How to Pray
How to Pray
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 correspondencewe 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 psalmsthe 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