For Marcel Worms
The film The Blues Brothers contains a scene in which James Brown (alias the reverend Cleophus James) in a red preacher’s robe, stirs up a congregation of African-american believers until they, wildly dancing and singing in choir, glorify in a frenzie the Coming of the Lord. The two white Blues Brothers look on, perplexed by this eruption of musical zeal. Not cool, you may hear them thinking. But it’s sure as hell flippin’ amazing.
Whenever European religious music gives voice to the Gospel (the New Testament’s ‘Good News’), one does not experience such a funky urge to move. The Body of Our Lord suffers, or it is dead. Dancing does not play a role. As Beethoven said (quoting a Buddhist text): ‘Was frey ist von aller Lust und Begier, das ist der Mächtige.’ Still, the very quest for His Body has yielded the beautiful Gregorian melodies of the medieval passion plays and with them, the first European theatre.
That is why I took as the main melody in this piece a ‘Quem quaeritis in sepulchro’ (Whom do you seek in the grave) from St. Gallen that I vary stylistically and put alongside a paraphrase of the Blues March (written by trumpettist Benny Golson for Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers). Invited by the musical key, I also could not resist a (slightly amended) reference to Beethoven’s highly physical op. 106 (für das Hammer Clavier), whose jubilant tone answers another reference (also slightly amended) to the Victimae paschali laudes.
In fact, none of the thematic material in this piece is my own, so, as an author, I am surely ‘not here’.
For what is true for European is true for Afro-American music: to quote is to pay homage.
The piece has been recorded by Marcel Worms at Zefir Records.