Aequale "supra Psalm 137" [Philip Daniel; 2020]
Aequale "supra Psalm 137" [Philip Daniel; 2020]

Aequale "supra Psalm 137" [Philip Daniel; 2020]

By PhilipDaniel | Musica Melopoetica | 28 Jul 2020






A motet-like Aequale for E♭ Cornet, B♭ Cornet, F Alto Horn, and Baritone Horn, inspired by the text of Psalm 137 ("By the rivers of Babylon..."). Semi-imitative, developmental counterpoint grows in intensity until it gives way to (modally Levantine) fury in octaves.





Note the prevalence of certain motifs throughout this motet-like dramma per musica.




First presented in the E♭ cornet, a "running" ascending figure:


fig. I



Various developmental-variation techniques transform this figure, embedded within the thick contrapuntal tapestry:

fig. II

fig. III

fig. IV

fig. Vfig. VI

fig. VII

fig. VIII

fig. IX

fig. X

fig. XI

fig. XII

fig. XIII

fig. XIV

fig. XV

fig. XVI


The ultimate treatment of this pervasive dramatic motif, having accumulated so much vertiginous energy in the midst of all its successive permutations, hypostatizes as a seething climax in open octaves, full ensemble:

fig. XVI


As this musical tableaux comes to a close, the motif disintegrates, the baritone horn states an augmented retrograde form of the motif's most elemental tetrachordal figure:

fig. XVII


And the work terminates on a kind of subverted tonic [dissonance, or "essential consonance" akin to the M7 cadential tonic of Jazz composition?] drawn [at least in theory, not necessarily holding for art as art] from the Lydian Dominant mode (a fusion, if you will, of the Lydian and Mixolydian modes with their respective characteristic ♯4 and ♭7:

fig. XVII


As noted previously, other motifs populate this study in expressive counterpoint.


Rising and ascending chromatic figures, variations on a single generating idea, often differing in range and in rhythmic characteristics:

fig. XVIII

fig. XVIX

fig. XX

fig. XXI

fig. XXII

fig. XXIV

fig. XXV

fig. XXVI


A "circle of fifths" motif appearing at the very outset:

fig. XXIX

fig. XXX

fig. XXXI

fig. XXXII


fig. XXXIV

fig. XXXV

fig. XXXVI



fig. XXXIX

fig. XL

fig. XLI

fig. XLII

fig. XLIII

fig. XLIV


Even those raucous octaves-in-unison that herald the work's denouement feature that ubiquitous interval of the perfect fourth embedded within the statement of the primary motif:

fig. XLV

fig. XLVI


Lastly, a kind of dactylic figure, related to although distinct from the primary motif, permeates:

fig. LI

fig. LII

fig. LIII

fig. LIV

fig. LV

fig. LVI

fig. LVI




... and so on [I wish not to belabor the point to irreversible fatigue!] ...






Though this is very far from an exhaustive accounting of the motivic underpinnings of this brief yet hypertrophic work, hopefully the catalogue of motivic recurrences and transformations, supra, will serve some use to those that wish to demystify this miniature tone poem, scored for so unusual an ensemble and so idiosyncratic in language and affect.





Below you will find the King James Version (KJV) translation of Psalm 137, the "programmatic" basis for this Aequale.




Psalm 137

King James Version (KJV)

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.

We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.

For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying,

Sing us one of the songs of Zion.

How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.

If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth;

If I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.

Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said,

Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof.

O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.

Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.





The painting in the video is "Lamenting Jews in Exile" by Eduard Bendemann.        


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I am a young composer working in a highly personal Late Romantic idiom.

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