Conflict and Passion in Morton Gould's Jericho
An Interpretive Analysis
by Arnald D. Gabriel
Jericho is a name as newsworthy today as it was in biblical times. In the late 1930s Morton Gould chose the embattled city as the subject of one of the first major works written for concert bands. Original works for band were scarce then and bands relied heavily on transcriptions; and although Jericho Rhapsody was difficult for high school and university bands, it was hailed as an important addition to the sparse repertoire.
Morton Gould wrote Jericho Rhapsody for the Pennsylvania School Music Association, now the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association, at the request of George Howard, who was then on the faculty of Mansfield State Teachers College. Gould wrote the work in either 1938 or 1939 and regrets that he did not date his compositions during that period. Born on December 10, 1913, Gould was only about 25 years old when he created this masterpiece under such a tight deadline for the initial performance that the work was written literally overnight.
It has been my firm belief that conductors have an obligation to probe the depths of a composition beyond the printed page. With the outpouring of great works for concert band in the past 50 years, it is fortunate that many of the composers have been alive to contribute to this important research. Every composer with whom I have communicated has been grateful for my interest and responsive to all queries, and directors should never be reluctant to contact a composer for information about a work. It is important to know of the historical, geographic, and psychological environment in which a composer writes. When I asked Gould about his preparations before writing Jericho Rhapsody, he replied, “All I did was read the Book of Joshua.”
So with the Old Testament and a measure-numbered score in hand, we find that the opening four measures represent the “Once upon a time...” of this rhapsodic tone poem. They are declamatory, stately, and decisive, in the spirit of God's commission to Joshua.
"After the death of Moses, the servant of the LORD, the LORD spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying, 'My servant Moses is dead. Now proceed to cross the Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the Israelites. …Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.'” (Joshua 1:1-3, 9b)
All of this emotional exhortation should be incorporated into the initial statement, with the 3rd beats of measures 2 and 4 a portent of things to come. Despite the tendency to hurry the two sixteenth notes, use restraint to assure that they are played at the same pace as the established tempo. Measures 5-13 are to be performed in a scherzo-like dance as a precursor of later developments, and all slurred figures should end with a dot over the note and an accent on the first note to give this figure the desired lilt.
Gould has suggested that the trombone figures in measures 9 and 10 should exaggerate the crescendi to heighten the effect. This is also desired from the entire ensemble in measures 14, 16, and 18.
Although I first discussed the ambiguity in measure 18 with Gould 30 years ago, in October, 1994 he confirmed my thoughts about the discrepancy between the condensed score, which indicates an F natural for the first cornet and trumpet while the full score indicates an F sharp. Clearly the bass clef instruments are playing a D major chord, but which is correct for the treble clef instruments, D major or D minor?
Although measure 14 is D flat major and measure 16 is A flat major I believe that the conflict of the bimodality is desirable in measure 18. There is a certain warmth in the D flat and A flat chords, but the brightness in the D major is premature by 271 measures. By playing the D major in measure 18, the deliverance of the Lord’s promise as expressed by the brilliance of the D major in measure 289 is compromised, but by creating a conflict it all makes sense.
On the open fifth in the bass clef in measure 21, the A is often more prevalent than the D, but the opposite is preferable. The A should almost sound like an overtone of the well-tuned D.
Pragmatism should take precedence in the clarinet line at measures 21-27. Because of the range and precision inherent in the recitative style, intonation will be a problem for less-than-experienced players. For freedom of expression, I often opt for just one player on this section. The harmonic bimodality of measure 18 is now reconfirmed by a melodic bimodality in the clarinet line with its enigmatic shifting from F sharp to F natural. To emphasize this sense of searching, lean on the F sharp and F natural.
Following the opening prologue the pyramids in the brasses in measures 27-29 describe the roll call:
“So now select twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe.” (Joshua 3:12)
The three measures of 4/4 at 27-29 contain twelve beats. When I asked Gould if he intended this symbolism, he denied thinking about so rigid an interpretation when he wrote it, but agreed that it is more than a coincidence. This is a perfect example of the environment in which a composer writes and which Gould described here as being “supernatural”; the subconscious emerged from his pen. The pyramids should, obviously, be well balanced so that each of the tribes confidently proclaims its presence. The tempo from measures 46-60 should move a little faster to add forward motion toward the Chant and to place less of a burden on the high tessatura of cornets and trumpets. This section, once again, anticipates what is to follow.
There seems to be no marking available to the composer between a tenuto in measure 61 and a fermata in measure 62. For a release of the tension of the previous section and for a smoother transition to the Chant in measure 63, there should be a gradual, rather than abrupt, lessening of the tempo and dynamics.
Beginning at measure 63, the Chant is choralistic in nature and a crescendo in measure 63 and a decrescendo in measure 64 create the “lyric and warm” style Gould indicated. Measures 65 and 66 are similarly played. In measure 66 the A played an octave lower in the tuba on the first half note adds a feeling of resolution at the beginning of this compelling four-bar phrase. I would not hesitate to have the ensemble sing these four measures until it achieves a warm, relaxed choral sound.
Note the indecision of modality in measures 68 and 69 with the clarinet stressing F natural and an F sharp in the bassoon reiterating the conflict. A crescendo over the descencion in these two measures will add warmth to the phrase. Although there is a basic E flat major chord in the bass clef from measures 74-77, the parallel fourths in the upper woodwinds in measures 79-88 evoke the mystery of the parting of the Jordan and Joshua’s counsel to the Israelites about the importance of the miracle. The upper member of the fourths is usually heard, but it is important to emphasize the lower member.
“For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you crossed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea... that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, and so that you may fear the LORD your God forever.” (Joshua 4:23-24)
This powerful passage in measures 79-91 is illuminated by a D flat octave in the vibraphone, giving it a shimmering framework. Biblical figures in other compositions are often represented by muted strings, frequently playing with a pianissimo tremolo. The effect is similar using the vibraphone with soft, yarn-wound mallets and a slow-speed motor setting. The melodic line should add urgency and passion to the F in measure 84, the climax of this dramatic statement.
“While the Israelites were camped in Gilgal they kept the Passover in the evening of the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. On the day after Passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year.” (Joshua 5:10-12)
On their journey through the desert to the Promised Land, the Israelites had lived on God's gift of manna, a flaky, nutritious, but bland substance. It is easy to imagine the delight of the people to finally eat at the land of milk and honey after a steady diet of one food. It was also common in centuries past for soldiers to celebrate just before going into battle, so there is an underlying intensity in the anticipated assault on Jericho that is combined with the revelry of singing and dancing.
The dance that occurs from measures 92 to 170, although beginning “Fast – with vigor and drive,” should be controlled and modulated so that it grows in intensity and fury throughout. On the opening figure the dotted eighth note should be emphasized and the sixteenth note should be as fast, late, and soft as possible
to give it the required drive.
Gould points out that measure 100 is taken from the Negro spiritual Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho. The word Jericho, i.e.
is used subsequently in many guises from this part forward. The Jericho figure is easily misplayed
and care should be taken to delay the final note of the first beat until the final quarter of the beat. The spiritual is used cleverly from measures 100-116 in a basic 7/4 pattern. The significance of 7 is discussed later.
The dance becomes more intense with the introduction of a new theme at measure 117 and the use of syncopation on the fifth beat of the 7/4 meter. This new material is then wedded to the initial dance theme in measure 125. Balance will surely suffer at this point if the brass is allowed to dominate the woodwinds. The spiritual reappears in measure 135, this time even more frenzied. In measure 138, note the reappearance of the major-minor effect with the D flat major sounding on the first beat and D flat minor on the third.
Yet another dance theme appears in measure 143, this one almost orgiastic with violent glissandi in the trombones and more syncopation in the upper woodwinds. If, in fact, clarinets play with raised bells caution is advised lest the tone quality become too raucous. It adds more drive to the passage if the upper woodwinds play the third beat and the second eighth note of the fourth beat short, without tying across the bar line. In measures 151, 153, 155, 157, and 159 the woodwinds should execute a breath accent on the first note of each group of sixteenth notes to add to the excitement and provide the pulse to hold things together rhythmically. Note that Gould once more vacillates between the melodic G major and G minor.
Gould's mark of “dying down” in measure 166 is an accurate description. The diminuendo from measures 166-170 and a ritardando at 170 will convey the impression of the masses collapsing in a heap after their unbridled revelry. The snare drum beginning the March at measure 171 should emerge as from a pre-dawn mist with the woodwinds entering as softly, and as short and crisp, as possible at measure 175.
The first indication of blowing the walls down is on the fourth beat of measure 194. The triplet figures that begin to emerge in measures 189 and 190 are harbingers of the trumpet figures to come. The use of the flatted ninth interval throughout the March suggests the anticipation. Even though measure 204 is “faster and wilder,” an acceleration from this point to the priests' trumpets in measure 211 sets the tempo for measure 211.
“As Joshua had commanded the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the LORD went forward, blowing the trumpets... To the people, Joshua gave this command: ‘You shall not shout or let your voice be heard, nor shall you utter a word, until the day I tell you shout.’” (Joshua 6:8-10)
“On the seventh day they rose early, at dawn, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times... And the seventh time, when the priests had blown their trumpets, Joshua said to the people, ‘Shout! For the LORD has given you the city.’” (Joshua 6:15-16)
From measures 211 to 236, Gould effectively uses three trumpets and three cornets antiphonally. Because 7 is not divisible by 2, 6 was the natural choice. For the critical balance between the priests' rams horns it may help to experiment by shifting the stronger players to the second and third parts to create the requisite triadic strength. The Scripture says that although seven trumpeters circled the city for seven days, it was not until Joshua commanded the people to join in a great shout that the walls actually came tumbling down. The shout is clearly heard in measures 237 and 238 as the entire ensemble joins the trumpets, and measure 239 obviously represents the collapse of the walls. All sorts of effects are possible in these measures, but directors should be aware that walls do not fall in a gradual decrescendo. A little show biz can be added here by having percussion (cymbal, bass drum, snare drum, timpani and/or gong combination) create undulating waves of sounds during the overall decrescendo.
It is interesting to note that Gould disavows any conscious awareness of the number seven while he wrote Jericho Rhapsody. When I asked why the dance was written in 7/4, he stated that it wasn't; rather, it was alternately measures of 4 and 3. “Oh! I see,” he said. He further claims that the addition of the ensemble in measures 237 and 238 was merely to enhance the effect of falling walls. When I pointed out Joshua’s command to the people to “Shout,” he expressed pleasant surprise at the discovery of yet another subconscious expression in this work.
Measures 254-261 are a reflection of the Chant, this time in grateful thanksgiving. The E major tonality is reflective of the Chant begun in measure 63, but take note that the G sharp in measures 254 and 255 appear only in the alto clarinet. With so many groups not using alto clarinet, it is essential that these notes be cued in other instruments. A joyful “Hallelujah!” in D minor following a D major resolution in measure 261 is stated in measures 262-283 with fragments of previous sections in evidence. All notes are to be played accented, spaced, and with exaltation. While the opening four measures say “once upon a time,” it is measures 284-288 that say, “Now we have told you our story.” Finally at measure 289 the brilliance of the D major chord can resonate with unrestrained joy. This consonance has been reserved as the resounding “amen.”
