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David Lang

Publisher: G. Schirmer

How to Pray (2002)
Publisher
Red Poppy
Category
Orchestra
Year Composed
2002
Duration
10 Minutes
Alternate Orchestration
vc, egtr, Horg, pf, perc - all instruments amplified
Programme Note
David Lang How to Pray (2002)
Related Works:
   How to Pray chamber version
   How to Pray orchestral version

Composer Note:

The reason why the psalms are so central to religious experience is that they are a comprehensive catalogue of examples of how to talk to the Almighty, not by a prophet or a priest but in the voice of a single person out in the world, with problems and concerns not unlike those faced by real people in all times. Of course, it’s like reading one side of a correspondence—we can read David’s letters but the letters back are the ones we really want to see.

I am not a religious person. I don’t know how to pray. I do, however, know some of the times and places and formulas that are supposed to make prayer possible. Sometimes I find myself sending those messages out. And then I wait, secretly hoping that I will recognize the response.

My first thought for this piece was that I could somehow “borrow” my favorite running piano line from the beginning of Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms, bringing into the concert the piece that had introduced me to the idea of psalm setting, many years ago. More recently I have been setting the entire book of psalms, in an evening-length work for solo piano called psalms without words. I have been transcribing my own cantillation of the psalms—the rhythms, the accents and the pacing of the Hebrew. I used a similar strategy to convert the prayer before saying the psalms into the music for how to pray.

—David Lang



  • Ensemble
    European Music Project/Grözinger
    Soloist(s)
    Lisa Moore, piano / Mike Svoboda, trombone / Audrey Riley, cello, Hammond organ / Andrew Zolinsky, piano / James Woodrow, electric guitar / Nick Album and Rob Allum, drums
    Cantaloupe Music:
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