The way to love someone
is to lightly run your finger over that person's soul
until you find a crack,
and then gently pour your love into that crack.
~Keith Miller

Monday, November 14, 2011

Psalm 90 ... We spend our days as a tale that is told ...

(btw ... Tap Post title to link to The Hastings College Choir singing Ives: Psalm 90)

photo from here ~ Dee Brestin Ministries

Psalm 90
King James translation:

 1Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.

 2Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.

 3Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.

 4For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.

 5Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up.

 6In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.

 7For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled.

 8Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.

 9For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told.

 10The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

 11Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath.

 12So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

 13Return, O LORD, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants.

 14O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

 15Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil.

 16Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children.

 17And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.

... The Message translation:

A Prayer of Moses, Man of God

 1-2 God, it seems you've been our home forever; long before the mountains were born,
   Long before you brought earth itself to birth,
      from "once upon a time" to "kingdom come"—you are God.

 3-11 So don't return us to mud, saying,
      "Back to where you came from!"
   Patience! You've got all the time in the world—whether
      a thousand years or a day, it's all the same to you.
   Are we no more to you than a wispy dream,
      no more than a blade of grass
   That springs up gloriously with the rising sun
      and is cut down without a second thought?
   Your anger is far and away too much for us;
      we're at the end of our rope.
   You keep track of all our sins; every misdeed
      since we were children is entered in your books.
   All we can remember is that frown on your face.
      Is that all we're ever going to get?
   We live for seventy years or so
      (with luck we might make it to eighty),
   And what do we have to show for it? Trouble.
      Toil and trouble and a marker in the graveyard.
   Who can make sense of such rage,
      such anger against the very ones who fear you?

 12-17 Oh! Teach us to live well!
      Teach us to live wisely and well!
   Come back, God—how long do we have to wait?—
      and treat your servants with kindness for a change.
   Surprise us with love at daybreak;
      then we'll skip and dance all the day long.
   Make up for the bad times with some good times;
      we've seen enough evil to last a lifetime.
   Let your servants see what you're best at—
      the ways you rule and bless your children.
   And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us,
      confirming the work that we do.
      Oh, yes. Affirm the work that we do!

Every time I read or hear these words, I remember (and hear with my soul's ears) the Charles Ives piece constructed around these words. It was a difficult piece to sing ... the discordance etched the sanctuary of the soul and chiseled these words in the granite columns most near the communion table. I am so thankful for the music I grew up being exposed to and singing. the artist, James Turrell, works to express an experience with the light one may see with eyes shut asleep ... like dream light ... . Music can be the same thing ... sounds heard in vast silence.
The speaker during the church service yesterday asked everyone to stand while the Word was being read. I like that ... it seems right. Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place ... and I could hear the hard edge of voices stacked too close to each other on the octaves ... the tension created among friends who spent hours together everyday first learning to hold the separate notes and eventually offering those notes back in concert. ... I understand "flow" because I sing ... I understand with my skin and with my heart how it feels to "flow" with a group because of musical offerings. Aesthetics ... an expressing of beauty, and I think it is the expression of a soul ... it is the work which might be offered as a seed planted in the garden ... tended by time. It has significance. This Ives piece was completed in 1924 ... I wonder how it was received ... it was jarring for me when I first heard it in 1977 ... and I was as accustomed to shrieking electric guitars as I was to the thinness of a harpsichord. Anyway ... yesterday ... the words were read and the golden shimmering swirls that my imagination spins ... the light my soul knows ... "swirled" me and I could hear (internally) the music ... and the words ... and the breathe and dismay of the singers around me ... and eventually the resolution of this plea ... God, be near with your mercies ... as this tale is told.

A perfect example of 20th Century music, Ives Psalm 90 is a joy to listen to. Charles Ives was quoted saying to his wife that Psalm 90 was "the only one of his works that satisfied him." Ives completed Psalm 90 in 1924.
When composing Psalm 90, Ives used a variety of musical techniques to express the biblical text. From homophony to polyphony, unison to 22 part voicing (within two and a half octaves), and instrumentation including organ, bells, and choir, Ives Psalm 90 is a remarkable work of art. Throughout the entire piece, a low octave C is continuously played, perhaps, to symbolize God's continual presence. The body of the piece is made of dissonant harmonies during lines like "for we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled" and "for all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told." However the remaining four minutes revel in C Major with distant bells ringing in the background. Resolve has never sounded so good.
a review written by Aaron Green
Bold print added by me. C is continuously present ... all the other notes are rooted in that consistency ... The piece is so hard to sing and also at times to hear/listen to because it's just not right ... It's not a foreign tonality that might make sense if I understood the scale, this is an abstract musical palette which weaves a bleakness and the soul of those hearing knowit to be a predictament ... chaos is anchored by the ever present C. Some philosophical or theological idea I've read said, or maybe it was the string theory guy's lecture ... sorry, idk, but ... In the beginning God created order from chaos. And I firmly believe there was time way before this in the beginning expressed by the Genisis account. C major ... no sharps, no flats ... The foundation on which classical musical expression is built.

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