Chanted Word

A Rosenburg Psalter, Other Songs

This is a project I created in the Spring of 2011.  The texts are from David Rosenburg’s book, A Literary Bible. David Rosenburg is a former editor-in-chief of the Jewish Publication Society and a poet. He’s also the author of the well-known Book of J, which, along with A Literary Bible, are his translations of core texts from Hebrew scripture and efforts to honor disparate and diverse voices from the texts which he feels are often flattened in modern translations for the sake of a unified style. As for the music, my guitar broke last Spring, so I had been experimenting with vocal-only music for Lent.  This is the way I used to sing during seminary when I’d take my plainsong psalter to Far Rockaway beach for an afternoon of screaming into the waves, or up to the top of Twin Peaks during CPE when I needed to shout at the sky for a while. Here it is recorded (at a slightly lower volume) with my Yeti THX mic. The tracks are all improvisations on the texts, hopefully hearkening back to Medieval chant origins in its embellishments on the tones and harmonies in the droning, with secret aspirations to be torch songs. Call it neo-plainsong-soul if you feel so inclined, and be sure to tell me what you think of it.

Psalm 1

Isaiah 8:16-24

Psalm 30

Psalm 82

Isaiah 9:1-7

Psalm 90

Psalm 101

Psalm 114


Other Songs

He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,
he has put down the mighty from their seats
Luke 1:51-52

My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. Her eyes have scoured the floor for me: I, among the dust of earth, the busy victor of my stories; I, who have been so afraid, avoiding strangers, conversations, any chance that I might come to meet her gaze from across a crowded corner, from across a guarded border, from across the dinner table where she’s waiting.

Your eyes would turn to conquer me, your arm would hold me flat against the rhythms of your breathing: I, who have been so full of things; wealth, chiefly, cheaply held like tight fists in a boxing ring where I’ve been laid out for the count. It came so quickly to my chest it came without a sound: the glory of your Holy Name, sailing through the ages, ripping through the pages of the good we thought we’d made.

Here with stars above my head, bad at hiding, good as dead, out of breath, distressed and bleary eyed; you who threw me come to lay, propped by an elbow, near my face: you hoist me up and I am magnified.

Alright, OK

Other Songs

Get on this train, its pulling out
Get on my back, get off the ground
Forget your bag, leave it behind
I’ll pay for dinner and we’ll cancel all your credit cards online.

I have enough for you,
I’ll split everything I own in two,
I will feed you from my side,
I will hold you close to me
and tell you all shall be alright,
Ok? Alright.

Come here and curl up in my coat,
This train is twenty stops away from anywhere we want to go.
I’ll wake you up when we get there,
I’ll kiss your forehead while you sleep and keep my fingers in your hair.
The night is dark, the city wide,
Eight million stars to flash and fade upon a bed, a sun to rise,
And I will bring you into mine,
I’ll hang your coat up in my hall, I’ll put our boots out back to dry.

I have enough for you,
I’ll split everything I own in two,
I will feed you from my side,
I will hold you close to me
and tell you all shall be alright,
Ok? Alright.

Get on this train, its getting late,
And all we need are whole lives long to have, to hold, to be awake.

Holy, Holy

Other Songs

Dust off this straw hat of mine
Spit on these boots until they shine
Shake out the sleep from my wings
Take a swig of whisky and remind my voice to sing
Holy, Holy, Oh my Lord
Holy, Holy, Oh my Lord

Break up this ground like a blade
See all my old friends rising tall along the way
Wiping dirt out from their eyes
To see a rose horizon that the sun’s about to climb
Holy, Holy, Oh my Lord
Holy, Holy, Oh my Lord

And then a riot in the sky
A peal of angels with their arms twirling high
And they are dancing, they are laughing, they are free
Dressed up in their pearls just like the faggots used to be,

Holy, holy, holy Lord
God of power and might
Heaven and Earth are full of your glory
Hosanna in the highest
Blessed is the One
Who comes in the name of the Lord
Hosanna in the highest
Blessed is the One
Who comes in the name of the Lord
Hosanna in the highest
Holy, holy, holy.


Other Songs, Poetry

Jesus said, “Blessed are you who mourn,”
and the crowd shifted uneasily. Everyone knew
that Marjorie had lost her daughter just the month before,
and would have likely preferred one of the standards, like,
“Blessed are you, Lord God, Ruler of the Universe,” something
grand that might make the grief seem like less than what it
was, less like a shoe sized shard of glass kept in the nightstand
that her dreaming self would thrash from sleep to seize, tearing
through the bed by feathered pieces looking for a precious item
lost somewhere. The last thing she probably wanted was more
about her; or, was it the last thing all the others wanted? A few
searched the crowd briefly for her face to see. Meanwhile, Aiden
wasn’t in mourning at all; or, if he was he didn’t know for what,
he was simply depressed, and was that a blessing, too? He ended
up halfway to the other side of Queens this morning all because
he forgot to take the local shuttle when the train had been shut
down, and it was one of those little pin-prick failures that reaches
in to let the whole well of it bleed all over everything. He steered
himself between crying right there on the bus and smiling out the
window at the hour he would be forced to take from work. And
Francis, one too brave for tears, simply stamped his cigarette out
on the stoop he had been watching from, pissed that Christ was
there, speaking so directly of his life again without permission,
another page torn out from private conversations he had never
meant to have, hung up on the fence for all to read. Regardless,
each of these three died a bit there in the silence which then
followed, because there was no explanation tacked along, it
was only true. The crowd shifted, checked watches, started
drawing up their lists for the bodega, and waited while these
three released another parcel of the loneliness that thought
it could be solved in being filled by someone else; and
none of them grieved to see it go.


