Text: John Donne
1. Thou hast made me (after Psalm 6)
2. I am a little world made cunningly (after Psalm 143)
3. Oh, to vex me (after Psalm 32)
4. Since she whom I loved (after Psalm 38)
5. As due by many titles I resign myself to thee (after Psalm 130)
6. Batter my heart (after Psalm 102)
7. Death, be not proud (after Psalm 150)
The composition of Seven Divine Meditations was made financially possible through the generosity one of the choristers of the amateur choir TIEN, conducted by Christian Winter. This ensemble gave the first performance in March 2019 in the choral concert series Couleur Vocale in the Walonian Church in Amsterdam.
The Seven Divine Meditations derive their title from the eponymous series of sonnets by John Donne (ca. 1572 – 1631). From these 19 sonnets (sometimes also called Holy Sonnets) I chose seven. For each sonnet, I selected one of the melodies of the Seven Penitential Psalms from the Genevan Psalter and set Donne’s text to music by using that particular melody as a starting point in one way or another.
So these are not settings of an original Penitential Psalm in the Roman Catholic tradition of settings of the Vulgate text, like the Miserere, nor of a Genevan melody using the metrical versification in the Protestant tradition, as in Sweelinck.
Yet, the traditions of the Biblical Psalmist and of the Genevan Psalter quite literally resonate in them.
Donne, an Anglican minister besides a poet, addresses God in the tradition of the Psalmist. His highly personal musings and supplications, however, brusquely draw Him into the Modernity that early Protestantism is also a part of. I was immediately struck by Donne’s personal, physical, even violent dealings with Divine logic or the lack thereof. Like a sword of faith, in every sonnet a novel paradox crushes reason and forces it at all times towards a transformation, usually one of impassioned, almost feverish surrender.
As a composer, too, I took to a tradition, that of composing on a ‘cantus firmus’: the Genevan Psalm melodies 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130 and 143. This at times grew into an almost Sweelinck-like whole. But where Donne’s brooding sets devilish snares, where his rhyme becomes torn and cracked and his rhythms angular, I often had to trim, shred or completely uproot the tranquil hymnody and give it another context.
In this way, I grafted every fruit from the Baroque garden of Donne’s thinking in a different manner onto the primordial stuff of musical Protestantism. This resulted in seven modern theological miniatures that draw the listener into the whims of lust, suffering, and of human and Divine love.
The composition of Seven Divine Meditations was made financially possible through the generosity one of the choristers of the amateur choir TIEN, conducted by Christian Winter. This ensemble gave the first performance in March 2019 in the choral series Couleur Vocal in the Walonian Church in Amsterdam.