: 15-23 September 2018
Place: Victoria and Albert Museum Cromwell Rd, Knightsbridge London
Fee: Free event
Born in Estonia in September 1935, Arvo Pärt is the most performed contemporary composer in the world, whose life and music represent a drive for freedom and invention, against the odds. This installation – a rare collaboration – was specially conceived for the V&A’s Norfolk House Music Room and was inspired by Arvo Pärt’s famous words:
“I could compare my music to white light, which contains all colours. Only a prism can divide the colours and make them appear; this prism could be the spirit of the listener.”
Curated by Clare Farrow with Eva Woode in collaboration with Arup specialists Stephen Philips (Product Design), Ned Crowe (Acoustic Design) and Ed Elbourne (Venue Design), this multi-sensory installation brings Pärt’s words to life in a meeting of design and music.
A transparent curved screen (made from Perspex® acrylic and fabricated by Talbot Designs) represents the prism in Pärt’s poetic description, alongside a luxurious viewing and listening bench (upholstered in Poltrona Frau’s leather) where visitors can sit to experience the composer’s words and his music: “Spiegel im Spiegel” (Mirror in the Mirror), “Für Alina”, “Silentium” and “Da pacem Domine”. Speakers by Harman Kardon bring the music into every corner of the space.
Clare Farrow says: “This is a wonderful opportunity to create an encounter between music and design, between the past and the present, in this beautiful 18th-century music salon in the V&A, bringing to life Arvo Pärt’s description of his music through the innovative design concepts of Arup. In the year when the new Arvo Pärt Centre opens in Estonia, and the country marks its centenary, the installation also celebrates dialogue, legacy and freedom of expression.”
Arvo Pärt’s music has a crystalline beauty and stillness, for example in “Für Alina” (1976), which introduced his original musical language “tintinnabuli” (from the Latin for “little bells”). He also takes inspiration from medieval Gregorian chant, Renaissance music and the paintings of Giotto. Struggling to write and perform under the oppressive Soviet rule of the 1960 and 70s, he was urged to leave for Vienna in 1980, and then Berlin. In 2010, he finally returned to live in Estonia.
Presented by: Harman Kardon
Supported by: Perspex® Brand, Estonia 100, Hiscox
Further support by: Poltrona Frau, Talbot Designs, Elf Ideas, ENTTEC, Arvo Pärt Centre, ECM Records and Blueprint Magazine.
Music by Arvo Pärt (used by arrangement with ECM Records):
1. “Spiegel im Spiegel”, 1978 (Version für Violoncello und Klavier)
2. “Für Alina”, 1976
3. “Tabula Rasa: II. Silentium”, 1977
4. “Da pacem Domine”, 2004
Voice recording from Arvo Pärt’s Speech from his Musical Diaries, New York, 2014, extracts courtesy the Arvo Pärt Project at St Vladimir’s Seminary, New York.