MusicGematria & Transliterations | Film | Orchestral
My compositional style has come from a number of different influences: Classically trained in composition at The Queensland Conservatorium of Music I have a strong connection to the world of orchestral music. I have a strong affinity for film music and the art of film scoring having been involved in that industry early in my career (and still do some scoring for ads, documentaries and the odd student film). These interests are complimented by a background in music technology, studio engineering and sound design.
I am also fascinated by the alphanumeric nature of the Hebrew and Greek scriptures and the symmetry and hidden gems within those scriptures. The techniques of transliteration – the translating of letters in the scriptures to musical notes – also plays a large inspirational role in my compositions. The album “Secrets” was composed entirely upon the transliteration of scriptures – the musical lines and harmonies have been extrapolated out of the sequence of letters from these ancient texts.
For me, using the scriptures and an understanding of gematria, natural mathematical systems like the Fibonacci sequence, theories on resonance, and what I know about our neurobiology, all play a part for the inspiration of my compositions. Music has wonderful, sometimes ethereal, and often sacred properties – and so it is the creative pursuit of something higher that inspires me to compose.
The Custodian is a 2012 film written and directed by Simon Hunter, staring Ty Hungerford and Frank Sczygiol, with score composed and produced by Matthew Dahlitz.
At 31, Josh Francis hasn’t found his niche in life. Good at many things, nothing has provided meaning. Believing he’s at a point in life where he cannot ‘hope’ that his life will get better, he commits to find a new life by traveling for a year. On route to a stock hand job at a cattle farm, soon finds himself completely lost in a forest. He comes across a manicured path that leads to two broken gates, beyond them – a beautiful Victorian home stand. He mistakes the place to be his employer’s home, but soon discovers that not only is this not the cattle station, it may very well be a gateway to heaven and he realizes that stumbling upon this place was no accident at all.
One of the things that has fascinated me is the relationship between written language and music (music obviously being a language in itself) and in particular the relationship between the truly alpha/numeric languages of Hebrew and Greek. Both languages have letters for numbers and reciprocally numbers are letters – so any word or phrase can be expressed as a series of numbers. In fact there is a method called gematria whereby the ancient Hebrew scriptures are studied, not as words and phrases, but as numbers.
I’ve been experimenting with a process called linear transliteration whereby I take scripture in either the Hebrew or Greek and translate it into musical notation. I have a matrix of scales and modes that match with the Greek or Hebrew alphabet. From the matrix I can “translate” the original text into musical tones. For example, if I take the C major scale, and assign the letter A to the note C, then the letter B the note D, the letter C to the note E, and so on, I’ll have a map to translate words into melody. Using this example then, the word “believe” would become the musical melody D-G-G-C-G-C-G. We get repeated notes like the G because the letter E and I in “believe” happen to line up with G in the repeating 7-note scale when put up against our 26-letter English alphabet.
The process can become incredibly complex depending on the maps we create and how we treat the literal sequence of Hebrew letters/numbers as they are converted to melody and harmony. If we also add some of the structural elements of phrase/sentence and overarching symmetry of certain parts of scripture and include that in our composition “rules”, then we have a wealth of information from which to compose.
Everything on the “Secrets” album was written with such rules – in other words the melody and resulting harmonies are all generated from the sequence of letters in scripture. This gives the pieces a certain form and melodic uniqueness that wouldn’t be the case if I was just composing “free-form”. There is obvious latitude in the style, orchestration, tempo, etc, that I’ve used to create certain feels, but the raw material is purely from ancient texts.
The following videos track the transliteration of scripture that has been used to create the music. Each melodic line, and often the resulting harmonies, have been created from the sequence of letters that make up the scripture (transliteration) and composed in my own creative way to produce the following music…