Date of Graduation

5-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Music (MM)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Music

Advisor

Robert Mueller

Committee Member

Benjamin Lorenzo

Second Committee Member

Nastassja Riley

Keywords

Ezra, Nehemiah, Oratorio, Restoration

Abstract

In beginning a project of this scope, I first spent months considering the genre in which I wanted to work. Once I committed to an Oratorio, more months were spent reading and finding the story I needed to tell and the orchestral medium through which to tell it. Thus began Restoration, an oratorio based on the story of Ezra and Nehemiah. I came to this story for several reasons: first, though comprising a unique moment in Old Testament history, it has not been told through music. More importantly, I believed that the themes of this story were ones that needed to be told today: people returning from exile to rebuild their homes and their lives. I sensed in their narrative some of the same cultural issues facing our world now: the question of isolationism on a social and political scale, the oppression of people because of belief, and the overarching issue of philosophical worldview put into action.

Because of this, I was not content to simply retell the story: something more needed to be said. Why should this story matter in twenty-first century America? Thus I created a third soloist, Sarah, who would represent the modern voice seeking to learn what lessons she could from the experience of Ezra and Nehemiah and apply those lessons in her own context.

Musically, this led me to personify each character. For Ezra, a scribe grounded in the Law, I chose to use a Baroque or early classical operatic style. Nehemiah, a public servant more willing to speak his mind, brought to my mind the nuanced musical character of the Romantic period. Sarah, the frustrated, realist voice of the twenty-first century, fit best into the genre of spoken poetry. I chose a smaller orchestra featuring strings, winds, and percussion. Between these various instruments the accompaniments could be created for any of the musical spirits of the characters.

Finally came the choir. Functioning most as the traditional Greek chorus, the choir varies from representing the population as a whole in the story to providing an objective, third-party commentary on the narrative.

Fiat pax!

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