Elijah’s Chariot


Instrumentation: String Quartet and electronics
Duration: 19:45
Commission: Kronos Quartet and the National Endowment for the Arts
Premiere: 5/9/96
Kronos Quartet
Theatre Artaud, San Francisco, CA

Program Note:
The story of the prophet Elijah is fantastic: He did not die but was swept up to heaven on a chariot of fire drawn by horses of fire. Many tales have grown up around the prophet Elijah: they focus on his return to earth to help Jews and to announce the coming of the Messiah. Elijah also plays a role in the close of the Jewish sabbath and the folk song Eliahu HaNavi is frequently sung at this time. The opening phrase of this melody forms a melodic thread in Elijah’s Chariot, emerging clearly at one point, obliquely at others.

The scoring for string quartet and electronics symbolically suggests the source of inspiration: the four instruments represent the four wheels of the chariot, the vehicle that moves between earth and heaven; they also represent the dialogue between Elijah and Elisha, the follower who does not wish to desert Elijah despite Elijah’s pleas and forwarning; and they represent the voice of the people in prayer. The electronic portion represents Heaven’s call to Elijah, includes the sound of the shofar associated with Elijah, and intimates the ascent to heaven.

The electronic portion of Elijah’s Chariot was realized at the Virginia Center for Computer Music (VCCM) at the University of Virginia. All electronic sounds were produced by digitally manipulating shofar sounds recorded by Dr. Mel Sigel of Minneapolis. They were processed using the program HACK (Hierarchical Audio Construction Kit) created by Pete Yadlowsky, then Technical Director of the VCCM. I am grateful to Dr. Sigel and my sister Deborah Shatin for their help in the recording process. Elijah’s Chariot was commissioned by the Kronos Quartet with funding from the NEA, and is dedicated to the memory of Adam Francis Harrington.–JS

Press Quotes:
“A splendid Elijah’s Chariot.”
–Il Gazzettino

“[Elijah’s Chariot] generates a dense and affecting musical dialogue.”
–The San Francisco Chronicle

“The closing “Elijah’s Chariot” with The Cassatt String Quartet and electronics ends the album as a true Baal buster with lots of moments that are both cerebral and visceral.” –George W. Harris, Jazz Weekly

“When you listen to her piece [‘Elijah’s Chariot’], you feel as though you too are being swept up to Heaven by strong winds. Shatin’s music is powerful and most distinctive. As performed here and recorded in Innova’s clear sound, it is also most inviting. I think anyone who is interested in the creation of new music should sample her offerings.” –Maria Nockin, Fanfare

“The instrumental pinnacle was Judith Shatlin’s “Elijah’s Chariot,” a symphonic poem for string quartet, with the four instruments representing the wheels of the prophet’s fiery conveyance to Heaven.”
–Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“The Shatin work…is a single long movement based on the sound of a shofar, a ram’s horn blown in the Jewish liturgy. That ancient sound is ingeniously manipulated electronically and serves as the point of departure for exploratory sonorities in the string quartet. In addition, the traditional Hebrew melody “Eliahu HaNvai” is introduced, developed and repeated in simple and elaborate variations at the end, played and hummed by the Cassatt Quartet. The work is inspired by the story of the biblical prophet Elijah and reflects his religious intensity. Shatin reveals her mastery of the union of the electronic medium and live performance in projecting a visionary experience.”
–Charlottesville Weekly


Elijah’s Chariot
Product Options
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2Bound Score & CD of Electronics$39.95
3Score, parts & CD of electronics$49.95
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