Psalm 119: Aleph

For the last three years, I have been quietly chipping away at a composition of behemoth proportions. It is now time to release it. And I mean “release” in two senses of the word: Over the next few days, I will release the recordings of the first three movements; I will also release the project in the sense that I need to let it go so I can turn my attention to other music that is waiting to be written.

Here is how I described the project in its early stages:

Psalm 119—often called “The Great Psalm”—is the longest Psalm, an acrostic poem on God’s law, with one eight-line verse for each of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. 

For setting Psalm 119 to music, I’ve decided on a different path than I’ve used with previous Psalm settings. This will not be congregational or choral; instead, it will be a recorded meditation weaving words and music together in a mesmerizing, ever-transforming musical mosaic. Each of the 22 sections will be a 5–10-minute musical movement that will be both independent and interlocking with the movements around it. 

What will the music sound like? Imagine Mike Oldfield, J.S. Bach, and Steve Reich collaborating while on retreat at a monastery, composing music to be performed by the Penguin Café Orchestra, Pinback, and Polyphonic Spree and sung by Taizé, the Bulgarian Women’s Choir, and Keur Moussa. Like that. 

I am writing my own translation of Psalm 119 that attempts to honor the original text while remaining accessible to modern ears. My version is unmetered and unrhymed, but with a latent inner rhythm. 

Here is the first movement, Aleph. Most of the tracks were recorded by me in my home studio; additional tracks were recorded at Local Legend Recording with the help of these musicians:

  • Clara Becksvoort (9 years old)
  • Men’s Trio: Chris Snyder, Paul Ryan, Jordan Clegg
  • Theo Janga Ndawillie, drums
  • Josh Kaufman, guitar and mixing

א Aleph

Blessed are those whose way is pure,
who walk in the Word of the LORD.
Blessed are those who keep God’s will
and seek the LORD with all their heart—
who do no wrong,
for they follow God’s way.

You have established your Word
to be followed wholeheartedly.

Oh, that my path would be built on your Word;
then will the whole of your law bring no shame.

I will praise you with a pure heart,
for I learn from your righteousness.
I will walk in the Word of the LORD.
O God, do not leave me alone.

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One Response to Psalm 119: Aleph

  1. Pingback: Psalm 119: Beth | The Musical Diary of Greg Scheer

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