Behind the Song: Why Are You Cast Down (Psalms 42 & 43)

I've appreciated the psalms for both devotional reflection and creative inspiration since early on in my life of faith.  In college, I wrote a choral psalm setting as part of my senior work--primarily Psalm 130, with some verses from a couple other psalms added in.  I think this setting of Psalms 42 and 43 was my first as a more congregationally oriented song.  I noticed the refrain that happens three times over the course of the two psalms.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

I used those refrains to anchor the song as a single piece, building verses out of Psalm 42 and a bridge out of Psalm 43.  There's memory and longing and a bit of soulache, and a turning to God in the midst of it (the hardest part for me).

As for the music, this was the song that I used as the "test mix" song to decide who would mix the whole project, and I really like where Chris Payne (also the drummer) landed in terms of the verby space.  There's a progression from an open, more sparse sonic space in the drums and the piano toward a fuller, more driving arrangement as layers get added.  I can't remember if I had initially planned on electric guitar for this song, but I'm so glad we added it here--Ben's chord swells and arpeggios add some needed sonic glue to the overall texture, along with the lead line to accent the bridge.

I knew that I wanted Sarah Carter Wingfield on the BGVs.  She and her sisters occasionally sing as an acoustic folk trio, and Sarah in particular can carry a plaintive, almost wailing (in a good way) sort of tone that I wanted to match with the pleading nature of the lyric.  Lastly, this song has maybe my favorite drum fill on the record.  It's so simple, nothing flashy, just the moment coming out of the last chorus and into the outro.

The song might not necessarily lend itself to the easiest congregational singing--I've used it just once as a more reflective/meditative piece sung over the congregation.  But I'm glad to have captured it here.  I write songs that I need to hear and sing, particularly in the hard seasons--thirsty in the desert, drowning in the deep waters, asking "Why?" and crying out for deliverance.