WAR & PEACE
IN THE PSALMS?
February 28, 2012
University of Washington
What is a choir?
Which parts sing in a choir?
What is “tonal music”?
What is a “premiere” in music?
WHAT IS A CHOIR?
Group of singers who strive to create an “orchestra” of voices
Usually led by a conductor
Most choristers in the U.S. are amateurs.
BAC KG RO U N D
Texts from the Hebrew Psalter
For choir, orchestra, boy soprano
By Leonard Berstein (Jewish; Broadway composer)
Composed in 1965 for Chichester Cathedral
WHAT IS “TONAL MUSIC”?
Music that uses the common practice and construct of 18th- and
19th- century melody and harmony.
A single tone or pitch is considered to be “home” and serves as
the “base” for the scales on which the harmony and melody are
Generally returns back “home.” (Bach, Beethoven, Brahms,
SOUNDSCAPE OF 1960’S
Expanding to more colorful explorations of composition
Led to three primary schools in the early 20th century.
• Traditional / Tonal (Stravinsky, Bartòk, Milhaud, Poulenc)
• Serial – dissolution of tonal construct; mathematical construction of
melody and harmony (SchoenbergBoulez, Webern)
• Avant-Garde – use of experimental techniques; re-creating defintions
of music, etc. (Cowell, Varese, Cage)
Fresh thinking appreciate, but not a warm audience response.
Conducted many of these contemporary works with the New
Wrote Symphony No. 3 “Kaddish” in the experimental style
Rejected the avant-garde techniques for Chichester Psalms
Use Broadway material as sources for Chichester Pslams tonal
style (a huge contrast to other concert music of the 1960s)
COMMISSION & WORLD
Commission: contractual agreement between an organization and a
composer for a work intended for performance by the organization;
implies the rights for that organization to premiere the work.
World premiere: the first performance of a composition.
Chichester Cathedral did NOT get to premiere the work.
WAR & PEACE?
Movement 1 – celebration & dancing
Movement 2 – calmness & then war; calmness during war
Movement 3 – struggle to find peace; peace found in the “love duet”;
“How good and pleasant it is for people
to dwell together in unity.”