By Simon Rocker
December 24, 2013
According to rabbinic lore, the giving of the Ten Commandments was almost fatal. The voice of God who uttered the first two was so powerful that it killed the Israelites and they had to be resurrected (after which, understandably, Moses took over).
So imagine my apprehension when I attended a session which sought to recreate the receiving of the Ten Commandments.
London-based composer Daniel Biro's electronic composition The Sounds of Sinai - which he released as a CD a couple of years ago - is an "an artistic impression of what the experience might have sounded like". Which is a tall order because the Torah text speaks of the people actually "seeing" the sounds, while the rabbis stated that the entire Decalogue actually unfolded in a single utterance.
Music can nonethelss give a sensation of what cannot be put into words.
To enhance our concentration, before playing his piece, Daniel offered us blindfolds. As the layers of sound, composed out of electronically processed human breathing and voices, a bass clarinet and a shofar, swirled through our heads, rising from a susurrus to a cavernous thunder, the experience became progressively more eerie and arresting.
Not something I probably would have encountered had I not come to Limmud. But it's a place to experiment and this was a worthwhile turn off the beaten track.