On today’s date in 2002, the American Composers Orchestra put on a concert at Carnegie Hall inspired by the Hebrew Psalms. The program included the premiere of a new work by the American composer David Lang entitled “How to Pray.”
In his program note, Lang wrote: ““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… Of course, it's like reading one side of a correspondence… 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 help make prayer possible. Sometimes I find myself sending those messages out. And then I wait, secretly hoping that I will recognize the response.”
The minimalist-style, patterned repetition in Lang’s “How to Pray,” might remind some listeners of a “mandala”—those intricate graphic patterns intended to be an aid to meditation for Hindu or Buddhist believers.
Stravinsky fans with sharp ears might also recognize the running piano line from the beginning of Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms, which Lang borrows and weaves into the pattern of “How to Pray” as both a tribute and inspiration.
Music Played in Today's Program
David Lang (b. 1957)How to PrayReal Quiet ensemble; Gil Rose, cond.Naxos 8.559615