Of songs

soprano and string quartet, 2009

Of songs sets a number of excerpts from the King James edition of the Song of Songs, exploring a darker, more surreal side of a text traditionally seen as flowery and beautiful. The piece begins with an unaccompanied vocal line that grasps at some idea of love, but as words emerge to articulate that idea, it begins to disintegrate. This sense of decay continues throughout the cycle. The loving hands that embrace the singer in the first song, for example, are transformed into a single detached hand in the fifth song that reaches for the singer and then inexplicably disappears. Meanwhile, the accompanying string quartet, which at the start of the piece derives its material from the vocal line, gradually veers away from the singer and evolves material of its own. This process responds to a disconnect suggested by the text between the singer’s physical sensations and her mental state.

Texts for Of songs (PDF)

As the apple tree

also our bed is green

His left hand should be under my head

I have put off my coat

My beloved put in his hand

They all hold swords

Let us get up early

I charge ye, O ye daughters of Jerusalem

Molly Netter, soprano
Brendan Shea and Samuel Taggart, violin
Jane Mitchell, viola
Dylan Messina, cello
Timothy Weiss, conductor