Ps. 150: An Interpretative Piece

Delvyn Case is a composer whose works have been performed by 80 orchestras around the world and by numerous Grammy-winning artists. He is the founder of Deus Ex Musica, an ecumenical organization that promotes sacred music as a resource of learning and spiritual growth. A member of Old South Church in Boston, he teaches at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts.

Elizabeth Ostling serves as Associate Principal Flute in the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In addition to holding a degree in flute from the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music, she also holds a masters degree in spiritual formation from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Elizabeth teaches at Boston University.

 

The psalter ends with the command for all things who have breath to praise the Lord. In the Hebrew, each line of Psalm 150 begins with “Hallelujah”, a word which, when heard in the context of that final command, seems intentionally onomatopoeic: a simple breath, out and in, over and over, forever and ever.

In keeping with the universal directive of the psalm (or is it simply an observation?), this work is written for both the flute and the flutist. It explores the sonic and ritualistic dimensions of our breath, and how – like the “ruah” (breath or spirit in Hebrew) – it surrounds us and inspires us, giving life (literal and musical) in ways that we cannot explain.

The piece’s opening gesture - animated, like Adam, by a breath – metamorphoses by the end into the word whose shape inspired it: Hallelujah. The word and the music then return from where they came, merging into the rhythmic breath that sustains us throughout our lives…and whose inescapable cessation will bring us into the presence of the One who made everything from the tiniest drop of water to the spiral nebulae. 

The mystical sounds and visuals remind us that the universe will continue to praise God long after it is devoid of anything with breath. Thus, this psalm is really just a beginning….

 

 

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The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.