12/20/2008

Song of the Day: Biblical edition

This is a really random post, but as I was finishing my Old Testament reading for my final and came to 2 Samuel 18:33, I remembered an Eric Whitacre choral piece that uses this text. While the piece isn’t written for its biblical context, it still conveys the sadness that King David must have felt over losing his estranged son Absolam. It gave me a more emotional connection than the dry, KJV English text does alone.

But even if you don’t know the story of David, this song is one of the most accurate artistic expressions of mourning and grieving. The dynamics, speed, and use of voices comes in waves just like any emotional breakdown. The music starts out slow and quiet, hesitant, as if doubting the very words. It builds to a choral yell, questioning the event. Then it quiets again. A single voice sings the words, clear. The choir sings in syncopated, overlapping rhythms, muddling the meaning. The words repeat and repeat.

Listening to this song is draining because of its honesty—it’s 15 minutes of pure anguish. But it’s beautiful and entirely human.

I uploaded the song with an unfortunately ever-moving-Ken-Burn’s-effect picture of King David. The sound quality isn’t the best, but you get the idea. I would recommend Eric Whitacre: The Complete A Capella Works, 1991-2001 for better quality sound as well as many other gorgeous choral songs.


video

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