Chants, Pastorals and Antiphons of the New Moon (2012-2013)

Program Notes:

I got the idea for this piece from harpist Dr. Colleen Potter Thorburn. After commissioning the piece she helped spur my creativity by reminding me that the harp and horn are very ancient instruments. I thought of how in the ancient temple in Jerusalem, two of the main instruments were the kinnor (a type of harp) and the hatzotzra (a silver horn).

That led me to Psalm 104 which is typically recited by Jews (and probably sung in the Jerusalem temple) at the beginning of a month (in the lunar calendar, hence the New Moon in the title).

The fact that I was inspired by that music doesn't mean the listener will necessarily hear those traditions in my piece and I don't intend that. The listener will hear, however, the harpist chanting snatches of psalm 104 in the ancient Yemenite pronunciation of the Hebrew text.

The piece is shaped as a very free developing rondo. The core of the piece consists of a chanting main theme and an antiphonal second theme. These themes, plus some new "pastoral" material, are developed between recurrences of the chanting theme.

The two themes appear near the end with the second theme taking on the tonal language of the first theme. The piece is framed by shofar (ram's horn) blasts on the horn. The interval of the fourth (central in Yemnite singing) is important the vertical sonorities of the piece as well as in the long-term tonal arrangement.