(Restful Waters)(מי מנחות)

a setting of Psalm 23 for soprano, flute, clarinet, violin, 'cello, and piano

2010, 7 minutes

commissioned by Moon Young Ha's MEANS New Music Ensemble, with the support of a City of Ubrana Arts Grant

Like most people, I think, I was drawn to Psalm 23 initially because of the incredible image of the “valley of the shadow of death” through which the speaker is to walk. But what struck me from the first time I paid attention to the psalm is that the line is such non sequitur. The analogy of God-the-shepherd and psalmist-the-sheep is set up prosaically – “[the shepherd] lays me down in green pastures. He directs me towards restful waters.” The next verse refers to refreshing of soul and the idea of righteousness, which are certainly divine concerns within a religious context. But nothing quite prepares you for the valley of the shadow of death. And certainly not for the almost embarrassingly phallic image of God’s comforting rod and staff that follows. The lines after the valley of the shadow of death are pure bliss – protection from enemies, anointment, cups overflowing, goodness and righteousness, life with the Lord – but the dark image hovers. It’s such an anomaly within the work.

Certainly all this is an exploration of the border between the everyday and the terrifying and extraordinary. I find it jarring. Perhaps that’s the point.


If you are interested in a score and parts for (Restful Waters)(מי מנחות), please contact Nissim.


Contact Nissim Schaul