Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis open access



First Advisor

Carl Leafstedt

Second Advisor

Kimberlyn Montford


Grounded in the study of Gregorian chant and early polyphony, Arvo Pärt’s tintinnabuli style has many commonalities with ideas presented nearly seventy-five years before its creation in Pope Pius X’s 1903 Motu Proprio. This church document calls for composers of sacred music to return their focus to three primary qualities in music: holiness, beauty, and universality. While it is almost certain that Pärt was not directly influenced by the Motu Proprio, striking parallels exist between Pärt and Pius X. Confronted by questions of the integrity and purpose of music, both men sought to move away from musical trends of their times, looking to past for inspiration. In many ways, their aesthetic and spiritual ideals concerning music align closely. Pärt, however, extends the idea of universality further than Pope Pius X by writing for secular audiences and not for liturgical use. To Pärt’s global audience, tintinnabuli “resonates with an essential and universal spirit,” in the words of one scholar, providing listeners an introspective, prayer-like experience regardless of their religious affiliation or individual beliefs. The Motu Proprio provides a new lens through which to examine the appeal and purpose of Arvo Pärt’s music.