For cello and tape
The word אֱלֹהִים or ‘Elohim’ is used to refer to God and other non-Christian deities in the Hebrew Bible. The diversity of the usage of this word to describe any “unfathomable being” lead to my own personal interpretation of the term to be in reference to those things that are “larger than life,” or of scope so massive that it renders an object or event incomprehensible when measured against the scale of those things we in Western society encounter on a day-to-day basis. I chose the medium of cello and tape to represent this juxtaposition, as the sounds in the tape is relatively dense and grand, and the sound of the cello is more subdued and small in comparison.
Movement one, titled “What are you, O great mountain?” Zechariah 4:7, is a musical depiction of some undefined mountain range, though the use of Tibetan Singing Bowls in the tape would seem to indicate we are somewhere on the Himalayan Plateau. Flapping flags and gusts of wind act as prelude to a simple polyrhythmic motive first presented in the Mbira, which the cello reproduces after patiently waiting for the tape to “set the scene”. Slow development and eventual returns of all melodic material are intended to evoke a tranquil, almost trance-like atmosphere.
While movement one exists as a meditation on a location with the largest scale on earth, movement two follows a journey that is much, much larger. Humpback whales migrate from the poles (where they feed) to the equator (where they reproduce) and back annually, travelling 5,160 miles or more. This is the longest migration of any mammal, and the third longest migration in the animal kingdom. “There were giants on the earth in those days” Genesis 6:4 begins with lulling waves and the distinctive songs of these animals (provided by the Ocean Mammal Institute) over a warm synth pad, with long, boundless statements and responses in the cello. Harmonics act to mimic the higher squeals of the whales in the midsection, and as the journey concludes, lapping waves are replaced with the sounds of cracking ice to indicate a completion of this journey.
The goal of this piece is not to showcase dexterity and technical virtuosity, but rather be an exercise in the conception of scale. Elohymn is slow moving and is slow to develop. It attempts to be musically equivalent to the “grandiose” nature of the places and events it depicts (while still being short enough to be approachable), and provide a musical experience rooted in patience that players and audiences do not typically find in solo compositions. Special thanks to Ms. Ally Holloway, who provided the vocal samples used in Movement II.