The composer explains:
In order to give shape to such a complex musical and historical programme, it was necessary to find an original structure inspired in the very sources of the subject presented here divided into seven chapters, each one containing key moments in the city’s history. Three central chapters comprise a selection of the most representative music of the three main periods relevant to the three monotheistic religions.
In antiquity, the power of music was ever-present. Of all historical sources, the Bible provides the most important and richest vein in terms of our knowledge of music in ancient times. Music and dance played an important role not only in everyday life, but also in religious ceremonies and in battle. Indeed, it is in one of the earliest legends, in the story of the trumpets and the battle of Jericho, that we find a testimony to the power of music. Rather than music in the strict sense, it refers to intense, strident dissonances produced by several hundred instruments, so powerful that they brought the walls tumbling down.
From the very beginning, we felt that one of the most ancient instruments still extant, the shofar or ram’s horn of Abraham, must have played a crucial role in that battle, alongside the ancient Oriental trumpets which are today known as anafirs. Our initial hypothesis was confirmed during our research when we read the account given by Abbot Nicholas of Thingeyrar of the Benedictine monastery of Thingeyrar, in Iceland. Abbot Nicholas travelled to the Holy Land four or six years after the composition of the Crusader song Chevalier mult estes guaritz (dated 1146), where he found the trumpets of Jericho and the shofars, together with the rod of Moses (mentioned in this song), in a chapel dedicated to Saint Michael in the Bucoleon Palace in Constantinople. This account is confirmed in the inventory of Anthony, archbishop of Novgorod, who says that it was kept between one of the trumpets of Jericho and the ram’s horn of Abraham (Riant, Exuviae Constantinopolitanae, Geneva, 1878). It is impossible to define any particular notes in the score we have devised for this fanfare, since each instrument had its own distinct pitch. It is therefore an entirely random construction and layering of sounds, taking into account the characteristic language of these primitive instruments, built up on the basis of common rhythms and dynamics which, although individually precise, join together in a completely free fashion. The sound produced by the 14 instruments and the drums would need to be multiplied 30 or 50-fold in order to get some idea of the sound effect produced by the legendary trumpets of Jericho.
The Jewish city is recalled, from the time of its foundation until the destruction of the temple, by the evocative sound of the shofar, a selection of the most beautiful psalms of David, as preserved in the ancient tradition of the Jews of southern Morocco, an instrumental dance and a text by Rabbi Akiba recited in Hebrew...(Note that the quoted text above has been extracted from a larger explanation and reordered to reflect the sequence of the performance.)
By way of conclusion, we evoke “earthly peace”, a peace sought after by the political leaders who have governed the city over the five thousand years and more of its recorded history... Rounding off this optimistic final expression of optimism, the “trumpets of Jericho” return, but this time they do so to remind us that human beings are still spiritually cut off from one another by too many walls, walls that must first be broken down in our hearts before they can be dismantled by peaceful means in the world around us.
The work has been recorded by Alia Vox as a two-CD set, see cover to right.
It has also been performed live. For example, NPR reports that on May 3, 2010:
"at Lincoln Center in New York City, early-music expert Jordi Savall is taking his audience back to ancient Jerusalem... The Jerusalem project spans six centuries — right up to the present day — and the clash of cultures and religions that has torn the city apart... His project with his wife, singer Montserrat Figueras, titled Jerusalem: City of Heavenly and Earthly Peace, presents music from the city's seven major historical periods. It starts with the Old Testament Battle of Jericho, when, legend has it, the trumpets of Joshua's army brought down the city walls. That instrument was really the Hebraic shofar, which continues to be made in exactly the same way — from a ram's horn — some 3,000 years later."A recording of the concert is available online. In the first half of the concert, The introductory “Fanfare of Jericho” can be heard from time mark 3:58 to 5:40. It is performed by six shofarot, four anifers, and percussion. Its communicates the intensity, discordance, and power of warfare. Additional shofars, more subdued but no less poingient, are at time mark 22:00 to begin the section on Jerusalem the Jewish City from 1000 BCE to 70 CE.Shofars can also be heard in the second half of the concert at time mark 1:02:30.The New York Times review of the concert said,
At the beginning of the program, the shofars, deployed onstage and in the balconies, are presented as the trumpets that brought down the walls of Jericho. At the end, the shofar players on the left side of the stage and performers using brass trumpets on the right create a din that Mr. Savall intends to be less warlike. This version, called “Against the Barriers of the Spirit,” is meant to suggest that just as music brought down the walls of Jericho, it might bring down obstacles to peace. Naïve, perhaps, but a nice thought.The work has earned the composer the Lower Saxony Praetorius Music Prize. The United Nations recognized his commitment to the "understanding between peoples", the European Union named him ambassador for intercultural dialogue, and UNESCO awarded both Jordi Savall and Montserrat Figueras the distinction of "Artists for Peace".
---------Learn more about shofar at www.HearingShofar.com where you can download Michael T. Chusid's book, Hearing Shofar: The Still Small Voice of the Ram's Horn.