Sunday, October 2, 2016

Other Possible Biblical Music

So naturally, now that I’ve successfully released the first three Psalms of the 150, I’m thinking about projects that could distract me from doing the Psalm project properly. Here are other Biblical Settings that could be worth doing, if not by me, than another, better organized composer.

Here are some ideas, culled from Harold Bloom’s literary appreciation of the Bible, “The Shadow of a Great Rock.”

5 Songs:
War Song of Deborah
Miriam’s Song of Triumph (could be part of #7 in Cantatas)
The Song of the Sea (after the Red Sea closes up again, could be part of # 7 in Cantatas)
Song of the Elderly Moses (Deuteronomy: Chapter 32; 1-15)
David’s Lament for Jonathan (2 Samuel: Chapter 1; 17-27)

4 Tone Poems:

  1. The Tower of Babel
  2. Abraham’s Nightmare of the Furnace (Genesis 15)
  3. The Destruction of Sodom
  4. The Last Days of Moses (musical interpretation of speculations)


  1. Patriarchal Opera: 3 Acts separated into many scenes, perhaps like Messiaen’s St. Francois - Abraham, Jacob, Joseph
  2. The Exodus from Egypt: It cries out for an opera, or series of operas, but it could take 20 years to do the whole thing.
  3. Jonah and Yahweh, a comic chamber opera.
  4. Job: A Parable of Suffering (also, see Cantata 20)
  5. Proverbs: An Opera/Oratorio - A Parable of Lust
  6. Song of Songs: An Opera Ballet


  1. “The Helpmeet”:
2 Parts:
Part 1 - The “Other” Creation: From Genesis Chapter 2 (No Creation, that’s all Haydn’s) in which God creates the land of the Near East that is parched and dry and unfruitful, then creates the animals of the ground, then creates Eden as an oasis.
Part 2: The Expulsion from Eden
4 Characters: Yahweh, Adam, Eve, Snake

2. “The Curse of Ham”: Ham Sodomizes his father while Noah is drunk, is then cursed by Noah. Who knows why?

3. “The Burial of Abraham” - Isaac and Ishmael bury Abraham together, meditate on sibling rivalry and religious hatred.

4. “Esau and Jacob” Tells the story of the sybling rivalry between Esau and Jacob.

5. “The Burning Bush”  With a huge climactic moment when God says “I AM THAT I AM” and an epilogue when God decides to kill Moses afterward and Tzipporah saves Moses’s life by circumcising their son.

6. The First Passover

7. The Crossing of the Red Sea

8. Balaam the Seer (Numbers: Chapters 22-24)

9. The Book of Ruth

10. The Wrath of Saul

11. Nathan’s Parable

12. The Story of Elijah (with all due deference to Mendelssohn’s unsurpassable Oratorio)

13. The Book/Poetry  of Isaiah (that needs to be an all-out one to three hour Oratorio with a capital O, though you’d be competing directly with Part 1 of Handel’s Messiah. Then again, so is Psalm 2, which I just set, and I don’t think I embarrassed myself completely..)

14. The Agony of Jeremiah (needs to be much shorter, because how much suffering can you put into the music without being unbearable if you’re not Mahler/Tchaikovsky?)

15. The Psychotic Visions of Ezekiel - self-explanatory

16. The Heroes of Exile - from the first six chapters of the Book of Daniel. Full Oratorio

17. The Stories of Daniel - A Sequel Oratorio

18. Yahweh’s Regret: As documented by Hosea

19. Amos and Micah: The Prophets of Social Justice

20. Behemoth and Leviathan: The Last Four Chapters of Job

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