Listen: Psalm 10

An archival recording of the world premiere, performed by Cor Cantiamo under the direction of Eric A. Johnson.

For information on performing this work or obtaining a perusal score, please contact SDG.


About the composer

Richard Dubugnon has served as the composer-in-residence with the Orchestre National de Montpellier (France) and has taught at the Royal Academy of Music and the Purcell School in London. He has been involved in many educational projects in the U.K., the U.S., and France, and has created successful creative projects for children with difficulties and with no access to musical education. Dubugnon's works have been performed by the New York Philharmonic, as part of the famous Young People’s Concerts series, the BBC Symphony at the 2012 Proms in London, the NHK Symphony in Tokyo, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Scottish Symphony, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, and the Orchestre National de France. He is also a fine double bass player and is often sought after as a chamber musician. Dubugnon's music is published by Edition Peters.


Psalm 10

Richard Dubugnon

Richard Dubugnon
Psalm 10
Solo tenor (or soprano) and mixed chorus (SATB), a cappella
DURATION: 10 minutes
TEXT: Psalm 10
The choir becomes the voice of "crowd" amplifying the leader's expressive questions and pleas to God. Psalms Project commission.



World Premiere
November 7, 2014
Cor Cantiamo
Eric A. Johnson, conductor
Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church
Naperville, Illinois


Ss. Peter and Paul Catholilc Church
Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church

The world premiere of Swiss-French composer Richard Dubugnon’s Psalm 10 for a cappella choir was premiered in Naperville, Illinois, by chamber choir Cor Cantiamo, conducted by Eric A. Johnson. The work is part of Soli Deo Gloria's Psalms Project, a collection of fifteen contemporary choral works by the world’s foremost composers expressing the text of the Hebrew Psalter in the Western Art music tradition for a 21st-century audience.

Dubugnon chose Psalm 10 because he was struck by the rebellious nature of the text, which blames God for being absent and not helping the righteous.

In the Bible we find very few examples where the believers dare revolt themselves against God as strongly as in this Psalm.

I decided to score the piece for solo tenor (or soprano) and chorus a capella, to represent a crowd of followers, somewhere in a village of Judea (like the text suggests it).

In the fall 2011, I was visiting the U.S.A, in the middle of the "Occupy Wall Street" anti-authority movements. During their sittings, the crowds were using what they called the "Human microphone" which is a means for delivering a speech to a large group of people. The persons gathered around the speaker repeat what the speaker says, thus "amplifying" the voice of the speaker without the need for amplification equipment (the use of megaphones being  prohibited). Those that can hear what the speaker has said repeat the phrase in unison, and when finished, the speaker says another phrase, then pauses again waiting for a response, etc., until the speaker's speech is complete. For a stranger passing by who would not be aware of this amplification technique, this might look like some religious ritual, not dissimilar to the Roman Catholic, or Russian Orthodox where the crowd often repeats in antiphony the sentences of the priest.

More interestingly for a composer like me, this vocal technique creates some exciting natural rhythms and intervals which I decided to emulate in my Psalm, having systematically the soloist singing the phrase first, then repeated by the crowd.

The setting of the Psalm opens with a cry of an expressive minor ninth leap "Why, Lord?" followed by silence, expressing the distress and interrogation in disbelief of the Jews of the Old Testament. I tried as much as possible to make rhythms and intervals follow the natural inflexions of the spoken language, with my own harmonization of the line."

—Program Notes © Richard Dubugnon, Paris 2014

Cor Cantiamo
Cor Cantiamo

The concert, titled "Inspirited," was designed to explore composers' efforts to understand the divine and create beauty in the world. The program also featured two additional works from the Psalms Project: Gavin Bryars' Psalm 141 and Daniel Kellogg's Preserve Me, O God

The SDG Psalms Project is made possible by a grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc.