Babel Lament is a composition by Craig R. Harris for a cappella chorus. It is a lamentation on the Tower of Babel story. The people consider their tremendous effort to unify and create a magnificent city with a tower reaching high into the sky, and they lament their failure to realize the dream.

The Tower of Babel story is a tale that appears in various forms in the history of several cultures. This interpretation is a call to join forces in unity to build something together. The story provides a context to reflect upon our history – our past attempts to unify with common purpose to accomplish something for the community – and to consider the implications of ignoring the call, or of failing in the effort. The layers of the text tell the story:

  • Come. Build a city, a tower in the sky.
  • Make a name, or scatter over the earth.
  • One language. One purpose. Nothing out of their reach.
  • One language. One purpose. Nothing out of our reach.
  • Limit their reach. Confound their speech. Scatter over the earth.
  • Limit our reach. Confound our speech. Scatter over the earth.

It is about coming together, moving beyond our differences, and setting on a unified path towards the common good. It is about the balance between pursuing our individual interests, and serving broad community goals. It is about hubris, and allowing our differences to define us – our different languages, cultures, interests and purposes. It is also about reaching far, even risking failure, to achieve something great.

The composition was recorded by The First Readings Project –  J. David Moore, conductor. Here is a link to an audio recording of Babel Lament.

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


This project was made possible with support from the

Howard B. and Ruth F. Brin Jewish Arts Endowment Fund,

a designated fund of the Jewish Community Foundation of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation.