The Soundtrack of Loss

Spiegel im Spiegel. Artist: Ayuna Collins

Spiegel im Spiegel, which I discovered this year while rummaging through a stranger’s Spotify playlist, has changed everything I thought I knew about the power of music.

Spiegel im Spiegel is a 10-minute violin and piano composition created in 1978 by reclusive Estonian musician Arvo Pärt, who is famous for his minimalist style of music. “Spiegel im Spiegel” in German means “mirror in the mirror” or “mirrors in the mirror”, referring to an infinity mirror.

Despite its serene beginning notes, this is not a lullaby. To me, there is nothing peaceful about this piece, no matter where and how much I play it. It may be the complete opposite of the chaos and noise that marks a lot of contemporary music, but its soft, meditative notes are anything but serene. They are packed with emotion and intense movement —except that they seep through, rather than jar the senses.

Perhaps the best analogy of what it evokes is a progression of grief after the loss of a loved one. Like going through the stages of grief — which are never linear, never in the order they are supposed to be. They just are. But the notes in Spiegel im Spiegel also carry the searing beauty of pain from loss that is constant and infinite. The song lets you become a quiet observer to this pain, watching its ebbs and flows like waves as time applies balm to memory, yet always reverberating in a corner of the heart. It is profoundly uncomfortable, and profoundly beautiful at the same time, like all the best works of art. 

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