Boundaries. Structure. Framework. Discernment. Strength. Within Flow. Unbounded Giving. Love.
Flow, Free Giving, Love... It’s a wonderful thing! But we have all experienced, in one way or another, the results of a Flow that breeches its Boundaries. It suddenly doesn’t look as enticing.
Tonight, a broadcast from Planet Hazzanut.
Nusach HaTefillah. The art of the musical modes of liturgical chanting. In our tradition that so values sacred time, Nusach HaTefillah is a living, breathing time piece. The music of the prayer service provides information about the day of the week, the time of day, whether it is a special festival. I could hum a few bars and - poof! - you’d be transported right into Rosh Hashanah evening!
A highly improvisatory musical form, we use a variety of scales to guide our time-telling chant as we wend our way through the liturgy. The improvising and the scales, however, are not the end of this musical story. Each chant mode also brings with it a specific set of musical ideas - motifs - that store the information we receive, not only about the day and time, but about where we are in the text. Structure.
If I were to chant freely using the notes of the major scale, it might be perfectly lovely, but there would be nothing to tell us that it was Rosh Hashanah. A free improv spun with the notes of a minor scale won’t automatically tell us it is a weekday morning.
The Structure of the nusach is a stabilizing force as the hazzan opens to the Flow of the prayer, which informs the free inspiration within a Framework of musical landmarks.
Yes, there is something good about the river staying within the Boundary of its channel.
May we enjoy the Structures, Frameworks, and Landmarks that give our Free spirits the necessary guidance as we Flow through the stuff of life today.