Ancient Echoes

Note about the liner notes on the CD discussed below: The translation of "Abwoon" is, in our opinion, not good. It came from a book, Desert Wisdom by a Sufi, Neil Douglas-Klotz. Douglas-Klotz translated from the Aramaic text of the New Testament, not from the Greek. However, the Aramaic that is sung, it should be noted, is ancient Aramaic and, as far as we know, has not been tampered with. A century ago, Abraham Idelsohn, the father of modern musicology, began a study of Jewish music around the world. By cataloguing what these otherwise different kinds of music had in common, he was able to reconstruct the music of ancient Israel -- specifically, the music of Jesus' time. Now, building on Idelsohn's work, an award-winning ensemble has made it possible for us to explore a bit of Jesus' world ourselves. The group is the San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble, and the product of their work is their recording Ancient Echoes: Music from the Time of Jesus and Jerusalem's Second Temple. The Ensemble worked with archaeologists to "weave the existing clues" as to what the music of Jesus' time sounded like. The clues were found "etched in stone, sculpture, coins," and, of course, in the pages of Scripture itself. What's more, there are living clues in isolated Middle Eastern communities that have scarcely changed in the past two thousand years. The result of all this painstaking research is a reasonable approximation of the music of first-century Israel. If all of this talk about research sounds a bit academic, the results are anything but. Ancient Echoes transports the listener to a world very different from ours, and yet somehow familiar. The music's unmistakable Middle Eastern quality reminds us that when God became man, He did so in a particular place and time. As Christians, we believe that this setting was not an accident. St. Paul referred to it as "the fullness of time." As such, familiarity with Jesus' world can only deepen our understanding of Him. One of the pieces on Ancient Echoes is a setting for Psalm 114. The versions of this Psalm chanted in Sephardic synagogues and sung in medieval churches were "musically and textually" identical. This similarity suggests "a common origin" in the Jerusalem Temple before the split between Christianity and Judaism. (To listen to a sample, visit this page to listen this radio commentary.) In our culture, most art is disposable, and people slavishly chase after the new. That makes the music of ANCIENT ECHOES countercultural -- even before you consider its links to our Lord. Things of value are never out of date. We close "BreakPoint" today with "Abwoon," the Lord's Prayer, performed in Jesus' own language: Aramaic. (Listen to audioclip.) For further reading and information: "New CD Breathes Life into Ancient Holy Texts," Ancient Echoes press release, 1 November 2002. (Purchase the CD.) Learn more about the San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble. "How a Jewish Musicologist, a French Code-Cracker, and a Sufi Murshid in Montana Re-Create the Music of Ancient Jerusalem," Rock Paper Scissors press release. "Music from the Time of Jesus: Ensemble Recreates Sacred Songs of Ancient Times," National Public Radio, 20 April 2003. Roberto Rivera, "Resisting the Cult of the New," BreakPoint Online, 2001.
  1. M. Moore, "Just an Old-Fashioned Lug Song," BreakPoint Online, 2001.
Steve Turner, Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts (InterVarsity, 2001).


Chuck Colson


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