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Silouan's Song 'My soul yearns after the Lord'


In 1968 Arvo Pärt withdrew from public composition for the better part of a decade. With his appropriately hermit-like appearance, this humble Estonian took refuge in the early repertoires of medieval and Renaissance music and, more fundamentally, in silence. It was by losing himself in silence that Pärt uncovered his new musical language. As he himself noted, his composing became a sacred act of borrowing from the hallowed space of soundlessness: ‘I had to draw this music out of silence and emptiness.’ Experiencing the contemplative space of silence is the alpha and omega of relearning the art of active listening, and this is the hallowed hall that Silouan’s Song invites us to enter. The work is a musical transcription of a text drawn from the writings of Staretz Silouan (1866-1938), a Russian monk from the monastery of St Panteleimon on Mount Athos. It was said that Silouan existed in an unceasing state of prayer. According to his disciple, the monk Sakharov, he saw and experienced the world ‘through a mysterious spiritual prism’. The prayer that Silouan composed reads as follows:

My soul yearns after the Lord, and tearfully seeketh Him.
How canst I not seek Thee?
Thou first sought me and let me partake of Thy Holy Spirit,
and [let] my soul love Thee.
Thou seest, Lord, my sorrow and [my] tears …
If Thou hadst not drawn me [to Thee] by Thy love,
then I wouldst not have sought Thee so, as I am seeking,
but Thy Spirit let me know Thee,
and my soul rejoices, because Thou [art] my God and [my] Lord,
and unto tears do I yearn for Thee.

Each line of text and its corresponding musical utterance is punctuated by a bar or more of silence. It is from this silent space that a reverent sense of expectant listening is born. As Pärt said:

My music was always written after I had long been silent in the most literal sense of the word. When I speak of silence, I mean the ‘nothingness’ out of which God created the world. That is why, ideally, musical silence is sacred. Silence is not simply given to us, but in order that we may draw sustenance from it. This sustenance is no less valuable to me than the air I breathe. There’s an expression: to live on air and love. I’d like to rephrase this: if you approach silence with love, music may result. A composer often has to wait a long time for this music. It is this reverent sense of expectation that constitutes the brief silence of which I am so fond.

from notes by Hugo Ticciati © 2018


White Light - the space between
Studio Master: SIGCD532Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available

Track-specific metadata for SIGCD532 disc 1 track 1

Recording date
20 August 2017
Recording venue
Petruskyrkan, Stocksund, Stockholm, Sweden
Recording producer
Thore Brinkmann
Recording engineer
Thore Brinkmann
Hyperion usage
  1. Hyperion sampler - May 2018 (HYP201805)
    Disc 1 Track 9
    Release date: May 2018
    Download-only sampler
  2. White Light - the space between (SIGCD532)
    Disc 1 Track 1
    Release date: April 2018
    Download only
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