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Winner of the 1st prize in Bo Ejeby Förlag's Composition Award 2021

Psalm 103

Mixed choir a cappella

The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. This piece came together in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. And while watching our society fall apart, I was struck by the reality of how insignificant we are as a species. The passage from Psalm 103 comparing mortals to grass has been on my mind for quite some time, and I have been looking for an opportunity to set it to music. I choose to focus on the first line “Homo, sicut fenum dies ejus”, in English, “The life of mortals is like grass”, so fitting for the ongoing pandemic. The piece is structured around the idea of canon and repetition, and the motifs are sung throughout different parts as a soft wind sweeping through the choir. The melodic structure of each part is initially a canon, descending the diatonic scale, starting on different notes of the C-minor triad. Harmonically, this piece is in many ways a form of disguised homophony. The text placement in the different parts at different places in time creates a form of false polyphony where different vowels are sung at different times, thus creating small timbral fluctuations resulting in a complex texture based on simple harmonic material – one of the advantages the voice has over instruments. A sparse compositional texture evolves, depicting the fragility of the human race. Preferably this piece should be sung in a venue with a great deal of reverb, making the single voices blend into a homogenous whole. I could easily see how the choir could be placed around the audience or spread out in a way that would make the different motifs come from different directions. In closing, this piece was developed in collaboration with the Marian Consort, UK, and was premiered in Stockholm by the vocal ensemble at Lars-Erik Larsson-gymnasiet, under direction of Sofia Söderberg.

Henrik Dahlgren


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