Motet for Chorus with Soli

by Christopher Fulkerson

CF's Composition Desk

This piece was written for my 1976 Undergraduate Senior Composition Recital. In 1997 revised it with the intention of making it more like what I had originally envisaged its being. There are numerous polychoral effects, including double chorus, men's chorus, and SATB soli, and other soli. The finale makes the first use of an overall structural plan, though it is not like my later "architectural" plans, being more like a Medieval Ars nova metrical design, a la Machaut. I was already an avid student of Elliott Carter's music; the opening three bars quotes a suggestion of three diads from the Introduction of his Second String Quartet.

The piece was suggested by Rabbi Bernard Rosenberg of the UOP faculty, whose Key Ideas of the Old Testament class I had taken. Unlike almost everybody else in the class, I had no problem with the concept of "Higher Criticism" of the Bible; it was right in step with the critical methods I was trying to learn. I didn't understand at the time that the reason most of the class had so much trouble learning the material was that they simply didn't want to accept the idea of scholarly study of the Bible; they wanted to maintain their impression that its deeper meanings had to correspond with what they understood of its surface meanings. As time has gone on I have moved further and further from such people. "Fundamentalism" is too good a word for such types; they didn't even want to accept that the Hebrew Bible might have more authority than an English translation. They wanted to continue in the belief that not only had God written the Bible, He had written it in English. So their questions often reflected their simple unwillingness to actually learn. At the time I didn't understand this; I just thought I was doing well in the class. It was clear to all that I was the top student in the class, and I found this quite remarkabl. I had never been in an environment where my position was more or less openly acknowledged by all including the instructor. Rabbi Rosenberg in fact said that there was no reason for me to take the final exam; instead, he would like me to write a piece of music that somehow reflected the subjects studied in the class. I chose to write this motet. I hadn't yet learned to compose rapidly and the Rabbi was very patient with me, letting me turn the score in to him many months later. He gave me an A in the class, and overall the class was one of my best experiences as a student. Other than compositions seminars, it was the only class I ever took in which I was actually asked to write music.

The five movements are:

I. O vos omnes
II. Verumtamen in imagine pertransit homo
III. Super flumina Babylonis
IV. Domini non est exaltatum cor meum
V. Quomodo obscuratum est aurum.

IN IMAGINE PERTRANSIT is dedicated to the memory of my grandparents, who attended the Premiere performance.

The score is 39 pages long in the composer's fair hand. Hard copy of the Study Score is $15.

Download the Soundfile of the O VOS OMNES