There was, yesterday, to mark All Souls Day...

... A live broadcast of a concert in Tallinn of music of Arvo Pärt (La Sindone, of which there is supra a recording), Benjamin Britten, and James MacMillan, performed by the Estonian National Symphony, Vox Clamantis, and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, conducted by Sir James himself. 

I noticed among the morning harvest captured by Google Alerts this one, from Sirp (Translate tells me the noun means 'sickle' in Estonian) which I'd never heard of or nor read; evidently they cover the arts in Estonia. It is an interview with MacMillan, published on the occasion of yesterday's concert. Only a couple of brief excerpts. When there was an obviously more correct colloquial phrasing available, I used it without marking the fact; brackets for my other 'improvements'. 

What do you think is beauty and why do we need it?

There is a theological understanding that God is beauty. This may seem like a statement of the obvious, because the history of our civilization is full of simplification. But if we [make the effort to consider this idea objectively], it [proves to be] an important [one to think about]. There is also an idea in the intellectual, 'metaphorical' [my guess is that the word here means more 'symbolic' but, eh] and philosophical tradition, that beauty is one of the three fundamental features or characteristics of being, transcendental in character or property-- the other two are truth and goodness-- and that they are all interconnected and point in the same direction. And these three qualities are interlinked and open the doors towards holiness and the divine: as a composer, I want to look for them [in] a world that seems to have decided to avoid [them].

As a composer and man, do you feel that there is one central idea in your life that you serve?

Yes, at a certain level, I really feel it. I consider my actions to be a vocation rather than a career. [Viewed in that light], I have been led from the beginning, and I will do it day by day until death. What motivates me-- is this spiritual motivation? The village is. [I think he is referring to the fact that he and his family moved into the countryside some years ago but, eh: Translate finds Estonian rather challenging.] It may also be a religious motivation, but I don't think much about it.

As a composer, I am most disturbed that society does not care much about what we do. Why am I writing this music? Do people need this music at all? [Would there be any consequences] in the world if I stopped writing music or if I hadn't written a composition at all? As an artist, I'm disturbed by these existential issues; I have no answers to them, but my ['feeling of the interior'] still forces me to move on. Music is not written for the moment only. I am encouraged when I see that music written four, five, six centuries ago is still being performed and has a huge impact that these composers could not have guessed at. I like to think that this is still the case, that creation is a gift to history and future generations. Just as music from the past can make people's lives better, we can hope that contemporary music can do something of the same for the future.

When I last visited here four years ago, I learned that people like Tõnu Kaljuste and Arvo Pärt are highly respected in Estonian society at large. It was a striking experience for me, because it is not the case in the United Kingdom, although our composers and musicians may have more opportunities.

Perhaps this is the last generation to recognize the central personalities of culture who have an impact on society. But what happens next?

These are big issues of concern. And what happens when everything breaks down instead, when culture breaks down....