During the Musaf Kedushah, we are in perhaps the holiest part of the Shabbat service. Musaf, as the extra Tefilah for Shabbat, corresponds to the extra soul we receive on Shabbat, our extra measure of holiness. Upon entering the Kedushah, we become like angels. We have taken three steps closer to God at the beginning of the Tefilah. Now we rise up on our toes, to approach the holiness of God. The Kedushah leads us through a process of transformation, from imitating the angels’ call of God’s holiness to the experience of holiness within Creation and finally extending that awareness though the generations. I have used used shifting modes, tempi, and melodic relationships to enhance this process of transformation
As angels continually call kadosh, kadosh, kadosh (holy, holy, holy) to one another, the congregation (or choir) also continues chanting kadosh* so that when the cantor completes the sentence, k’vodo malei olam (His Glory fills the Universe), the chant will have filled the space with an awareness of God’s glory. When the angels call again, Baruch k’vod HaShem mim’komo (Blessed is the glory of God from His Place), the kadosh chant melody returns with increased power. This first section employs the Hashem Malach (God reigns) mode, which evokes God’s majesty and features a major scale with lowered seventh.
Next, as God turns towards us: mim’komo Hu yifen. (from His Place He turns), the mode shifts to Ahavah Rabba (Great Love) with a descending scale with augmented 2nd to suggest God’s compassion. Now the focus turns to us as we call out morning and night (erev vavoker) our appreciation of God. The repetitions of “erev vavoker” recall the continuous twice daily rhythm of our ancestors’ affirmations, still reverberating within our own call of Shema. This section returns to the strength of the Hashem Malach mode.
Hu Elokeinu (He is our God) with a syncopated, upbeat minor mode (mogen avot sheild of the ancestors) melody, joyfully brings God’s Presence more fully into our world. Ani HaShem Elokeichem (I am the Lord your God) and Yimloch HaShem l’olam (God will rule forever) continue the melody used for Shema, moving to the triumphant Hallelujah, the dramatic climax of the Kedushah.
The last paragraph, l’dor vador, with its lively rhythm, happily anticipates echoes of kedushah and praise throughout the generations. The blessing ends quietly, recalling the kadosh chant with its descending whole step motive which has permeated the composition thereby suggesting the all-pervasive holiness which the Kedushah represents.
*The chant-like melody for kadosh, kadosh, kadosh is taken from my earlier composition, Shacharit, a setting of the morning service for chorus and orchestra (1989). I envisioned this chant as a vessel for God’s glory, enveloping the whole world.
— Meira Warshauer