Yes, there is another (and in my opinion, much better) SYMPHONY OF PSALMS by Igor Stravinsky. And yes, I stole the idea and title from him, but that is where any comparison between his and my work ends. Iwrite music with the intention of it being listened to by solitary listeners with earphones on and lights out,rather than as being performed live in a hall with an audience (I think it would bore the audience to death, infact). I like many forms and styles of music, but am most drawn to dark, repetitive works, and so it turnsout the music that I write tends to be dark and repetitive. Another aspect of my compositions is thetendency to end quietly, almost fading away. I am not sure why I do that - maybe it has something to dowith the expanding universe ending in cold inertness (or is it too haughty of me to think I am that attuned tothe universe?).
A note about psalm numbering: I have used the old Greek numbering system (known as the "Septuagint" because of the approximately 70 scholars who produced the translation in Alexandria). The reason for this isbecause it is the numbering system prescribed by Benedict in his Rule for Monasteries. Many Benedictine monasteries still use this old numbering system as a grateful nod to the past. Most English language Biblesnow use a newer numbering system, and many psalm numbers (starting with Psalm 10) will have adifference of a value of one compared to the Greek system. The meanings of the Psalms are not differentdepending upon the numbering system used.
Another note: I chose to use the Psalms in Latin translation because the translations are in the publicdomain, and so no permission from translators was needed. Also, Latin is easier for me to set to music thanis English (it is difficult to set English words to music and not wind up sounding like a pop song). I havenothing against pop songs, but that is not my intention with this symphony.
I. (Psalm 1 in both numbering systems) This movement tries to match the choice given in the psalm: onecan live in the universe joyfully honoring one's place while recognizing that the center is God (the first partof the movement and psalm), or one can futilely try to build one's own universe with oneself at the center,and wind up in catastrophe as the whole false structure falls down upon oneself (the second part of themovement and psalm). The first part of this movement is one of my few attempts at writing in a major key,and I think I did it well. The beginning "misty" chord clusters finally coalesce into the repetition of beatus'(blessed), using the same pitches of bflat, c, and eflat, leading to the hymn tune' of c, d, eflat, c and bflatwhole notes. The second part is back to my familiar repetitive noodling in a minor key. The chorus spits outthe scolding, warning words of the psalm in a gossipy buzz.
II. (Psalm 14 in the Greek system, Psalm 15 in most English language Bibles) A psalm asking the question:"Who can dwell with God?" The answer: "A person who lives with integrity and treats others with respect."I try to be low-key and pensive in this movement, and it surprises me how beautifully it turned out. I amalways surprised when I do anything with such grace and light.
III. (Psalm 141 in the Greek system, Psalm 142 in most English language Bibles) Crying out to God in ourstressful lives. Does God hear us? Is there a God to hear? The orchestra cries out, as well as the chorus.
IV. (Psalm 96 in the Greek system, Psalm 97 in most English language Bibles) A celebration of theimminence and transcendence of God. God is everywhere to be seen, and at the same time is completelyhidden from view. In fact, since God can not be fully comprehended or explained in speech or music, Idon't even use the entire Psalm - fading away at the end, celebrating the mystery of God covered in cloudsand darkness, as this Psalm says. It's all about God; it's not about us. Our job is to spiral around God as thecenter of all, enjoying the ride while it lasts and living in communion with God, our neighbors, andourselves.
Overall, I am quite pleased with the way the whole thing turned out. I am also immensely appreciative of John Webber for typesetting it and making it available for others online. He patiently puts in a lot of workon my music.
Br. Abraham Newsom St. Gregory's AbbeyPsalmus 1 page 7
Beatus vir, qui non abiit in consilio impiorum, et in via peccatorum non stetit, et in cathedra pestilentiae non sedit: Sed in lege Domini voluntas eius, et in lege eius meditabitur die ac nocte. Et erit tamquam lignum, quod plantatum est secus decursus aquarum, quod fructum suum dabit in tempore suo: Et folium eius non defluet: et omnia quaecumque faciet, prosperabuntur. Non sic impii, non sic: sed tamquam pulvis, quem proiicit ventus a facie terrae. Ideo non resurgent impii in iudicio: neque peccatores in concilio iustorum. Quoniam novit Dominus viam iustorum: et iter impiorum peribit.
Psalmus 14 page 63
Domine quis habitabit in tabernaculo tuo? aut quis requiescet in monte sancto tuo? Qui ingreditur sine macula, et operatur iustitiam: Qui loquitur veritatem in corde suo, qui non egit dolum in lingua sua: Nec fecit proximo suo malum, et opprobrium non accepit adversus proximos suos. Ad nihilum deductus est in conspectu eius malignus: timentes autem Dominum glorificat: Qui iurat proximo suo, et non decipit, qui pecuniam suam non dedit ad usuram, et munera super innocentem non accepit: Qui facit haec, non movebitur in aeternum.
Psalmus 141 page 82
Voce mea ad Dominum clamavi: voce mea ad Dominum deprecatus sum: Effundo in conspectu eius orationem meam, et tribulationem meam ante ipsum pronuncio. In deficiendo ex me spiritum meum, et tu cognovisti semitas meas. In via hac, qua ambulabam, absconderunt laqueum mihi. Considerabam ad dexteram, et videbam: et non erat qui cognosceret me. Periit fuga a me, et non est qui requirat animam meam. Clamavi ad te Domine, dixi: Tu es spes mea, portio mea in terra viventium. Intende ad deprecationem meam: quia humiliatus sum nimis. Libera me a persequentibus me: quia confortati sunt super me. Educ de custodia animam meam ad confitendum nomini tuo: me expectant iusti, donec retribuas mihi.
Psalmus 96 page 100
Dominus regnavit, exultet terra: laetentur insulae multae. Nubes, et caligo in circuitu eius: iustitia, et iudicium correctio sedis eius. Ignis ante ipsum praecedet, et inflammabit in circuitu inimicos eius. Illuxerunt fulgura eius orbi terre: vidit, et commota est terra. Montes, sicut cera fluxerunt a facie Domini: a facie Domini omnis terra. Annunciaverunt caeli iustitiam eius: et viderunt omnes populi gloriam eius. Confundantur omnes, qui adorant sculptilia: et qui gloriantur in simulacris suis.
Abraham Newsom A Symphony of Psalms
|300004||Missa Brevis||for chorus and orchestra|
|300008||Rumi||for chorus and orchestra|
|300011||Symphony of psalms (A)||for chorus and orchestra|
|300014||Kiss (The)||for baritone, string quartet|
|300015||Tuesday Afternoon||chorus , octet|
|300017||Symphony in C minor||for orchestra|
|300020||Symphony in G minor||for orchestra|
|300023||Visible Dream||for baritone voice and piano|
|300024||Week in Review (The)||for baritone voice and piano|
|300025||Hours (The)||for tenor baritone and bass voices|