Art, Sacred Scripture, And The Psalms

Sacred scripture is an enormously rich source of inspiration for artists and has been for thousands of years. For Jews and Christians, it is our heritage and our story, a story which is continuing in the present and into the future. Some of the most famous artists, for example Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, have given us images which help us when we meditate on the stories from the Bible. Composers have also done this for us. One fine example is “The Creation” oratorio by Haydn which vividly tells the Genesis story. There are thousands of examples of fine art which have been inspired by sacred scripture and the deeply held faith and spirituality of their creators and patrons (you can visit this website for many images of Biblical art: http://www.artbible.info/art/).

I was recently thinking about all of this and noticing that there is a real need today for art which helps us contemplate the spiritual life. Artists with faith should be bold enough to create sincere works of art which express the beauty of faith. However, it’s a huge challenge. After all, today’s mainstream culture does not often encourage such outward expressions of devotion. It’s also a challenge to express the experience and the deep message found in sacred scripture and do it justice. But for the true artist, the expression of sincerity is like oxygen to the lungs. And for those who are up for the challenge will come true joy, because interacting with beauty, truth and goodness always brings that.

So I decided to write a piece based on one of the Psalms. At first I thought it would be easy because the Psalms were originally sung to music. And actually I was right in a way. It was very easy to come up with the melody. The melody in this piece was “composed” by me singing though, improvising on the Psalm one time! The challenge was not that writing this piece was too difficult, it was that it was too easy! It was hard to keep up with the tremendous power that is held in these writings! I feel like I’ve stumbled upon a vast quarry of creative material just waiting to be let loose. Many artists have made this discovery over the years, and I was making it for the first time.

So needless to say, composing this piece was very fun, like a great adventure. It’s based on Psalm 117, the shortest in the Psalter, only two verses. I’m not a singer usually, so it took a few days of practice before I could record the vocal line. I’d like to do more of these in the future.

Quote for Today

“On the threshold of the Third millennium, my hope for all you who are artists is that you will have an especially intense experience of creative inspiration. May the beauty which you pass on to generations still to come be such that it will stir them to wonder! With the sacredness of life and of the human person, and before the marvels of the universe, wonder is the only appropriate attitude.”

~~”Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Artists”, 1999

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/letters/documents/hf_jp-ii_let_23041999_artists_en.html

Visual and Musical Arts: Rothko Chapel

Art is exciting. There is always something to discover. Artists always continue to contemplate life and communicate through new works. Recently someone told me about this music inspired by the visual art at the Rothko Chapel. A harmonization of expression through sound and space, this piece, written after the composer Morton Feldman’s visit to the chapel, draws us in to the present moment of contemplation. The mission statement of the chapel itself is, “[...] to inspire people to action through art and contemplation, to nurture reverence for the highest aspirations of humanity, and to provide a forum for global concerns.” http://www.rothkochapel.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3&Itemid=31

You can read more about this music at http://www.rothkochapel.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=78:music-for-rothko&catid=1:public-programs&Itemid=43

“Symphonic Picture No. 1: New Frontier”

“Symphonic Picture No. 1: New Frontier” was written earlier this year for the La Verne Chamber Orchestra and is my first piece for a symphonic ensemble. The inspiration for this piece was definitely landscapes, the outdoors, and a sense of adventure. The composers Antonín Dvořák and Aaron Copland are my two favorites for writing music like this. If your ensemble is interested in performing this work, please feel free to contact me.

Itzhak Perlman Plays Beethoven’s Violin Concerto

Video

Beauty does exist in this world.

Itzhak Perlman is known to be one of the greatest violinists in the world, and as you will see from this video for good reason. He is also a fabulous teacher! It is wonderful to see such a great artist teaching with such kindness and clarity.

You can learn more about him at his website:

http://www.itzhakperlman.com/

New Music for Violin and Piano

This piece has been several weeks in coming and I am happy to announce this video of my music for violin and piano, “The Apple Blossom and the Riverbank”. It’s inspired by the beautiful sounds of traditional Chinese music and East Asian art. I wanted to write a piece that evoked the same kind of balance and grace and that was also playable by intermediate musicians. The recording here was done with a live violin and a midi piano, so some of the expressive qualities could definitely be expanded upon with live collaboration, especially in the beginning and ending passages. I have included the PDF’s because I would be honored if people would play and perform this work for personal projects and concerts. All I ask for at this point is attribution.

The Apple Blossom And The Riverbank

The Apple Blossom and the Riverbank – Violin