Posts Tagged: Psalm 46

New year, new piece, raising money, sexy v. non-sexy projects

First off, if anybody would do even an iota of research on this Mayan calendar thing, they would quickly realize that there’s no apocryphal prophecy associated with it.  And where better to go for an iota of research than Wikipedia?  December 21, 2012 is basically just like a new Mayan millennium.  Granted, it would be way more fun if it were an apocalypse, but it’s not, so let’s all just move on, shall we?

Remember a couple months ago when I came begging for money?  Well, I got it!  And then I made a recording of my new piece, which is actually like 10 months old, but so it goes.  Anyway, here it is:

And here’s more about the piece itself, my cantata setting of Psalm 46.

Me in action mode, with xmas wreath.  Photo credit Sam Greene.

The whole Kickstarter thing was a big success, and the Kickstarter site is packed with really helpful info about how to make your project work.  There are also other sites with helpful hints.  But here’s what I would say to composers looking to do a project like mine: classical music isn’t a sexy sell for a project.


Unlike with other types of projects, random people on the internet are probably not going to contribute to you.  I think I got like three or four, maybe, and I’m still not convinced those weren’t my mother.  Crazy inventions, indie films, and pop records are all much more likely to attract the attention of the people who browse Kickstarter looking to get in on the ground floor of the Next Big Thing.

People singing music I wrote because other people donated money online.  Again, photo by Sam Greene.

For example, my friend Will just ran a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign for his movie “Mulligan” — he raised well over $10,000 in less than a week, and a lot of that came from people that he didn’t know.  Ironically, one of the major rewards categories was the score that I wrote for the movie and those randos were eating it up!  This isn’t sour grapes — quite to the contrary, I’m very happy with the money I raised and I’m really glad that his project succeeded too.  The point is that he had lots of people clicking on his link because they’re into indie film, because indie film is like, a thing that people are into.  I’m not sure most people who are into church music actually own mouse-compatible computers.  (I kid!)  [But, you know, kernel of truth.]

So Kickstarter is a tool — a great way to present and communicate your project and a slick interface for processing electronic payments (it’s linked to Amazon).  But you will still have to do the legwork of begging and browbeating your friends, family & colleagues into kicking in.  So good luck!!  Oh and special thanks to all my readers who contributed!!  Glad to have you as my listeners too!

Psalm 46

Cantata for SATB choir, Soprano and Mezzo-Soprano soloists, Brass Quintet, Timpani, English Handbell Choir, and Organ

I wrote this piece on a commission from the Union Church of Hinsdale, IL to celebrate the retirement of their long time Director of Music (and my one time boss), Michael Surratt.

Mike is a great guy and a really great organist, so I wanted to give him something to bite into.  The church suggested I set the text of Psalm 46 (one of Mike’s favorites) and I seized the opportunity to use a translation that has fascinated me for years, namely, Young’s Literal Translation of 1862 (which you can read about on Wikipedia.)  What makes this version of the bible unique is that Mr. Young, a self-educated Scotsman, translated from the Ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek without rendering said languages grammatically into Modern English.  Strangely though, he still uses the vocabularic style and tense endings of the King James Version, lending the text a distinct flavor that combines the ancient and the modern.

For comparison, here is the New Revised Version of Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;

Though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Selah.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.

God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns.

The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; He utters his voice, the earth melts.

The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

Come, behold the works of the LORD; See what desolations he has brought on the earth

He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; He burns the shields with fire.

“Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.”

The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.  Selah.

And here is Young’s Literal Translation:

God [is] to us a refuge and strength, a help in adversities found most surely.

Therefore we fear not in the changing of earth, and in the slipping of mountains into the heart of the seas.

Roar — troubled are its waters, mountains they shake in its pride. Selah.

A river — its rivulets rejoice the city of God, Thy holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High.

God [is] in her midst — she is not moved, God doth help her at the turn of the morn!

Troubled have been nations, moved have been kingdoms, He hath given forth with His voice, earth melteth.

Jehovah of Hosts [is] with us, a tower for us [is] the God of Jacob. Selah.

Come ye, see the works of Jehovah, who hath done astonishing things in the earth,

Causing wars to cease, unto the end of the earth, the bow he shivereth, and the spear He hath cut asunder, chariots he doth burn with fire.

Desist, and know that I [am] God, I am exalted among nations, I am exalted in the earth.

Jehovah of hosts [is] with us, a tower for us [is] the God of Jacob! Selah.

I made just a few tiny adjustments to this text, mainly for musical purposes, and also because of Mike’s aversion to the use of the masculine pronoun for God. The piece was premiered in Hinsdale, IL in May of 2011, and I recorded it in Cincinnati, OH in December of the same year using funds from a Kickstarter campaign (which I discuss here.)

Astute listeners may recognize two hymn tunes which are quoted extensively (and often hidden) in the piece: “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” and “O God Our Help In Ages Past”.  Both are paraphrases of the Psalm 46 text and favorites of Mike’s.