Stephen Horenstein
Music, Arts and Society
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The majesty of the morning storm is like a thousand tubas, rocking me, almost awakened, to enter a very real Shabbat, a final refuge

Jerusalem, 4 a.m. A Friday. Forming, storming, norming — the three stages of any group formation. This morning’s storming, violent air, a celebration of freedom from apathetic summer’s doldrums. Each heave of wind, each blast, drives us to cuddle up in our fabricated protected private spaces, while cycles of the wind’s howl shakes us to instant attention, brings us down from our solitary narcissistic caves, walking us to the  heavenly gates, where G-d’s vast landscape of audible designs, piercing us, clawing at our innards, awakening, shaking us: “Stand still and LISTEN.” Wind waves, unpredictable primordial belches, as we cringe from delight, at once diminished at its power, humbled at its otherness, strengthened, a thousand sirens, pleading us to live, love and humiliate our self-made cages: lightless, tingling rooms with staling air and collections of dust-forming crevices, rather now — a tall stately wind grabs us by our shoulders, screaming LIVE!

(My illness haunts me like raw ghosts; the pain is often wracking. I sit powerless, amidst the epic winds, joyful, humble…and even when they rest, I know they return, like the miraculous living lights. This primordial clockwork of wind songs is merciless in its power — I am at once humbled, afraid, and relieved.) Early morning’s quietude also rocks the innards, leaving us speechless. These very words — approximations of the next blast, the next memories, where epic night dreams are swept away like plastic bottles without notes, strewn on the shores, memories which have faded, the knowledge that we are so, so vulnerable. All this makes for sadness, especially when the winds recede, fragile branches ready to be swept away by the lingering tides.  We are left speechless, song-less, with all but ONE plaintive melody, expressing our solitary humanity, our recognition that we are moving on — toward the last page of our personal palimpsest, whose transparent pages, negligible, fragile, crumbling around the edges, float on primal waters.

Like a Tibetan ocarina, the high priest’s bells lining our faded robes and a Chinese diorama with three dark figures emerging from a wooden temple, surrounded by trees extending upward…all call us to attention. “A sound universe where time flows in a sacred dimension,” my contribution to this mortal world. Yes the winds’ roars have subsided, leaving the high, constant screaming of my nervous system, like fool’s gold, it’s fool’s soundings–high-pitched no-change nonsense, letting us know we are still “alive”, constant sound without change or Faith — dutifully ringing on the shores of a distant planet, false compass of our humanity… when suddenly a melody pierces the air, one so sad that we pause long enough to hear the winds returning, but disappearing. And we, like grateful Houdinis, break our of our chains, crying out, again and again. We sit silently and wait. Suddenly the stale air wraps around us like a Houdini suit. The last wind is epic, rising well above us, groaning, taking us by our shoulders.

The sporadic cycle, intransigent, merciless, is also awakening. The pulsing in my head, the coolness in my chest, the rotting felling in my toes, the creak of these bones, all subside.  Meaningless exercises.

Now writing on the last page. A few lines more. The winds are still blaring — indestructible morning storm, you win. I lose. Your majesty is like a thousand tubas, rocking me up, almost awakened, to enter a very real Shabbat, our final refuge.

MUSIC composed to accompany this post:

Awakenings, by Stephen Horenstein; for Solo Alto Flute in G (click links below to listen). ASCAP/ACUM

Melody 1

Melody 2

About the Author
Stephen Horenstein is a composer, researcher and educator. His repertoire of musical works has been performed and recorded worldwide. He has been a recipient of the Israel Prime Minister's Prize for Composers and the National Endowment of the Arts (USA). His teaching has included Bennington College, Brandeis University, Tel Aviv University, Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance; residencies at Stanford University, York University, California Institute of the Arts, and others. He is Founder and Director of the Jerusalem Institute of Contemporary Music, established in 1988 to bring the music of our time to a wider audience.
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