The Sefirot Symphony is inspired by and based on the Kabbalistic spheres or spiritual levels that exist in Mysticism. I have concentrated on seven out of the ten spheres, as the first three (Crown, Wisdom and Understanding) are so esoteric and G’dly that they are almost beyond understanding. A hint of “Crown” is given which finally comes full circle to “Kingship” at the end.
The seven spheres of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life depict all the attributes and characteristics that exist in both worlds (the spiritual and the physical). These are Kindness, Judgement (restraint, severity), Beauty, Victory (endurance), Splendour (glory), Righteousness (foundation) and Kingship.
The seven concurrent sections of the work attempt to create the atmosphere and power of each level, e.g. Kindness with unlimited giving and open-handedness, depicted in flourishes of outgoing scale-like passages.
Every section is based on a different tonal pivot moving through C D E F G A to B in the seventh level. Thus each attribute is spiritually bound up with the particular colour of a different pitch. Although the “scale” is rising from C to B, it is a contradiction with the “lowering” of the spiritual levels from the heavenly state towards the physical world.
The Harp is used in connection with Kingship (King David) and beauty.
The application of numerological devices is paramount to this work.
The “Sefirot” are divine manifestations or attributes of the spiritual world manifest through creation. These ten spiritual levels can be actualised in the physical world. The highest three of the ten spheres are:- KETER (Crown), CHOCHMAH (Wisdom) and BINAH (Understanding). If, however, KETER is omitted then the first three are CHOCHMAH, BINAH and DA’AT (Knowledge). These are followed by seven SEFIROT (Spheres), sub-divided into two triads and a singular last one. They are:
CHESED (Kindness, Grace, Benevolence)
GEVURAH (Strength, Judgement, Restraint, Power)
TIFERET (Beauty, an harmonious blending of CHESED and GEVURAH)
NETZACH (Victory, Glory, Endurance)
HOD (Splendour, Majesty)
YESOD (Foundation, Righteousness)
MALCHUT (Kingship, Sovereignty)
Whereas the highest three attributes (KETER, CHOCHMAH and BINAH) encompass the Intellect, the next seven attributes are called Emotive Faculties.
KETER is a flash of Intellect, a spark of Inspiration; it is the Essence. It cannot descend or come down. It is so hidden, concealed and sublime that it is difficult to even begin to understand it given Man’s finite intellect. Although it is the furthest away from MALCHUT, the crown of KETER gives it a certain bond with the kingship of MALCHUT, although this latter is the closest to the physical existence. If DA’AT functions in the scheme, KETER cannot be included because DA’AT is the bridge between Intellect (Distant) and the Emotions (Closer).
CHOCHMAH represents the first creative activity of G’d. It is the YUD ( ’ ) in Hashem’s name. Everything derives from it; it is inherent in everything and it animates everything:- the seminal idea, the intuitive flash of intellectual illumination. It is the potential of what IS, brought out from obscurity, where the details are not yet differentiated and externalised. t is intensely concentrated in that initial seed of Creation. It is symbolised in the concept of Father (ABBA). (Numerical Value = 4).
BINAH is the expansion and elucidation of CHOCHMAH and externalises the potential of CHOCHMAH. It is the idea which becomes understood through cogitating its details. It is represented by the HAI ( ) of G-d’s name, i.e. a little more concrete; it has length and width and although still abstract, is clearer but not yet actualised. It is symbolised in the concept of Mother (IMMA). (Numerical Value = 42). Together with 4 of ABBA = 46 = 4 + 6 = 10 (G-d’s Unity).
DA’AT is the unifying principle or bridge that joins the faculties of CHOCHMAH and BINAH and is the practical application of a mature concept, bringing together intellect and emotions leading to Action. It is symbolised in the concept of ‘Son’ (BEN) and affects the two previous Sefirot.
THE MUSIC is infused with the mysticism of the Kabbalah and the Symphony is based on the seven Lower Spheres. In this Kabbalistic “Tree of Life” the order is Right, Left, Centre; Right, Left, Centre and Down. Only a hint of KETER is given in the introduction, in which the music begins with C (Doh) as a tonal basis. The character is processional and majestic and this exact theme comes full circle in a cyclic form to MALCHUT at the end, only each sphere climbs a tone higher each time, so that when the theme is repeated in MALCHUT it is now used on the tonal basis of B (the 7th note from C). The drums, together with the flute theme, give it its kingly character. The numerology (‘Gematria’) of CHESED is 72 (7 + 2 = 9). The rhythmic metre therefore is 9/8 (nine quavers in a bar). The theme is taken over by the horns, which are joined by the trumpets and other brass.
