TITLE: The Oak of Mambre
CAT# (YEAR COMPOSED): #79 (2008)
INSTRUMENTATION: double bass solo
DURATION (APPROX): 11’07
PUBLICATION: The score is published in the following article: Edgerton, M.E. (2013). The Oak of Mambre #79 for double bass (text and score). Revista Música Hodie, Goiânia, 13:1, 341-349
PREMIERE PERFORMANCE: Matthias Bauer im BKA Berlin, 9.3.2010
Note: The Oak of Mambre is a recomposition of Mamre (#55, 2000) for solo violin
The Oak of Mambre presents an inner world of sound exploration, whose strands are woven through ancient cultures and traditions. Mambre is a birthplace, itself, literal and ideal. Compressions and rarefactions tell two stories; of Abram and Mambre, of survival and an heir.
The Oak of Mambre begins where the reality and existence of a tone becomes manifest. Here we are looking at the sub-particulate world of existence, found not through carefully placed devices designed to catch the trails of extremely high-speed and dense particulate matter, but rather through the perception of radicalized elements during sound production. Beginning with little to no pitch movement, the sound world is opened through systematic exploration of scaled microtonal movement, bow rotation, bow placement, vibrato, bow speed, bow length, etc. Within this sound world we find matrices that are associated with numerous stratified layers, whose deposition of energy varies according to reflective stress-strain qualities found in elastic fibrous interaction.
The Oak of Mambre is sacred music and references a story from the Old Testament as follows:
TEXTUAL SOURCE REFERENCES
The following excerpted from:
“Ancient Sources: Mountain of Judah and Shephelah: 78. Arbo, also the Terebinth. The Oak of Mambre – (Ramat al- Khalil)”
Abram settles in Mamre
Abram moved his tent, and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron; and there he built an altar to the Lord.
The apparition at Mamre
The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on – since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.” Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.
Eusebius, Onomasticon 6:12-16 (ca. 295 A.D.)
Jerome 7:18-24 (ca. 390 A.D.)
The oak of Abraham, also called Mambre, could be seen standing until the reign of Constantius, and the tomb of the same is visible to this day and while a church has been erected there by our people, the place of the oak is [greatly] venerated by all the pagan population around, because under it Abraham gave hospitality to the angels. At first the place was called Arbe, and later it was named Hebron after Hebron, one of the sons of Caleb, as we read in the Chronicles. (1Chron 2:42).
Josephus, War 4,533 (1st cent. A.D.)
There is also there shown, at the distance of six furlongs from the city, a very large turpentine tree; and the report goes, that this tree has continued ever since the creation of the world.
Itinerarium Burdigalense 599 (333 A.D.)
Fourteen miles away is Bethsur, at which is the spring where Philip baptized the eunuch. It is nine miles to Terebinthus, where Abraham lives and dug a well beneath the terebinth tree, and spoke and ate with the angels; an exceptionally beautiful basilica has been built there by command of Constantine. Two miles on from there is Hebron, where there is a remarkably beautiful tomb, square and made of stone, in which are laid Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah.
Sozomenus, Historia Ecclesiastica II,4 (5th cent. A.D.)
I deem necessary to declare now what was resolved about the oak of Mambre by Emperor Constantine. The place is presently called the Terebinth, and is situated at the distance of fifteen stadia from Hebron, which is to the south… Every year, at summer time, the inhabitants of that place and the Palestinians, the Phoenicians and the Arabs, coming from far away, make a fair there. Many come there for the sake of business, some to sell and some to buy. The feast is celebrated by a very big congregation of Jews, since they boast of Abraham as their forefather, of heathens since angels came there, of Christians since he who should be born from the Virgin for the salvation of humankind appeared there to that pious man. Everyone venerates this place according to his religion: some praying God the ruler of all, some calling upon the angels and offering libations of wine, burning incense or sacrificing an ox, a pig, a sheep or a cock… Constantine’s mother in law (Euthropia), having come there to fulfill a vow, gave notice of all this to the Emperor. So he wrote to the bishops of Palestine reproaching them for having forgot their mission and permitted such a most holy place to be defiled by those libations and sacrifices.
Anonymus Placentinus, Itinerarium 30 (ca. 570 A.D.)
From Bethlehem it is twenty-four miles to the Oak of Mamre, the resting-place of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Sarah and also of Joseph’s bones. The basilica has four porticoes and no roof over the central court. Down the middle runs a screen. Christians come in on one side and Jews on the other, and they use much incense. On the day following Christ’s Birthday the people of this area celebrate the Deposition of Jacob and David with much devotion, and Jews from all over the country congregate for this, too great a crowd to count. They offer much incense and lights, and give presents to those who minister there.
TEXTUAL SOURCE REFERENCES – COMMENTARY
The site of Mamre. known in Arabic as Haram Ramet el-Khalil, lies approximately 3 kin (2 mi.) north of Hebron on the ancient road linking the main Hebron-Jerusalem and Bcthlehem-Ziph routes. The Bible describes Elonei (oaks of) Mamre as Abraham’s dwelling place …
Josephus relates that Abraham resided near Hebron, by an oak called ogyges, the oak of genesis (Antiq. 1, 186). Elsewhere he mentions a terebinth 6 stadia from Hebron that had stood there since creation ( War IV, 533); it is not clear whether both references are to the same place. In Antiquities he tells the biblical story, calling the tree Lin oak: whereas in War of the Jews he is describing a holy place in his own time calling it a terebinth. …
The book of Jubilees (29:17-19; 37:14. 17) refers to Abraham’s capital in the Hebron Hills as a tower (migdal). The reference is probably to Abraham’s residence Lit Elonei Mamre. If so, the author, a contemporary of the Second Temple was describing the enclosure at Elonei Mamre in terms associated with the Temple Mount -migdal or birah – both meaning tower or fortress. Talmudic literature refers to the place as Beth Ilanim or Botnah and it is mentioned as the site of one of the most important fairs in Palestine: “There are three fairs: the fair of Gaza, the fair of Acco, the fair of Botnah, and the least doubtful of them all is the fair of Botnah,” meaning that of the three fairs this was the one most definitely associated with idolatry and therefore Jews were forbidden to participate in it (J.T.. A.Z. 39c; Gen. Rab. 47: 10). The fair is mentioned in two of Jerome’s commentaries (In Hieremiam VI, 18, 6, CCSL 74, 307; In Zachariam 111, 11, 4-5. CCSL 76A, 851), where it is said that Hadrian brought the captive Jews to the famous marketplace at Terebinth. There he sold many into slavery. For this reason the Jews in Jerome’s time shunned the annual fair.
The most detailed description of the site is in the work of Sozomenos (op. cit.). He reports that the place situated 15 stadia from Hebron, was the site of the terebinth, where the angels had appeared to Abraham. In summer, he states a great fair was held there attracting hordes of people from far away, who came to offer libations and burn incense, but also to trade; among them were pagans, Christians and Jews.
The Medeba map seems to differentiate between Botna and Mamre, as the mosaic depicts both a church and a terebinth. During the seventh century CE there was a monastery at the site that continued to exist after the Arab conquest (Adamnanus, De Locis Sanctis 11, 11. 6, CCSL 175, 211). In Crusader times, the site may have been occupied by the Church of the Trinity
– Itzhaq Magen, The New Encyclopedia of Archaelogical Excavations in the Holy Land, Jerusalem 1993, ad v. “Mamre”
The sacred enclosures of Mambre and Hebron – Haram Ramet el-Khalil, Mambre
The large enclosure is preserved so badly that it does not allow for such study as might specify its date with certainty. In the fourth century buildings occupied its eastern part following Constantine’s intervention.
Eutropia, Constantine’s mother-in-law, while visiting the holy place which commemorated the apparition of the three angels to Abraham, observed the mixed cult offered there by Jews, Christians and even by heathens, and begged her son-in-law to erect a church on the site. The latter gave the order to Macarius, bishop of Jerusalem. In 333 the church was finished, as the pilgrim of Bordeaux noted. According to Peter the Deacon … the place included a well, an altar in front of the church, and two “most bright” caves where Abraham had stayed.
The church was frequented by the Christians who left some graffiti, among which we note the invocation in Greek: “Lord, help your servant Paregorios”; at other inscriptions we have only names, for example, Arsenius, Christopher, and Demas, or invocations where the name of the supplicant has disappeared. Many lamps, some of them with Christian emblems, testify to the cult practiced there. The place was a cult center, especially for the nearby villages. The church continued to be visited after the Arab conquest; in 670 Arculph noted within the enclosure a large oak said to date back to Abraham’s time. Later the spot seems to have been abandoned because at the beginning of the Middle Ages a different oak, today preserved by the Russians, began to be venerated. Nevertheless, the location was continually visited by pilgrims. Thus, for example, Barbone Morosini, describing in 1514 his excursion to Hebron, says: “We found large buildings and ruins; our friars told us that the place had been called Mambre” (TS 1950, p. 49).
THE TREE ITSELF?
The famous Oak of Mamre, Abram’s Oak, was illustrated formerly in the Transactions of the Linnean Society, by Dr. Hooker.
It is a fine specimen of the species Q. Coccifera, the prickly evergreen or Kermes Oak, a native of the countries bordering on the Mediterranean; the insect (coccus) from which it derives its name yielding the dye known as ‘Turkey red.’
Abram’s Oak is 22 feet in circumference; it is popularly supposed to represent the spot where the tree grew under which Abraham pitched his tent.
There is a superstition that any person who cuts or maims this oak will lose his firstborn son.