mezzo-soprano and guitar
Canticles 3:1 premiered by Ruth Carver and Brendan Bondurant at the Kansas City Guitar Society, May 26 2013
The book of Canticles (or Song of Songs) has a peculiar place in scripture. Not a historical narrative, collection of wisdom sayings, or prophetic text, its closest kin is perhaps the Psalms—also a collection of poetic writings. Oddly enough, the Psalms are clearly intended to be sung, while Canticles is not (in spite of its name). Such a rapturous celebration of romantic, indeed erotic, love is unlike any other biblical text. Its inclusion in the canon might be put down to its traditional interpretation as a parable of the relationship between God and Israel—and later, between Christ and his Church. My approach to setting these verses is to attempt to capture both meanings, the romantic and the spiritual, as equally sacred and profoundly complementary.
Canticles was commissioned by Ruth Carver and Brendan Bondurant. Initially intended as a small song cycle of perhaps four numbers, as I read and re-read the texts in various translations, more and more individual verses added themselves to my list of candidates for inclusion. Eventually, I decided to make it a long-term project, adding a song here and there as time and inspiration allowed, leaving programming and order to the discretion of performers. The first song, Canticles 3:1, was completed in January of 2013, but the last one… who knows?