Babel Lament

Selections from the Five Books Choral Suite



I’m pleased to offer two selections from the Five Books Choral Suite sessions with First Readings Project – Meditation Two: Tribulation & Bamidbar – in the Wilderness.

The Five Books Choral Suite is an exploration into some of the stories and predominant themes found in the Five Books of Moses, the Old Testament. The underlying themes in the suite highlight humanity’s repeated efforts to realize their potential only to face failure and defeat, and their ongoing struggle to find their way “out of the wilderness” as they continue the journey.

The Five Books Choral Suite incorporates four soloist vocal performers and a 12-person choir. Moses (baritone) is the storyteller, conveying the history of his people’s path, and leading them through the wilderness.  The Soprano soloist represents the individual “spokesperson” for the people. The concept of deity in the Five Books Choral Suite is neither gender specific, nor gender neutral. Rather, it might be considered as a gender-full representation. The male bass is viewed in the more traditional perspective as a male God figure, and speaks only in Hebrew. The alto singer represents a female counterpart – a kind of Mother Earth or feminine divine Shekhinah figure. In most cases the alto is singing a loose translation of the bass. At times though there nuances where the male deity figure expresses anger and frustration at humankind’s folly and weakness, while the female expresses more gentle compassion and understanding, like two sides of the same coin.



Tribulation characterizes the collective crisis of faith in the desert. The following text characterizes the state of universal distress that permeates this movement:

          In the wilderness – Wandering.
          No food – no water. No end in sight.
          The people muttered against Moses, and against God.
          Moses doubted himself.
          God questioned the creation of humankind.





Bamidbar / in the Wilderness

In the final movement everyone is fully engaged in the struggle to find the path out of the wilderness. Though still in the wilderness, the sense of celebration gradually infuses the community. The journey takes on a new character, largely due to the energy that comes from joining together in communal purpose, dancing together, and finding a new way to approach being in the wilderness. It is in this a transformed attitude where the true message of the work resides: we are all in the wilderness together, and whether or not we find our way out of the wilderness, we can at least find joy together on the journey.



Information about Babel Lament, and the audio recording from an April 16 recording session with First Readings Project can be found at:


The First Readings Project

Web Site:


The First Readings Project – J. David Moore, conductor, is a professional chamber choir founded to assist composers in the development of new music for vocal ensemble. The group presents a series of public readings of new works and works-in-progress, and also offers its services for recordings and workshops to individuals and institutions.



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This project was made possible in part with the support of
Rimon: The Minnesota Jewish Arts Council,
an initiative of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation.

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