Nigunim (2019) for piano trio – 14’
–flute, vln, pno
–Commissioned by Ocean Reef Chamber Music Festival
–Premiered Key Largo, Florida, 2019
David Serkin Ludwig Nigunim for flute, violin, and piano (2019)
I. Tants I
III. Tants II
V. Tants III
“Nigun” is a Hebrew word for “tune” or “melody” and describes tunes to be sung simply in large groups, or by soloists with great virtuosity and elegance. The text is often sacred, but can just be nonsense syllables or sounds (“ay yay yay,” or “bum-bum-bum,” et al…) Over the past decade I have become increasingly fascinated with Jewish folk and religious music and was totally enthralled by the varied sounds and kaleidoscopic characters of the collections of “nigunim” I discovered for myself.
Nigunim opens big, with a cascading line that reappears throughout the piece. The second movement “Makhshove” is a meditative nigun, using the Hebrew scale traditionally associated with sacred chant in an extended flute solo. The next dance (“tants”) movement is slow and stately; an unraveling melodic narrative. The fourth “Ga’Agu” is music of inward yearning, where all of the instruments play effectively in unison, decorating their individual parts along the way. The final dance is a lively klezmer-style music, adapted from a virtuosic vocal solo nigun I stumbled upon in my research into this music (and subsequently couldn’t get out of my head!).
Nigunim was written for the ensemble of Tara Helen O’Connor, Ida Kavafian, and Anne Marie McDermott and was commissioned by Cynthia and Scott Schumacker for the Ocean Reef Chamber Music Festival. My colleague, the wonderful composer Alex Weiser helped immensely with my study of nigunim. I am finding it ever-more important for me to explore and express my Jewish identity through my music these days–as much of a statement about political and cultural exclusion as a fascination with the art tradition, and I am grateful to be able to share my own personal journey with this music.