Praetorious: Sonic Poetics

Posted November 23, 2012 @ 5:05am | by Tripp

A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse,
   and a branch shall grow out of his roots. 
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
   the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
   the spirit of counsel and might,
   the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. 

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
   or decide by what his ears hear; 
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
   and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
   and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. 
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
   and faithfulness the belt around his loins. 

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
   the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
   and a little child shall lead them. 
The cow and the bear shall graze,
   their young shall lie down together;
   and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
   and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. 
They will not hurt or destroy
   on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
   as the waters cover the sea.

So, here's this tricky passage from Isaiah 10:5-19.
We read it at Christmas time. We sing it, too. 

Lo, how a rose e'er blooming,
From tender stem hath sprung!;
From Jesse’s lineage coming,
As seers of old have sung. 

There's this prediction, an end to the violence in this world, even the violence that necessarily sustains the creatures of this world. We'll slaugther millions of turkeys this season; violence serving as the foundation for a day of Thanksgiving. There's death in the system, but Isaiah's vision encompasses even necessary violence. It's absurd, of course...lions eating straw. But the poetry of it sets my imagination alight and then, then there's that tune with Praetorious' careful dissonances...the push and pull between the voices. I imagine that Praetorious must spent a lot of time writing for viols. The voices drone for one another, the pitches set close to one another.
It's so beautiful.
It's dissonant and the dissonance is beautiful. Isaiah paints this vision that is dissonant with the natural order of things...the longing of the human heart wanting lions to eat hay, anything, any absurdity if the violence will simply end. All of it. Even the violence that makes sense. It's not about science and the natural order. The vision is about longing, a desire for peace that goes so deeply that all of nature changes its ways.
And so I that longing in the composition as we long for the next pitch, the fruition of a line of sonic thought? Is that Praetorious' sonic poetics?
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