T’filat ha-Derech


The word derech in Hebrew means “path” and the prayer along the way; the T’filat ha-Derech refers to a traditional traveler’s prayer that asks to “cause us to reach our destination in life, joy, and peace”. If a concerto can have a plot, the sense of this piece is that we are always on the way, at every moment, much of the time unrelentingly, sometimes in stillness. Sometimes living in the same repetitive motion over and over again, caught in a flood of whirling echoes. Sometimes distracted, sometimes, if we are fortunate, in happy repose.

The first movement is a dance, alternating between a simple Phrygian tune and more raucous interludes reminiscent of a sort of wild, rickety junk-yard funk.

The second movement shown here is a meditation on a two-note figure in the ’cello that spins off into the other voices, filling out and becoming wilder and wilder. The ’cello responds in turn to their new ideas, eventually leading them into a tolling, closely repeating chorus before climbing back somewhere up into its original notes.

The final movement is based on a very short piece I wrote several years ago in memory of my mother, a cellist herself. I had become interested in Yemenite music and wrote a brief dance echoing some of the clangorous rhythms I heard in that music. For T’filat ha-Derech, I took that fragment and filled it out, adding a sort of orchestrated reverb as I went, and striving for the same kind of aesthetic that I love in some of the joyously meditative electronic dance music I hear these days. At times the tune disappears and reenters, and when the cadenza is finished, it falls gently into a much slower coda, an attempt at gratitude and resolution, an attempt to portray the hopes of the original prayer.

T’filat ha-Derech is dedicated to my son, Zev.


Video Credits:
Derek Stein: 'cello
Conducted by Marc Lowenstein
Recorded live at REDCAT