A few days after the planes hit the Twin Towers in 2001, I sat down to write a piece of music.
I was surprise to find a simple choral setting of the Agnus Dei flowed naturally from my pen. This was one of the few pieces from that time that I kept.
This piece shows the influence of Russian Orthodox liturgical chant in my compositional style. Though there are no direct quotes, melodic elements and the simple, modal harmonies spring from that source. I kept textures generally simple and clear, weaving only a bit of counterpoint in the middle of the piece.
Textually, there are two elements that should be noted. First, the plea “miserere nobis” is heard several times—first, in indistinct, close harmony, then in increasing clarity, and finally as an ostinato under the soprano solo.
That solo, of course, draws from Latin text that does not normally belong with the Agnus Dei. (The source is the Tract from Sexagisma Sunday (a Sunday in Lent), which itself comes from Psalm 60.) A rough translation:
You have shaken the Earth, O Lord. You have torn it open.
Heal it, for it is breaking up.
In those strange and deeply troubled days after 9/11, I could think of no more direct or relevant words.