|Numinous The Music of Joseph C. Phillips Jr.|
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This post is the third in a series profiling some of the inspirations and thoughts behind the movements of my composition Changing Samepremiering March 16th, 2013 at the Ecstatic Music Festival in New York City. The other parts of the series included:
I remember hearing and reading the buzz about mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's much-heralded 2003 Nonesuch recording of J.S. Bach's cantata Ich habe genug BWV 82 long before I was actually able to hear it (knowledge of the powerful Peter Sellars staging of the two Bach cantatas featured on the album came later still; and I must say I was not disappointed when my ears finally were able to hear Lieberson's exquisite voice on the recording). I first heard the song "Someday We'll All Be Free" when Aretha Franklin's version was featured in the 1992 film Malcolm X(an aside: if Daniel Day-Lewis was rightly lauded by the Oscars for his impressive channeling of the "Great Emancipator" in Lincoln, then Denzel Washington's equally compelling Malcolm, should have been also justly swaged by the Academy). It wasn't until almost a decade after seeing Spike Lee's film that I found my way to Donny Hathaway's original 1973 version on his last studio album, Extensions of a Man. Both the Lieberson version of Ich habe genug and the Hathaway version of "Someday We'll All Be Free" are the musical inspirations behind my "Miserere."
Traditionally Miserere is a musical setting of the 51st Psalm (Miserere mei, Deus, secundum misericordiam tuam ("O God, have mercy upon me, according to thine heartfelt mercifulness") and has been set by composers such as Gregorio Allegri, Josquin des Pres, Henryk Gorecki, and Arvo Pärt. My “Miserere” however does not seek to reflect any kind of religious faith of salvation in the hereafter; rather it is a lamentation of more terrestrial pleadings. Taking inspiration from the Bach, whose title translates to “I have enough,” the original lyrics of “Miserere” begin with "I have had enough" and continue expressing weary frustration and doubt in the ability to come to terms with one’s many struggles and problems. The lyrics of “Miserere” convey a muted sense of earthly hope in the face of a seemingly increased hopelessness. And perhaps it is that hope in the face of hopelessness and doubt, one will "emerge from all the suffering that still binds [us] to the world."1
Ecstatic Music Festival
with Imani Uzuri
Saturday March 16th, 2013
Merkin Concert Hall
129 W. 67th Street
(between Broadway and Amsterdam Ave)
Check back as I'll post some more crib notes about the movements from Changing Same.
“Da entkomm ich aller Not, Die mich noch auf der Welt gebunden.” J.S. Bach, Ich habe genug, translated by Pamela Dellal,http://www.emmanuelmusic.org/notes_translations/translations_cantata/t_bwv082.htm
POSTED BY NUMINOUS AT 7:56 PM
To all things that create a sense of wonder and beauty that inspires and enlightens.