My colleague Paul Valliere (now retired) used to teach a course on the Psalms, focused on the words for the most part. If you add music into the mix as part of the history of interpretation of those words, the amount of material to be covered multiplies. In my course on the Bible and music, I have the rest of the Bible in the mix as well. And so I never feel that I do justice to any of it, but in particular the fact that there are so many beautiful, moving, and musically and/or historically important settings of the Psalms, that one probably won’t manage to listen to them all in one’s lifetime, and certainly not give them the repeated hearings that great music deserves. Below you will find just a few from modern (late 19th-21st century) composers. Some of them (the composers and/or their Psalm settings) are famous, although still not as widely known as they deserve to be beyond the circles of music professionals and affectionados. Others I hadn’t come across until recently (and once again I mean sometimes the work is new to me, sometimes the composer also). There’s so much more. It is uplifting to know that the human world is so full of music that I will never exhaust its riches. It is also humbling to consider that I will never succeeding in fully exploring its depths and breadth.
I hope you enjoy listening to the Psalm settings below.
I also came across a lecture about Charles Ives’ setting of Psalm 90:
Dave Brubeck’s “Shout to the Lord” (from The Gates of Justice) brings together lyrics from the Psalms with words of Martin Luther King.
See too my previous blogging related to this, such as: