Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)


College of Music and Dramatic Arts

Document Type



Osvlado Golijov’s The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind, scored for klezmer clarinet and string quartet, remains one of his most influential works since its premier in 1994. Inspiration for the work came from the writings of Rabbi Isaac the Blind, a prominent 13th century figurehead in the branch of Jewish mysticism known as Kabbalah. In Kabbalah, symbols known as the sefirot are emanations of creation and the key to unlocking the divine secrets of the God-head. The analysis presented in this document combines musical gesture theory with Kabbalistic concepts for new perspectives on Golijov’s work.

The first section introduces Kabbalah, ideas of balance, and musical gesture theory before presenting an overview of the Kabbalistic interpretation of creation and the klezmer oral tradition. The second section is an analysis of the work through form and harmony, musical gestures, and the narrative gestural connections to Kabbalah. The blending of these three analytical techniques provides an overview of the divine attributes present in Golijov’s work.

The final section highlights the role of understanding versus interpretation, which plays a major role in both oral tradition and musical performance. Through this analysis, a deeper understanding of the work is created and implications for klezmer performance are introduced. A final discussion on the role of the ensemble within the narrative analysis, supported by the theological background of Kabbalah, concludes the section on understanding.



Committee Chair

Kang, Cecilia