A Setting of the Torah for Harp and Orchestra

For: Orchestra + solo Harp
page one of Wisdom

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Year of composition
Difficult (Grades 7+)
24 minutes
Modern classical music
License details
For anything not permitted by the above licence then you should contact the publisher first to obtain permission.

Wisdom is a work with many points of inspiration associated with it:

  • My Jewish faith, in particular, the uplifting and mystical power of Jewish liturgical music.
  • The melody performed by the harp is a harmonized transcription of the Ashkenazic cantillation as sung on Shabbat, an ancient melody. The text above the harp part identifies which part of the Torah passage is being set: Terumah in the Book of Exodus, depicting the design of the key sacred artefacts of ancient Judaism with the orchestra evoking the grandeur of each item: The Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, the Menorah, and the design of the tent for the Holy of Holies.
  • Mathematically, the duration of each verse for the harp was determined using proportions derived from gematria–a Kaballic numerological technique in which the letters of the Hebrew alphabet are assigned numerical values which can be manipulated. The orchestral proportions throughout were determined using the proportions found within the Torah portion: 3:2:3, 10:1, etc. A lot of spreadsheets and pre-composition drafting occurred.
  • I envisioned the solo harpist as representing a high priest of sorts, reciting the Torah portion, with the orchestra expressing the emotional content within the text. A third ensemble, what I call the Shekinah strings, represents the metaphysical. The Shekinah literally means the "place where God dwells", and some consider to be the nurturing, feminine aspect of the holy spirit. This ensemble plays a series of harmonies that serve to accompany the harpist in a manner evoking a warm enveloping; inspired directly from Charles Ives's The Unanswered Question.
  • From the text, what drew me hermeneutically was how we all should seek a spiritual sanctuary for when the trials of life become a nadir, a place in our hearts to commune with our inner hidden human strength, the root of all true wisdom, especially when it is mostly hidden from our mind's eye.

I wrote this composition for a major competition, the first I've entered in years, and the first since marrying the love of my life. The year 2017, my twenty-ninth year, was one replete with intense lessons on the ephemeralness of success and happiness. Just as God's sanctuary was drafted in the wilderness, so too did I write Wisdom.

Yet, I am happy for the many things. A note on the demo recording

This work has yet to be performed by a real, living-breathing orchestra. I made use of my favoured demo-making program, NotePerformer. As such, take the demo with a grain of salt; it gets most of the notes right and the timbres are pretty good, but of course nowhere near the richness and humanity capable in a real orchestra.

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