Im Fregyish was initially inspired by Rebecca Abrams’ book ‘The Jewish Journey’. I was excited by the idea that traditions and objects and, in the case of music, scales and melodic forms, are passed between the generations and have travelled with the Jewish diaspora across the world, and I wanted to write a piece that reflected this complex and multi-layered story. Each of the four movements of Im Freygish are inspired by generalised characteristics I associate with Jewish culture: a yearning for truth, a questioning of authority, a thirst for mystical connection, and a talent for joyful celebration.
The term ‘freygish’ is typically found in klezmer music but derives from a much older cantorial mode, also known under several other titles including the Ahava Rabbah mode, the Mode of Supplication, and Altered Phrygian mode. It is used for the setting of ‘Ahava Rabbah’, or ‘abounding love’, the Ashkenazi prayer and blessing sung during the synagogue morning services. When performed, either in synagogue or in a klezmer setting, the mode can be developed into a variety of short phrases and melodic forms. I have taken this beautiful irregular scale and filtered its melodic forms through my own musical sensibilities to create a dialogue between Jewish musical traditions and the western musical canon, expressed here through the rigorous crucible of the string quartet.