I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning but I did it anyway, and I was rewarded with one of the most moving pieces of music I have ever heard in my life: “He sent a thick Darkness over all the Land” from Handel’s “Israel in Egypt”.
^^ It’s the second movement in this video, if you’re interested. But the point isn’t necessarily for you to enjoy it as much as I did.
The point is, I was profoundly moved by this piece. Have you ever found a piece of music (or artwork or writing or something) that resonated with you straight down to your bones? Straight down to your BONES. This music just awoke such strong imagry in me. It’s about the plague of darkness that God sends over Egypt to punish the Pharoh for enslaving the Israelites. Somehow Handel’s oratorio version just made me think about the plague of darkness in a way I never had before. Imagine it- your whole world suddenly plunged into a darkness so black you can’t see a thing. No immeadiate explanation comes to mind. It’s not nighttime. There are no stars, no moon. You stumble around through supposedly familiar places that you can no longer navigate. You can hear the voices of friends and loved ones, but you can’t see them. Maybe you can’t even reach them. It’s a terrifying thought, and Handel portrays it musically so well. All the space. The slow meter. The accidentals. The choir members calling out to one another. Wow.
We listened to several movements from “Israel in Egypt” today, and many of them were quite good. Experimental, innovative, interesting. But “He sent a thick Darkness over all the Land” stood out among them to me as a brilliant, brilliant composition.