chamber choir or 8 solo voices, ssaattbb
My piece if I sing (after psalm 101) was commissioned by the Nederlands Kamerkoor, as part of its project to sing musical versions of all 150 psalms. It has always seemed to me that the psalms split up into different types of conversations with God. Some are praise, some are self-examination, some are jubilant, some are devastatingly sad. There are a few, however, that seem like they are trying to open up a negotiation with God, or at least are trying better to understand the terms of the relationship. Psalm 101 is one of those. The King James version of Psalm 101 starts:
I will sing of mercy and judgment: unto thee, O Lord, will I sing.
I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me?
It almost seems like the Psalmist is trying to make a bargain with God – if I live an upright life, will you come to me?
In my piece if I sing I tried to make a version of the text that would keep that quality of negotiation going all the way through.
if I sing was commissioned for the 150 Psalms Project by the Nederlands Kamerkoor, in celebration of its 80th anniversary.
The duration of if I sing should be just under 4 minutes.
if I sing (after psalm 101) words and music by David Lang
if I sing of mercy, if I sing of justice, if I sing your praises, will you come to me? if I am true, if I am pure, if I know no evil things, will you come to me?
if I’m not proud of eye or heart, will you come to me?
I see the faithful. I try so hard to follow them.
I see the liars. I try so hard to push them all away.
every day I fight this fight, to push the bad away. will you come to me? come to me.