Met Museum Concert and Panel Conclude Pärt Series

11 June 2014 • Off-campus Events

Kanon Pokajanon by Arvo Pärt being performed in the impressive Temple of Dendur, Metropolitan Museum of Art (photo: Tatiana Hoff)Kanon Pokajanon by Arvo Pärt being performed in the impressive Temple of Dendur, Metropolitan Museum of Art (photo: Tatiana Hoff)During a panel discussion held in The Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Wednesday evening, June 11, a neuroscientist, an architect, and a theologian explored links between human perception, space, and sound, in tribute to famed Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. Their intriguing conversation was part of the Spark series at the museum, hosted by Julie Burstein, Peabody Award–winning creator of National Public Radio’s Studio 360, and was a collaborative effort between the museum and the Arvo Pärt Project at St. Vladimir’s Seminary. 

The Spark series explores vital ideas and issues through the lens of the museum’sSpark PanelistsDr. Peter Bouteneff, co-director of the Arvo Pärt Project (second from left) conveyed the spiritual basis for Maestro Pärt's music.Spark PanelistsDr. Peter Bouteneff, co-director of the Arvo Pärt Project (second from left) conveyed the spiritual basis for Maestro Pärt's music. collections and programs, and the panel discussion, entitled “Spirit in Sound and Space: A Conversation Inspired by Arvo Pärt,” followed an acclaimed performance of Pärt’s Kanon Pokajanen (“Canon of Repentance”) by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir at the museum’s Temple of Dendur the previous week. Spark panelists—typically experts in wide-ranging disciplines such as theater, film, politics, literature, science, pop culture, music, religion, and so forthcross the boundaries of their own subject matter to engage in fresh conversations.

Wednesday night’s eclectic panel included Robert Zatorre of the Montreal Neurological Institute, Steven Holl of Steven Holl Architects, and Peter Bouteneff, associate professor of Systematic Theology at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, all of whom are also capable musicians. Dr. Zatorre explained how music engages the primal “reward system” planted deep within the human brain and how humans use the same portion of the brain to navigate spatial configurations and to understand intervals of musical sounds. Mr. Holl described how he has not only created spaces for music but also has designed structures based on musical patterns and scores. Dr. Bouteneff talked about the thread of spirituality—rooted in the Orthodox Christian tradition that Mr. Pärt embraces—that grounds the composer’s masterpieces and weaves unapologetically throughout them.

Spark's interdisciplinary panel explored sound, space, and spiritualitySpark's interdisciplinary panel explored sound, space, and spiritualityEnthusiastic audience reaction to the conversation evidenced the popularity of Mr. Pärt’s distinctive music, which received rave reviews in late May and early June when he and his wife, Nora, visited New York City for the first time since 1984 to attend performances of his works in Isaac Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall and the Temple of Dendur at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“This panel was a transition from the ‘concert phase’ to the ‘academic phase’ of the Arvo Pärt Project,” said Dr. Bouteneff, co-director of the project with colleague and seminary faculty member Dr. Nicholas Reeves. “Our next endeavors will include publication of my upcoming book Arvo Pärt: Out of Silence (SVS Press 2014) and, hopefully, biennial conferences with performance components.”

Read the New York Times's review of the Carnegie Hall concert

Read the New York Times’s review of the Temple of Dendur concert

Listen to the performance of Kanon Pokajanen on WQXR Radio