Tov L'Hodot (Psalm 92) (2016)
I composed this setting of Tov L’Hodot for the Guild of Temple Musicians’ 2017 Ben Steinberg Young Composer’s Award, and is intended for an advanced volunteer choral group. I aspired to incorporate as much literal “text-painting” in this setting as possible, in the interest of “illustrating” the poetry of the Psalm and highlighting the subtle mood changes in the text. To
that end, the music incorporates ear-catching rhythmic motives and techniques, including echoing and call-and-response. The setting shifts from declamatory homophonic textures to multiple interweaving parts as the text suggested. Finally, the melodic and harmonic language throughout the piece was strongly influenced by traditional Jewish prayer modes; the primary,
triumphant text passages are largely set in (or near) the “Adonai Malach” mode, while the more emotionally-charged passages often shifts to the Ukrainian-Dorian Hexachord or the “Magen Avot” mode.* I also tried to evoke some of the drama, glory, and pathos I find in the best works of Janowski, Lewandowski, Davidson, Steinberg, and other notable Jewish composers of the
nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries whose music I have had the privilege to sing
over the years.
This setting was requested by Mitch Bassman, director of the Choir of Congregation Adat Reyim in Springfield, VA. I am grateful to him, and to all the members of the Adat Reyim Choir, for their years of support and encouragement.
* I am indebted to Chazzan Charles Davidson for the gift of his textbook, Imunim be-nusach ha-tefilah: A Study Text and Workbook for the Jewish Prayer Modes, which was a valuable resource in composing this piece.