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Holiness of Beauty: interview with Carl Daw

Holiness of Beauty: interview with Carl Daw

Cowley Magazine offers in interview with the Rev. Dr. Carl P. Daw, Jr. focussing on how he translates and paraphrases psalms for hymn texts:

Why do we need new paraphrases of the psalms today?

A great danger with psalm translations – as with anything that we sing or do in church – is the possibility of making one text into an idol, such that it seems it cannot be changed. It has been said about church architecture that anything in the worship space that cannot be changed becomes an idol. This is true also of what we sing in worship. So it’s valuable to have different psalm paraphrases, as well as different tunes to pair with psalm and hymn texts, because these different versions will enable us to notice new things that we might not have seen in the familiar version.


How does chanting the psalms, like we do at the Monastery, add to the experience of the texts?

Chanting the psalms emphasizes the timelessness of them, especially in the space of the Monastery Chapel. There is a kind of sonic memory that is evoked by hearing those sounds in that space, which, to me, communicates a sense of transcendence that doesn’t come by singing ordinary ditties from our culture or reading the texts on their own. Chanting the psalms here opens a door to a memory we didn’t know we had. Among other things, chanting the psalms seems larger than any one person or any one community or any one time, and so it invites us to be part of that timelessness.

And the prayer book translation of the psalms chanted at SSJE is a fine vehicle for this timelessness, because it was created specifically for singing. You can see the difference if you compare it with the RSV or NRSV or NIV or any other recent translation.

Read the entire interview here.


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