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New England Conservatory will bestow honorary Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) degrees on four distinguished musicians and scholars at its 143rd annual Commencement Exercises, Sunday, May 18 at 3 p.m. in NEC’s Jordan Hall.

 

The recipients are choral conductor and educator Simon Carrington, jazz composer/bandleader/activist Carla Bley, musicologist and German lieder scholar Susan Youens, and Estonian-born composer Arvo Pärt.

 

Estonian-born Arvo Pärt is one of the most influential and performed of living composers today.

 

After an early period of composing according to neo-classical and then serialist principles, he has, since the late 1970s, employed a self-invented compositional technique, he calls “tintinnabuli.”

 

This style—which is taken from the Latin word for “bell”—was inspired by his deep study of plain chant, Gregorian chant, and Renaissance polyphony.

 

The music, with its simple textures, arpeggiated tonic triads, slow tempi, frequent setting of sacred texts, and trance-like effect, has often being grouped with the works of the so-called “Holy Minimalist” composers, Henryk Górecki and John Tavener.


Pärt’s music speaks powerfully to professional musicians and general listeners alike. Steve Reich has written: "I love his music, and I love the fact that he is such a brave, talented man ...

 

He's completely out of step with the zeitgeist and yet he's enormously popular, which is so inspiring. His music fulfills a deep human need that has nothing to do with fashion.”


Musicians and ensembles from the Los Angeles Philharmonic to the Hilliard Ensemble to Gidon Kremer to the London Philharmonic, the Philharmonia, and Esa Pekka Salonen have performed his work.

 

Himself a frequent composer for film, his music has frequently been incorporated into movie soundtracks including: There Will be Blood, Map of the Human Heart, Swept Away and The Young Victoria. Nominated for a Grammy Award in 2009 for the recording of his Symphony No. 4 “Los Angeles”, Part’s Adam’s Lament won a Grammy in January 2014 for Best Choral Performance.

 

In 2011, the composer was appointed a member of the Pontifical Council for Culture for a five-year term by Pope Benedict XVI.

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