Arvo Pärt’s “Silouan’s Song”: “My Soul Yearns After the Lord”

Arvo Pärt’s Silouan’s Song, composed in 1991 for string orchestra, reveals the sacred quality of both sound and silence. Inhabiting a meditative space which taps into cosmic expanses, it unfolds with the mystical bell tones of the Estonian composer’s tintinnabulation style.

Pärt’s inspiration for the piece came from a text by the Russian poet and monk, St. Silouan (1866–1938), who spent much of his life at St Panteleimon on Mount Athos. Each phrase corresponds to a line of text from Silouan’s longing prayer, printed below, and is surrounded by silence. Regarding the importance of silence, 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.

According to his disciple and translator, Sophrony Sakharov, to whom the piece is dedicated, Silouan experienced the world “through a mysterious spiritual prism.”

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.

– Staretz Silouan


  • Pärt: Silouans Song, Paavo Järvi, Estonian National Symphony Orchestra Amazon

Featured Image: the 12th century Church of the Intercession on the Nerl River near Vladimir, Russia, photograph by Legion Media 

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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