Music of The Psalms

Music of The Psalms

Steve Rees

I wanted to take the opportunity this month to write about how the music of the Psalms is developed. Many of you have written me asking me about this music so I thought it might be enlightening to share the process of how this music comes together. I must give Dr. Leonard Horowitz and his coauthor Joseph Puleo credit for their initial work on showing the relationship between the Hebrew letters and frequencies or music notes in their book, “Healing Codes for the Biological Apocalypse”.  From their information, I proceeded to begin to transcribe the Hebrew text of the Psalms into musical notes.

I started with the Psalms because they are much less theological and more about relationship. David and other Psalm authors express feelings that most of us experience at some time or another.  These ancient texts have stood the test of time to bring comforting thoughts and counsel to our challenged souls in times of distress as well as in times when we desire to celebrate. It doesn’t seem to matter what religion or non-religion we personally hold; these words seem to bypass these walls and go straight to our hearts. As we add the music that comes from these Psalms, I believe that we enter another dimension of how these words affect us.

When I started to transcribe the letters of the words into music notes, I was amazed to hear the sounds of these letters. As I tried to play them letter by letter, note by note, I found that they didn’t make musical sense. As I studied the notes more carefully, I received the idea that I should look at all the notes in one word and put those notes together into a musical chord. As I started playing these chord progressions from word to word, the music began to take on a more compositional character and specific musical phrasing began to identify itself from the text. I thought to myself about how much sense this made since most music is composed in that fashion. Why wouldn’t David and the others have followed the same formula?

From that point on, I began to transcribe the text into these chord progressions and began looking for the musical phrasing that matched up to the words that the Psalm was speaking. I tried to coordinate the sentiment of the words with the feel of the music so that there was a consistency and flow between what the words were saying and what feelings the music was emoting. A poster I saw on one of the music recording studios I was at stated, “Music is what feelings sound like.” That really expressed to me what I was trying to do with these “Musical Psalms.”

One of the most exciting things to me is when I get comments from listeners to my YouTube channel where I have many videos posted of some of these Psalm compositions. www.youtube.com/peregrinnatti  One listener told me that as they read the Psalm that I was playing the music for, Psalm 23, they said, “It was like the words were flying past me and through me, stirring my soul.” Others have told me that before the music came into their life, they could not sleep, but now with the music, they could sleep. Another told me that they were going through a traumatic time in their life and the music was helping them cope. Another said they had just lost their mother and that the music of the Psalms was bringing them great comfort.

I believe that the combination of the musical notes transcribed from the letters of the Psalm plus the words of the Psalm work in an enhancing way of bringing peace, or what the Hebrew  language calls “Shalom”, into our lives. This Shalom is not just a word like “Peace brother or sister” – it means so much more in the Hebrew understanding. It means, “My you have everything you need or could possibly desire in your life right here and right now!” What a thought. Isn’t that what we desire for everyone we are connected with?!

I have already written several articles about the physiological effects of calming harp music and other sources of calming music. There is no denying that this beautiful music has great benefit for our minds, bodies and spirits. As I have received so many comments on my website: www.calmingharp.com  and YouTube site, I am more and more convinced that these wonderful effects are even more pronounced if it can be this music of the Psalms. When the words of the Psalms are intertwined with the music that comes from those words, there is an almost magical work that penetrates deep into our souls.

I invite you to experiment with this music and see where it takes you. Taste it and see if it doesn’t bring a new level of Shalom to your life. And please, write me and tell me what it is doing for you: