Thursday, November 7, 2013


  (This poem was conceived in the darkness of a concert hall, while I sat in astounded silence. The piece that the string quartet was playing arrested me, and called to mind images from Dante's Paradisio and the Hubble Space Station: the universe in motion. I will be unable forever to separate this poem from Golijov's Tenebrae for String Quartet and Dante's celestial rose. Before you read, take some time to read Golijov's description of the Tenebrae and listen to the piece. 

"I wrote Tenebrae as a consequence of witnessing two contrasting realities in a short period of time in September 2000. I was in Israel at the start of the new wave of violence that is still continuing today, and a week later I took my son to the new planetarium in New York, where we could see the Earth as a beautiful blue dot in space. I wanted to write a piece that could be listened to from different perspectives. That is, if one chooses to listen to it "from afar", the music would probably offer a "beautiful" surface but, from a metaphorically closer distance, one could hear that, beneath that surface, the music is full of pain. I lifted some of the haunting melismas from Couperin's Troisieme Leçon de Tenebrae, using them as sources for loops, and wrote new interludes between them, always within a pulsating, vibrating, aerial texture. The compositional challenge was to write music that would sound as an orbiting spaceship that never touches ground. After finishing the composition, I realized that Tenebrae could be heard as the slow, quiet reading of an illuminated medieval manuscript in which the appearances of the voice singing the letters of the Hebrew Alphabet (from Yod to Nun, as in Couperin) signal the beginning of new chapters, leading to the ending section, built around a single, repeated word: Jerusalem."


(inspired by Oswaldo Golijov's Tenebrae for String Quartet)

   Soft darkness
       submerged, floating in sound
  I  watched   heaven tear
       And  I  saw  stars  spinning
  wheeling  in  the  expanse
       with  brilliant  color  and  light
  magnificence  of  stretching  infinity,
                     Spheres of rose and gold
     blue  and  green,    flared  to  life
        and  died  in  bursts  of 
                   blinding   intensity. 
Beneath this distant cosmos we
    eat  and  drink,
        study  and  laugh  and  play
 while  it  wheels  on  in 
      grand,   extravagent  silence
          watching all the while
                   one thing: 

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