A Xylophone introduces CHESED (Bar 37) and this ‘Ostinato’ figure is taken over by the Marimba. The “unlimited outpouring” and “benevolence” of CHESED are interpreted musically by a series of ecstatic ascending scales with no restraint. These scales in the Woodwinds are based on the Octotonic (8 note) scale. The number 8 symbolizes the transcendency of nature, whose number is 7. The number 8 implies the order above nature, i.e. compatible with the concept of the Messiah. But this open-handed “giving” needs some control. This restraint is provided by GEVURAH.
This section (Bar 75) begins with a lively theme in the Oboe but one that is constantly interrupted by the restraining and judgemental interjections of strength in the Brass. This ‘restraint’ creates the right balance and harmony, which result in the beauty and equilibrium of TIFERET (Beauty). A final Timpani flourish ends the GEVURAH section with its severity of judgement that demands that the unbridled outpouring be restrained. The tonic of ‘D’ (Reh) dominates.
TIFERET is ushered in by sweeping ‘glissandi’ on the Harp. The Harp (King David’s instrument) is used to signify beauty and harmony. The Kingly theme of the opening is played by the Harp, and is then taken over by the Oboes and Flutes against a repetitive ‘ostinato’ in the Harp. This all centres around the key of E (the third tonal step).
The merging of CHESED and GEVURAH in TIFERET is portrayed musically by blending the themes of each. The aspects of Mercy and Truth are revealed here in this reconciliation of themes where EMET (Truth) has a numerical value of 441 (4 + 4 + 1 = 9); the 9 note theme is prominent. Since TIFERET in concept is closer to CHESED the scales of kindness predominate.
A mystical, musical bridge joins this triad to the next three spheres. The low Bassoons (Bar 204) land on a loud F (Fah) beginning NETZACH. The second triad of NETZACH, HOD and YESOD derive their characteristics from the source of the first triad. It is now on a less distant level, i.e. “lower” channels through which the “upper” attributes effect their purpose and application. From the symbolic arrangement of the spheres (see diagram page 2) one can see how the spheres which are in the same vertical line below the upper spheres display similar qualities, e.g. YESOD is influenced by TIFERET, but differs in intensity and tonal colour.
NETZACH (Victory, Glory): The “Victory” is over one’s own emotions and the music brings in hints of the CHESED theme but with more direct communication. The “endurance” quality is shown in the music by long sustained values against rhythmic repetitions in the Xylophone and Marimba. NETZACH and HOD usually go paired together like “two halves of the one body” supporting the upper body. The basis of F (Fah) tonality here is a strong support.
HOD like GEVURAH has strength and splendour. It also restrains excess. The tonal basis is now G (Soh) and the GEVURAH theme of 9 notes begins in G (Bar 336) in the Bass Clarinet and is followed in Fugal style by the Oboe and then by the Bassoon. A complex counterpoint develops and the theme enters in Trumpets & Xylophones and finally in the Trombones in “augmentation” (double the note values) which gives the music a majestic quality. Again HOD and NETZACH are united by YESOD.
YESOD (Foundation, Righteousness): With YESOD the previous SEFIROT are brought to perfection. The tonal centre is A (La) and as Glazerson mentions in his book “Music and Kabbalah” the tone A is the foundation of the Orchestra to which all instruments tune. YESOD is the attachment of Heart and Soul, the channel of communication; again a uniting bond. The concept of righteousness is interpreted musically in the openness and unison playing of the Woodwinds. Its link with TIFERET (in a straight line above it) is shown through the return of the Harp, but now the Harp-theme is joined by the Flute in united perfection.
The last sphere, which is the link with the lower world, i.e. the “world of speech” is MALCHUT (Kingship). This is a unique state of being rather than an activity. This “lowest level” of the SEFIROT is a passive sphere into which the other spheres pour, yet it is the actualisation of the original creative plan. It manifests reality and therefore the music returns to the opening majestic “KETER” (Crown) theme, but this time seven notes higher (on B tonality) (Ti). The wonderful contradiction here is that we have risen a note higher each sphere yet spiritually it is a downward movement from the highest realms towards the physical world. This is the “mouth of G’d”, where potentiality is actualised with the creation of finite creatures. With this Divine Light the music comes to a finite close in a crescendo in the whole Orchestra ending on a final B (Ti) awaiting the upper “Doh”, the 8th note to herald the Messianic Age.