from jesus to christ - the first christians

Notes on the Music

in the prologue and soundtrack of the series


The hymn sung in the opening prologue of the series "From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians" is Allelulia, one of the most popular and beloved songs written in this century. The composer was Randall Thompson, who taught in the Music Department at Harvard University from 1948 to 1965 and served as chairman there from 1952 to 1957.

This performance of Allelulia was given by the Harvard University Choir, directed by Murray Forbes Somerville. The Assistant Choirmaster and organist was Nancy Granert.

Allelulia is both the first song of the title of the CD and the title of the CD, produced byt Northeast Records; the copyright to the music is held by Schrimer Co.

The Memorial Church of Harvard University and Harvard University gave their kind permission to use this performance. The sounds of the worship service are from a recording made of a Sunday service at Memorial Church. The Minister is Rev. Peter Gomes; the Assistant Minister is Wendell Meyer; and the administrator is Daniel Sanks.


The following is written by Paul Floss, composer of the music for FRONTLINE's "From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians"

There can't be many challenges greater than writing the music for a documentary series about the birth and origins of the major religious movement of our civilization. My ambition for the music of From Jesus to Christ was for it to have a 'timeless' feeling and to contain many natural sounds woven together to form a tapestry of History, Cultures and Emotions of that ancient time.

As a research process I collected as many tapes, CDs, vinyl albums of anything as 'old' as I could find. WGBH provided me with music from Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. Recordings exist made by specialists who make and play the Ancient instruments of both cultures.

Alexander Knapp, a Research Fellow of Ancient Jewish Music at the London University, provided me with examples of early Yemenite, Bedouin, and early Palestinian music. I also developed a library of 'sound bytes' from many different sources. So I did a lot of listening, absorbing the music listening to harmonic structures, rhythms and individual sounds.

At this time I had booked a week's holiday in Cyprus. I discovered I could take a 48-hour cruise to the Holy Land visiting Haifa, Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Even though it was a fleeting visit, it was an invaluable experience to stand by the Wailing Wall, to see the landscapes and to absorb the emotions which bubble freely in the tiny streets of Jerusalem.

Having listened and having visited, I then spent a long time making "Instrument sounds' which I felt could work in this music. Calling Horns--Eastern Flutes--Percussion--Finger Cymbals--Syrian Tablas--a mixed recipe of many ingredients.

I endeavored to invent 'new' instruments that sounded as if they could have been around 2000 years ago. One of the more successful of these is the FROTHATRON. It is played on the keyboard as you would an organ. Its sound is that of an ancient 'barrel organ.' Its sinewy, rasping tone evokes the thought of desert, empty of anything physical, but bursting at the seams with a mystical and spiritual presence.

A significant discovery at this time was a CD of early Synagogue Chants. These are unaccompanied and sung by 1 to 3 voices. I was able to write simple string underscores to a couple of these chants. The results were quite stunning sending a few shivers down my spine as I worked on them!!! Listen to the crucifixion or the burning of Jerusalem in episodes 1 and 2 to see what I mean.

I work fairly much in isolation surrounded by sound samplers, MIDI sound modules and Hard Disk editors. But my most precious piece of equipment is my imagination!! My studio is underneath my house so there is no natural light, thus at any time--it could be any other time of my night or day. After being 'down there' for a few hours working on this series, quite often I really started to feel taken back in time.

As, and when, you watch these programs, I hope that you feel somewhat "transported' back to those early days and I hope that the music helps that experience.

My name is Paul Floss and I have been composing music for television in England and America for the past 10 years. Among many other projects, I have scored many documentaries:

The Prize - An 8-part series about the history of the oil industry

The Flights of Courage - The story of the American Air Mail

The Mysterious Career of Lee Harvey Oswald

Pablo Escobar - The Godfather of Cocaine

Aristotle Onassis - The Golden Greek

symposium . jesus' many faces . a portrait of jesus' world . storytellers . first christians . why did christianity succeed?
maps, archaeology & sources . discussion . bible history quiz . behind the scenes
teachers' guide . viewers' guide . press reaction .  tapes, transcripts & events

published april 1998

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