Absalom, the third-born of King David’s six sons, was well-known throughout his father’s kingdom for his faultless beauty and the luxurious wealth of his hair. As he became older, Absalom grew increasingly ambitious and plotted to become heir to his father’s throne. Gradually, Absalom acquired a sympathetic group of conspirators, and in a bold move, declared himself King. To avoid fighting his own son, David and his followers took flight. Absalom and his newly formed army gave chase and a great battle ensued in the forest Ephraim. David gave orders to his generals that his son Absalom was to be spared. During the battle, as Absalom charged through the forest, he became caught in an oak tree, held fast by his abundant hair. David’s men came upon the trapped Absalom’s death, he was inconsolable, and went up to his chamber and wept. As he went, he said, "O my son, my son Absalom! Would to God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!”
I have expanded upon the Absalom story by using sacred Latin texts to paint a picture of the inner turmoil and range of emotions that David may have felt upon learning of the death of his son. The main body of text comes from the Latin setting of the biblical account: "Absalom Fili Mi,” as set by Josquin Des Prez. Several portions of the Requiem Mass are also used, as well as selected lines from the Antiphon, the Credo, and small portions of other sacred Latin texts. In "Absalom,” the men act as the voice of King David, while the women play several roles. At times they are: the "Greek Chorus,” the conscience of David, demons, and finally, angels. This piece demands various timbres and stylistic treatments from both the singers and the piano as the grief of King David transforms from pain to anger to hopefulness.