The original, solo version of MIZMOR was written as a contribution to the global celebration of the 100th anniversary of the vibraphone in 2021. The work took seven months to complete, and is possibly the most ambitious solo work I have written thus far. There are several small nods of appreciation to other composers sprinkled throughout the work, and much of the piece’s overall structure and aesthetic is thanks to the enormous impression left upon me by György Ligeti’s transcendental Musica Ricercata (1951-1953). MIZMOR is a six-movement, 26-minute musical impression of Psalm 19, in the guise of a joyful exploration of the four-octave vibraphone’s unique capabilities. I wanted to write something monumental and all-encompassing, and I feel that particular Psalm (no more than fifteen lines long) contains many of the largest Biblical themes in one place: Creation, righteousness, repentance, and redemption.
At the time I first began composing MIZMOR, I was especially struck by the sonic and musical facets of the story of Creation; how everything was spoken into being (“Let there be light”) through vibrations, and how the most basic, universal rhythm (that of alternating day and night) was established before any other living thing. I think that sound (and, by extension, music) has played a crucial role here on earth, and on the planes above it. After all, despite the well-documented visual artistry of the Biblical Temple’s construction, its worship leaders were dedicated Levitical musicians.
Below is the complete text of Psalm 19 (taken from the JPS translation), grouped into the six divisions corresponding to the six movements of MIZMOR:
For the leader. A psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God, the sky proclaimed His handiwork. Day to day makes utterance, night to night speaks out. There is no utterance, there are no words, whose sound goes unheard. Their voice carries throughout the earth, their words to the end of the world.
He placed in them a tent for the sun, who is like a groom coming forth from the chamber, like a hero, eager to run his course. His rising-place is at one end of heaven, nothing escapes his heat.
The teaching of the LORD is perfect, renewing life; the decrees of the LORD are enduring, making the simple wise; The precepts of the LORD are just, rejoicing the heart; the instruction of the LORD is lucid, making the eyes light up. The fear of the LORD is pure, abiding forever; the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether, more desirable than gold, than much fine gold; sweeter than honey, than drippings of the comb. Your servant pays them heed; in obeying them there is much reward.
Who can be aware of his errors? Clear me of unperceived guilt, and from willful sins keep Your servant; let them not dominate me; then I shall be blameless and clear of grave offense.
May the words of my mouth and the prayer of my heart be acceptable to You, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. In accordance with the tradition of the Psalms, MIZMOR is dedicated to the One who creates and sustains all life, and gives us the means to create music, art, and beauty.