Other Songs, Poetry

Jesus said, “Do you see these stones? Very truly I tell you,
not one will be left upon the other, all will be thrown down,”
and then kept walking on. The disciples sighed. “Not one, Lord?
Not the mosaic which has you pegged as pelican, giving suck to
young with blood pecked from and plated on your chest? Not that
slab whose linens have been smoothed by hands of careful priests
to kiss like precious bedsheets? Not curls carved out from alabaster
bearing likeness of wool shoulders pressed by frightened members of
the fold into your calf? (Surely you remember them, and accounted
each to be renumbered here.) Not the dense earth quarried; hewn
in sweat, hard blows, and the tithings of a thousand silver plates
of grand intention passed from hand to hand while waiting to
receive you at your supper? Not glass bubbled from the heated
sea to dribble on the shore; gathered there, and shaped, raised
to strike your gesture in midair: the one you made nearly twirling
from the grave, save projectile angels scurrying for cover? Not stalls
and pews and arches carved from wood acquainted with the tree-tip
touch of dawn broken in by birdsong, now known as rote and chanted
verse, “the dawn from on high shall break upon us,” sung so often we
forgot it was a thing upon a time to sit beside you in chill forests, dark
for daybreak, by the river, waiting? Not pipes forged, like those larks
had been, to repeat a riff of notes when called? Not a tomb to cull and
air reverberating threads of flesh strung from painful, saddened bows
to cry to you: magnified by hollows, pressing lines to lonely ears; not
a low lain basin holding close the voice and veins collecting for the cup
you left behind? No, not one?” But by that point he was gone. He had
vanished in the crowd, somewhere past the queue for pastries at the
corner. Later, they would find him, as they always did, behind doors
at the day’s end, those opened when alone; and each would join him
on their own, shutting eyes inside the steady prayer he made, “your
kingdom come, your will be done… your kingdom come, your will be
done.” Rain in an electric box, the volume on a murmur. They dreamt
then of a world on fire; they imagined ruins. Yet morning came as it
ever had before: friends pinched at pain au chocolat from crinkled
bags and walked their dogs, and a woman on the corner asked for
bus fare. The paved earth, too far beneath the tips of buildings to
have seen the dawn arrive, did not take up the song of those
who woke to find death waiting.


Other Songs, Poetry

He did, of course: but not, as some have said, as if I’d been delivered
in a bubble to my mother’s womb; as if I’d lived preserved upon a thin
and sanitary towel rolled out before me, the mud never oozing up between
my toes; as if I, myself, could not see it coming. I saw it clearly, and the
belief that it was coming for me required some suspension of others and
no small bit of laughter: I was young, and it took a while to realize what
it meant for him to so consistently choose the most haggard from among
us first for plans and play. I was far from perfect, and I would grow up
with a curiosity over why I might have been so privileged by him towards
a middle aged assumption that it had to do with my reclusive availability
(my youth spent frequently out of doors), towards what he finally told me
in death- which is my own little secret for now (it is linked, scandalously
enough, with aromatics). You would blush if I told you how many times we
actually had to try; I certainly did at the time. The first, among abundant
yards of lavender, began in attendance of the bridge beneath my ankle, which
I had not prior seen as a thing of special beauty in itself; then, there was the
current of his I fished out muddily from the river, my calves as solid stones
just to pull him up to where I needed him to be. There were times that began
as hands naturally might, holding shoulders clenched from kneading dough;
and times that involved no touching at all but came in the surprised flight of
starlings from bare trees, my limbs an imitation of their outward corporate
burst which I cupped, struggling, to my chest until the moment they could be
set free inside him. (I was spared the syncretic threat of swans, not to mention
their ungovernable bills, though I admired them, nonetheless, from a distance.)
Every time he left me as one does the room of a beloved host: more than tidy,
lived in; comforts tucked in corners out of way for future visits, more familiar
than I was before he found me. I, by turns, left him like a sodded spade: caked
in clods of earth, closer to a thing he was unmade for. When I finally conceived,
it was a shock to everyone, not least of all to me; I had stopped thinking then
in terms of rationales. I know this isn’t possible, but it was almost like what
we had to show for it ended up a culmination of our trying, each tide subsiding
having calcified the new life now between us. It was the best kind of love, and
made me not mind the jealous looks I got from other girls who thought I had
no reason to be smiling as I did. He is making it still. Its in the tension river
water holds above the stone it passes over, its in the way gulls catch their
balance as they walk by shifting wings. He is there, pouring over us,
making something new, asking only for our unashamed consent.