Expand
  • Find us on Facebook
  • Follow us on Twitter
  • Follow us on Instagram
  • View Our YouTube Channel
  • Listen on Spotify
  • View our scores on nkoda
Music Text

Biblical

Scoring

2S,2T; 2vib-pft-strings(4.0.2.2.0)

Abbreviations (PDF)

Publisher

Boosey & Hawkes (Hendon Music)

Territory
This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.

World Premiere
10/16/2021
Concertgebouw (1.30pm), Amsterdam
Colin Currie Group / Synergy Vocals
Composer's Notes

Traveler’s Prayer was composed starting before and ending during the pandemic of 2020. The virus shifted the gravity of the words I was setting which were three short excerpts from Genesis, Exodus and Psalms. These excerpts are usually added to the full Traveler’s Prayer found in Hebrew prayer books. The first and last appeared earlier at the end of my WTC 9/11.

In translation they are:

Behold, I send a messenger before you to protect you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. (Exodus 23:20)

To Your lifeline I cling, Eternal, I cling Eternal, to Your lifeline, Eternal, to Your lifeline I cling. (Genesis 49:18)

The Eternal will guard your departure and your arrival from now till the end of time (Psalm 121)

While these verses can certainly apply to travels by air, car, or boat, they can also be applied to travel from this world to the next.

The first melody is from Biblical Hebrew chant in America and parts of Europe while the second is a more ornate style from Italy. I want to thank Cantor Philip Sherman for showing me how these two melodies, derived from the Biblical accents in the text, actually sound. The third melody I composed since, outside of Yemen, there is no existing tradition for chanting Psalms.

As to structure, there are extremely free canons throughout. The rhythm of the two voices is never the same and the second voice is often a retrograde, inversion or retrograde inversion of the first. Though I’ve known about these procedures since I was a student, this is the first time I’ve consciously applied them. It was a way, within an overall tonal constancy, to get subtly varying intervalic harmony. As the singer Micaela Haslam, observed, “The music sort of hovers and you lose yourself in the long vocal and string lines, until the very low piano quietly spells out where we are.”

Traveler’s Prayer is scored for 2 tenors, 2 sopranos, 2 vibraphones, 1 piano, 4 violins, 2 violas and 2 cellos. It is approximately 16 minutes long and was co-commissioned by Zaterdagmatinee Amsterdam, South Bank Centre London, Philharmonie de Paris, Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, Tokyo Opera City Foundation, Cal Performances and Carnegie Hall.

-Steve Reich
June 2021

Press Quotes

“Singular beauty, tinged with melancholy” —The Quietus

“slowly winding melodies that seemed drawn from a kind of mournful ecstasy." —Evening Standard

"The new work, far from pushing forward in familiar, Reich-style pulsation, had asense of being suspended in midair, an ancient meditation spun out of loopingvoices, sustained string chords and the low toll of the piano … Traveler’s Prayer has a quality of serenity." —The Observer

“Luminously reflective and clad in textures of utmost beauty, there are spellbinding musical processes at play throughout the sixteen-minute score, many unprecedented in Reich’s mature output.” —Adventures in Music

“This is as untypical as anything I have ever heard by [Reich] ...The effect was haunting—maybe
not as immediately alluring as, say, Runner, but ultimately more nourishing.” —Arts Desk




Stay updated on the latest composer news and publications