Paul Simon will release a new composition, Seven Psalms, this spring. The seven-movement work, which finds him playing acoustic instruments and drawing lyrical inspiration from King David’s Psalms, came to him one night in a dream in 2019, and it formulated over several more nights between the hours of 3:30 and 5 a.m. Due out May 19, the finished work finds Simon playing alongside the vocal ensemble Voces8, singer Edie Brickell, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, chamber musicians, and many others. Simon hopes listeners play the 33-minute work uninterrupted in its entirety.
“I’m trying all the time to move things in this kind of flow way that puts you in a dream,” Simon said in a trailer for the release. “And I think if you’re willing to fall into a dream space, you’re willing to let your judgment down.”
The trailer, which contains scenes from a forthcoming Alex Gibney doc titled In Restless Dreams, shows Simon playing acoustic guitar, coaching the singers, and singing in somewhat of a hypnotic chant about forgiveness as a small group of orchestral strings swell around his voice. “This whole piece is really an argument I’m having with myself about belief or not,” he says. In one scene, he works with a flutist on some fluttering notes that he hopes evoke a feeling of loneliness. Another shows Simon and Brickell, who is also his wife, facing each other and singing about David’s sacred harp.
“I was just sitting right next to him, and he sang the whole thing right in my ear, it was very soft,” Marsalis says in the clip. “And then I could hear it, the symbolism of how the limitation of your belief always tends to be tied to your conception of your mortality.”
Simon, who is 81, announced his retirement from touring a few years back but has nevertheless stayed busy with projects like Seven Psalms. He has also made occasional returns to the stage, such as at last year’s Newport Folk Festival and during last year’s “Grammy Salute” to him. He did not announce any performance in support of Seven Psalms.
Seven Psalms track list:
1. “The Lord”
2. “Love Is Like a Braid”
3. “My Professional Opinion”
4. “Your Forgiveness”
5. “Trail of Volcanoes”
6. “The Sacred Harp”