Although the E seventh melodic statement creates a slight conflict against the D major, it is one of great exaltation with the final musically onomatopoetic “Jericho!” in measure 294, compacted rhythmically as
I have purposely avoided an over-technical performance analysis of Jericho Rhapsody but have concentrated on imagery and emotion in the music. Too often conductors are merely concerned with loud or soft, fast and slow. Instead of letting these aspects dominate rehearsals, conductors should be concerned with thoughts and emotions behind the notes on the printed page. To describe the emotions of Jericho I have used these terms: declamatory, stately, decisive, emotional exhortation, warmth, brightness, brilliance, conflict, freedom of expression, enigmatic, searching, symbolism, confidently proclaim, anticipatory, release of tension, smooth transition, choralistic, feeling of resolution, compelling, stressing, evocative, emphasize, powerful, illuminated, shimmering, urgency, passion, dramatic, controlled, modulated, intensity, fury, drive, frenzied, orgiastic, violent, excitement, unbridled revelry, unsettling, triadic strength, undulating waves, reflection, grateful thanksgiving, joyful, exaltation, resonate, and unrestrained joy.
The simple concepts of loud or soft, fast and slow are just not enough. The effectiveness of a musical vocabulary is dependent on the imagery and emotion that the conductor articulates through the ensemble. Although Morton Gould’s genius gave us this important work, it is the obligation and responsibility of the conductor to put forth the effort to delve into the background of this or any other composition to identify and interpret the meanings and emotions the composer incorporated into the printed page. The rewards are well worth the effort of each exploration.
Biblical passages extracted from The Layman’s Parallel Bible, New Revised Standard Version ©1991, The Zondervan Corporation. Music from Morton Gould’s Jericho Rhapsody for band ©1941, Mills Music, Inc.
 1st French horn, change to 2 measures rest;  string
bass, add dot after half note;  1st trumpet, 1st cornet,
change to G natural (see text);  2nd alto saxophone, add
third line B natural quarter note on 4th beat; string bass, add
pizzicato;  1st trombone, add rehearsal number 4;
 1st trombone, delete rehearsal number 4;  several parts have half-rest with dot; to clarify this seldom
used notation, substitute quarter rest on 3rd beat in place
of dot; [47, 49] 2nd clarinet, change 4th beat F natural to F sharp;
 3rd cornet, change A sharp on 1st and 4th beats to A natural;
condensed score, low woodwind figure should be on 3rd
beat; [72-73] fluegel horns, if fluegel horns not used, give
cues to cornet or trumpet;  condensed score, change
whole-note B flat in bass clef to C;  condensed score,
add D flat octave whole note in vibraphone;  1st cornet, change D natural to D sharp; [139,140] 3rd-4th French horn,
add quarter note rest on 4th beat;  3rd clarinet,
change C natural to C sharp;  bass clarinet, add C sharp on 3rd beat;
 3rd clarinet, change D on 4th beat to B natural;  1st
trombone, delete final eighth rest;  1st clarinet,
change D to D sharp ;  2nd trombone, delete flutter-
tongue indication; [227, 229] trumpets and cornets, slur
4 notes; [228, 230] trumpets and cornets, slur first two
notes, tongue 2nd two notes; condensed score, make
same changes;  baritone bass clef, add quarter rest
on 3rd beat; [245-248] snare drum, roll;  snare drum,
play same figure as in 244; [250-253] snare drum, roll;
[245-253] condensed score, make snare drum changes as
above; [245-261] alto clarinet, if no alto clarinet, write
parts for other instruments;  condensed score,
change 2nd note in flute line to eighth note;  1st
flute, 2nd flute, oboe, E^ clarinet, and 2nd clarinet, re
verse pattern of first 2 notes;  2nd flute,
change 3rd beat to dotted eighth and sixteenth notes;
 bass clarinet, add quarter rest on 1st beat;  bass
clarinet, change B to D on 1st beat;  both scores,
all brass, low woodwinds, add ff on downbeat and
subito pp on 2nd beat;  tenor saxophone, change
A to A sharp on 2nd beat.
Colonel Arnald D. Gabriel was conductor of the United States Air Force Band from 1964 to 1985 and is now conductor emeritus of that ensemble. Retired as chairman of the department of music at George Mason University. Gabriel has conducted bands and orchestras in all 50 United States and in 46 countries around the world.